I'm not sure what the final straw was. Maybe public school cafeteria food. But when I was freshman in high school, I decided enough was enough. I was too freaked out by beef -- the looks of it, the smell, I wasn't a fan of how it tasted or the texture -- and I was never going to eat red meat again. Like most kids born in the '80s, I'd grown up on Spaghetti-Os and sloppy joes. But if given my choice, I'd never ask for it. The only "red meat" that I ever wanted was bologna and that was only as a little kid (on rye bread with mayo, please!).
By 14, if Mom made stuffed peppers, steak, or burgers for dinner, I'd boycott or make my own meal. Sometimes, she'd take my preference into consideration, which was sweet. I declared myself a semi-vegetarian (but was technically a pesce-pollotarian), and I'd joke that if I married a guy who wanted steak, he could cook it himself. I wasn't going to learn. I didn't want anything to do with it. I didn't need it. Until ... I did.
Maybe it was after seeing Food, Inc., which is notorious for turning people off of meat altogether! But I learned that if I tried to eat grass-fed beef, it would be far higher quality and healthier than the scary, conventional, hormone and antibiotic-injected cows that are fed corn and other sketchtastic foods. And they say your taste buds change, right? Slowly, but surely, my nose -- and my taste buds -- weren't totally turned off of the smell of steak.
About a year or so ago, after 14 years of my personal boycott against red meat, I tried a tiny bite of my fiance's steak at Chipotle. I tried a nibble of my friend's carne asada at another Mexican restaurant. I actually bought Kosher hot dogs to put on the grill that summer. And oh no ... suddenly, I was edging into totally foreign territory. I was enjoying red meat! Occasionally eating it. I know, crazy!
But this was all while my sister was experimenting with veganism! Which made me feel like I was taking a step in the wrong direction. I should have been aiming to eliminate even MORE meat out of my diet, right? Pfft, not necessarily, said my doc. Our varied hormones and chemicals and even blood type can disposition us to benefit from different diets. Even at different times in our lives!
What I've found works is working for me is not eliminating any one ingredient or food 100 percent. Even though I've dialed back sugar a lot lately, it's not 100 percent and it'll never be. I've learned that ultimately, you should tune into your body and trust your "gut" (in every sense of the word!) to guide you to what works best. These days, my gut is happy with occasional steak. And that's completely okay.
How do you feel about red meat? Did you ever try eliminating a food from your diet but end up finding you needed to add back in?