No More Fishing?

no fishingI’ve been thinking pretty hard in the last few days about giving up fish, about whether I should become a “real” vegetarian.  After all, the blog is called No Meat Athlete.  I suppose I could justify my fish-eating by saying that “no meat” is an ideal that I’m hoping to achieve one day, but it’s not about the blog title.  It’s about the title I give to myself.

I know that titles don’t matter much.  If I were to eat fish only one time per year, there are plenty of people who would argue that I still wouldn’t be a vegetarian.  But who cares what it’s called, right?  If I know in my head that I am vegetarian 99.5 percent of the time, then the title doesn’t matter at all.

Only it does matter.  It matters because I’m honest, and something would feel very wrong about telling others that I’m a vegetarian when in fact I still consume some animals (let’s not forget that fish, dumb as they seem, are animals).  I could just say “almost-vegetarian,” or “pescetarian.”  But I don’t like doing anything “almost,” and most people think pescetarianism is a religion.

But still, all that is about names.  And there’s more to my dilemma than just names.  I want to be someone who doesn’t eat any animals.  For now I’m semi-ok with dairy, because you’re not eating a corpse when you drink a cow’s milk (though with all the hormones and whatever else finds its way into most milk, I wouldn’t call it healthy).  But actually eating animals is on another level.

On the other hand, I’m not quite ready to be that guy who can’t eat crabs at a crab feast, or the guy who has to make special arrangements when a wedding reception dinner includes a fish option but nothing vegetarian.  It’s really not about missing fish; we already eat it less than once per week and it’s not like I count down the days until I get to eat it again.  I could do without it at home.  But as far as convenience goes (and I really hate to use the word “convenience” when I’m talking about eating a once-living being), it would just be so much easier to have fish as an option when I go out to eat with friends or go to someone’s house for dinner.

Here’s a solution that a friend proposed to me, and I’m kind of happy with it.  Stop making fish at home, don’t plan on eating it out, but realize that there will be some situations when I’ll end up eating it, and be ok with that (as a Marylander, can I really be expected to eschew a crab feast?).  And call myself a vegetarian.  It’s that last part that I’m struggling with.

Finally, just to keep things in perspective, let me brag a little.  Just two months ago I was eating essentially anything, and yesterday at a party I turned down a home-smoked pulled pork sandwich with vinegar-based sauce! I once drove seven hours through the night to get this type of sandwich when I was in college (not a lie; my friend and I literally drove there, slept in the parking lot until the place opened, ate a sandwich, and drove home).  I may not be a perfect vegetarian yet, but turning down vinegar-based barbecue, dear readers, was a victory.

34 Comments

 


Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

Get Fit, Become a Runner, and Love It



3D-5k-Roadmap Ever wished there was just a roadmap to guide you to the finish of your first 5K, starting from where you are now? The No Meat Athlete 5K Roadmap covers everything you need to know to get fit, become a runner, and love it:
  • Four 10-week training programs for your first 5K all the way to an advanced 10K
  • How to get started on a plant-based diet, and what to eat before, during, and after your workouts
  • Two-week meal plan plus 15 healthy, substantial, and easy recipes, so that you'll know you're getting everything you need
  • Two-hour "Getting Started With Running" audio series
Click here to learn more!

Comments

  1. i am a firm believer that the situation trumps the food. and you have to do what’s right for you. not what anyone else thinks about you.

    we do not cook any meat or fish in the house. we have never cooked fish [i hate it] and haven’t had meat in over a year. but, my husband eats fish out. and i eat chicken out when i have no other choice.

    with all of my other food intolerances, having a little chicken every now and then (less than 1x a month) is okay with me. and doesn’t make our dietary choice any less valid. at least not in my eyes.

    keep up the good work!

  2. I don’t really understand these people that get all caught up in whether you’re “really” a vegetarian or “really” a vegan, based on occasional breaks from the diet, lifestyle or whatever you want to call it. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a vegetarian.

  3. My family and I have been on a 100 mile diet. Every ingredient in every meal has to come from within 100 miles from where we live. For almost a year now, we have eliminated all processed food from our lives. It has been liberating. All in the name of health and sustainability.

