I have been on quite the journey with food, diet, and nutrition throughout my life. Growing up, I had no education on nutrition, the relationship between food and the body, or sustainability. As I became an adult, I started to learn on my own. Nutrition became one of my passions when I was in massage school, learning about human anatomy and physiology. It grew as I began my journey with polycystic ovarian syndrome/PCOS with amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation).
Over the years, I have adjusted and changed my diet repeatedly, trying to find what feels the best to my body and what helps the most with my energy, moods, and hormones. I tried out juice fasting and vegetarianism; I had great clarity, but the food prep & cleanup was overwhelming. My body was always left wanting. Then I developed alopecia areata where I lost patches of hair. I decided to try completely plant-based after that and felt wonderful for about three months. I started to lose energy and feel off. Then I found fasting with the Snake Diet by Cole Robinson, and I felt amazing. I did that on and off for two years ranging anywhere from 16hr to 120hr fasts. I started to notice how different foods would leave my body feeling after my re-feeds. This is where I found the most apparent feedback on foods in relation to my body.
Carbohydrates led to headaches, brain fog, mood swings, and bloating. Vegetables gave me energy for a few hours but left me with intense hunger and irritability the next day. Chicken would sustain me for about a day and a half then left me with brain fog. Interestingly, eggs, beef, and bison left me with lasting energy. I could do long fasts with no problem. I adjusted my re-feeds to include eggs, red meat, and usually a combination of leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables. My hormones were balancing out as my mood swings got better, and my menstruation cycle went from between 35-120 days to 28-40 days in between.
My curious brain wanted to know why, so I started researching. I found out about the carnivore diet and the multitude of benefits it has. I read stories of people healing themselves from all manner of issues while eating carnivore. I found an informative Instagram account & podcast by Tara Couture called Slow Down Farmstead with fantastic information on healing, meat, and farming. I found a program specifically for PCOS by health coach Kym Campbell who has put together an in-depth program to help with infertility and hormone balancing. The message was all the same. Some people need meat for their whole health.
It's no secret that factory farming is harmful to our health, the planet's health, and is absolutely detrimental to the animal's quality of life. So this brings up the question: if some of us do need meat for health, or even as a personal choice, how do we do it as sustainably, ecologically, and humanely as possible?
As with most everything, the answer isn't simply black and white, and it all boils down to mindful personal choice. Ecologically speaking, Nichole wrote an amazing article on why rudiments are essential to the ecosystem (see Regenerative Agriculture: In Defense of Ruminants), so I will leave that subject.
Part of the answer lies in sourcing meat & eggs from small, local farms. I have found farms by searching on the internet, going to farmer's markets, and even driving around my state. Small farms depend on happy and healthy animals to survive. They are going to take much better care of the animal from birth to death and everything in between. The local farms I have found put absolute love and care into their animals and are very proud to provide the service. They are also family-owned and operated, which means I support a family when I buy from a small farm.
Another part of the answer is using the whole animal, “from nose to tail," as Tara from Slow Down Farmstead would put it. When we aren't wasting parts of the animal, it goes a lot further. We get more nutrients. We are also honoring that animal by not letting it go to waste. For example, I save the bones to make nutrient-packed bone broth. This also helps me be mindful that an animal died to feed me, so I am not overindulging and taking too much.
So, in short: buy local when you can, seek sources that care about the animals, use as much of the animal as possible, be mindful, and do what is best for you and your body!