Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the uncertainty and contradictory nature of this world we live in where we simultaneously have access to so much information, yet so little truth.
When we can quickly ask Google to tell us about any topic and within seconds we have thousands of links, each calling out to us to choose them, how can we know (I mean really know) that the information we’ve found is correct? That it’s more correct than what we would have found if we plugged in a slightly different question? If someone else asked the same question on a different day when the general consensus on a topic had changed?
Sifting through the endless barrage of journal articles for my naturopathy studies, opinion pieces for cultural and societal issues, and books for new perspectives and ideas, is at times down right confusing and anxiety-inducing.
You know how we sometimes find ourselves defending our position on something with scathing conviction, riding tall on our mental high horse, confident that our opinion or view of the world is the correct one? Those times when we look at someone else and wonder how they could see the world through such an incorrect lense?
Why don’t they see how obvious it is that I’m right?!
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we’ve got all the facts on a topic and that we can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that we have landed on the correct point, isn’t it?
The older I get and the more I learn, the less I know. Instead of getting clearer on where I stand on topics, I find myself becoming increasingly more of a fence sitter, a hedging-her-bets kind of girl. I pause before offering up what I think I know about something. The certainty I once had is gone. And that’s a very good thing, for when I’m certain about something, I’m not learning or growing. I’m stagnant. And that’s not alright by me.
The fallacy of knowing the facts has been a repetitive theme in my life lately. It keeps showing up in conversations I’ve had, while I’m writing essays or reading a book. Contradictions are rampant and the further I dig for answers, the more I realise that multiple truths can and do exist at the same time.
I can study how each individual nutrient works in the body while understanding the flaws in learning about holistic health in such a reductionist way.
I can appreciate the miracles of modern medicine, while reeling at the atrocity of the thousands of prescription drug deaths that occur every year.
And, I can acknowledge that while there is a lot of compelling science for a plant-based diet, I’m listening to, and meeting, my body’s current demands for a small amount of meat.
Yep, I’m eating meat. Well, to be more specific: fish. For now.
Only once per week and of the sustainable variety, but oh wow the guilt! I feel like I’ve been keeping a dirty secret and I also feel like a total fraud. A fraud because I can spout off the benefits of being vegetarian without a second thought, but also because I’m eating fish and I’m still not convinced that I should be. Yes, everything I’m learning at uni points towards the importance of eating fish. What about the ethical issues though? Sure, I’m eating sustainably caught sardines but I’m still participating in an industry that says it’s OK to kill another being for my own benefit. Is it though? How can I sit with pride in my decision to eat fish when I know I only have this privilege because I’m human? Because I live during a time when I can outsource my hunting to someone else?
Someone went and killed that fish on my behalf, because I sure as heck couldn’t stomach the thought of killing it myself. If I can’t reconcile the idea that what sits on my buttery toast was once a living creature, and if I need someone else to do the killing so that I can pretend death wasn’t involved, what right do I have to eat the result?
If I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t think I do have that right and yet, I wholeheartedly believe we should strive to get our nutrients from our food wherever possible.
Therein lies the discomfort.
I’ve recently finished reading Dr Campbell’s latest book, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition and it reminded me of how pivotal Campbell’s first book, The China Study, was in my decision to switch to a vegetarian diet. Campbell gave me the final push I needed to dive head-first into vegetarianism. He provided the science and the rationale behind how animal protein switches cancerous tumor growth on, and why a whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat. His argument was compelling and, although I’m now studying the biochemical reactions that need things like B12 and omega-3 fatty acids (nutrients that can only be obtained in useful amounts from animal sources), I can’t ignore that the science is clear about meat’s contributing role in health conditions like cancer. Equally though, I can’t ignore the importance of getting adequate levels of B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Those little nutrients are bloody important!
Where on Earth does this leave me?
For all of you playing along with the ‘What’s Laura eating now?’ game at home, here’s how I’m currently eating:
- Once per week, I’m having a tin of Fish 4 Eva sardines to make sure I’m meeting my body’s requirement for omega-3 fatty acids.
- Other than that, the rest of my diet is still vegetarian. I still strive to eat organic, locally grown and produced food where possible.
- I still believe in the importance of supporting local businesses, who care about the quality of the food they’re producing.
- I will continue to eat some cheese, no milk, and occasionally some full-fat unsweetened yogurt.
- I’m also supplementing with a good quality soil based probiotic, organic iron and magnesium (because our soils are so depleted that even eating organically doesn’t guarantee I’ll get enough of this macromineral).
- To avoid confusion, I’m still going to call myself a vegetarian (as much as I despise dietary labels). The only difference is that a few times a month, I’ll be tucking in to a tin of sardines.
For now, this feels right. Mostly.
I’m yet to find that perfect balance of achieving a diet that is 100% ethical, local, organic and meets all of my nutritional requirements. I’m not convinced that such a diet actually exists.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK not to have all the answers. And, you know what? It feels good that I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m OK with shifting my perspective and knowing that I don’t have to always eat a vegetarian diet, just because that’s what people know me as.