    One of the next steps for us was to evaluate our diet even more, we knew that the amount of meat and poultry we were consuming was not sustainable, so we decided to transition into a MORE vegetarian diet. So far we have limited the amount of meat we eat to once a week, and we still hang on to eating it because we know that grass-fed beef is high in omega-3s. Since we do not eat fish because of its high mercury levels, eggs and meat are our only alternatives, other than supplements.

    The thing that I often hear is that vegan do not get adequate amounts of omega-3s, and that plant sources are not so readily available when digested.

    Have you read anything on this topic?

    • I really like your blog concept, and the idea of eating local food. I think there are probably many unseen benefits to this, the way eating is meant to be done. I also imagine it’s really hard to do!
      I don’t know much about vegans and omega-3’s, just the common stuff like how bad most people’s 3:6 ratio is. I get a lot from canola oil and ground flaxseed, but I’m not sure how well they are absorbed in digestion. But a later commenter says, when you heat beef/fish you lose a lot of omega-3’s anyway.
      From reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, I have found myself not stressing over individual nutrients and vitamins, but rather just attempting as often as possible to eat real, whole foods, the way people have done for thousands of years until recently.

  4. I love your decision!

    Man, I’m trying to remember exactly who said it, and for the life of me I’m drawing a complete blank! HATE THAT LOL!! But someone intelligent said that refusing a “non-vegetarian” meal prepared for you by a friend is more toxic than simply saying “thank you” and enjoying the fruit of their labors and friendship.

    And congrats on the pulled pork! You are inspiring many :)

    • I really like this quote and way of thinking… kinda makes me wish I’d eaten a bite of the pulled pork! Kidding, it’s way too early in this new lifestyle for that. I would like to be able to make rare exceptions one day in the future, but for now I think it would be too easy to slide back into my old eating habits.

  5. AnonOnPurpose says:

    It depends why you are doing what you are doing.

    Fish are healthy to eat. If your diet is about health, go for it, keep eating them.

    Or, are you doing the “No Meat Athlete” thing to look cool and gain attention? Then just do whatever you need to do given a certain situation so you “fit in” properly and keep your coolness points.

    Or, is it for ethical reasons? Then situational stuff should not matter at all. Life and death is pretty black and white. I myself wouldn’t eat another sentient being unless my own life depended on it, since I wouldn’t want someone to eat me. That’s how the ethics arguments pretty much boil down.

    I’m a Marylander. 10 year vegan. I’ve been at crabfeasts and guess what I do? I drink beer and try to avoid the next one if at all possible.

    If you’re going to do something, do it all the way, don’t half-ass it. Think about the reasons you’re doing it, and proceed from there.

    • Your comment has been really helpful for me, specifically the part where you say you try to avoid crab feasts if at all possible. It has made me realize that for me, doing everything possible to avoid a crab feast would feel more fundamentally “wrong” than would eating a bunch of crabs, who of course had to die for the feast. I don’t say this because I specifically love eating crabs, but because I feel that the social aspect of “feasting” is something that I value more than I do the lives of whatever crabs I eat. But if instead it were a pig roast, I would value the lives of the pigs more than the feast. In making the distinction I’m drawing a line, and I admit that its position is somewhat arbitrary, but I don’t think any conscious decision I might make could change this. And of course these same sentiments apply to situations that other commenters have mentioned, such as when a friend prepares a meal which is not strictly within one’s ideal diet.
      Of course this is not meant to insult you or other strict vegetarians and vegans; values are unique to the individual, and I have tremendous respect for anyone with strong enough conviction to entirely avoid eating animals or animal products, especially for as long a time as you have done it.

  6. I think it’s up to the individual. I know that isn’t terribly helpful, but you have to do what feels right for you.

    I am vegan whether I am at home, at a restaurant or anywhere else. For me, there is no compromise.

    You super need to do what feels right for you. And don’t worry about the label thing. Sometimes it is just easier to ignore them all together. ;)

    Keep up the great work! You really are doing awesome. :)

    • Thanks Danica! It’s nice to hear this from a vegan who makes no compromises. I have found a lot of vegans to be very vocal about their cause and are not happy when someone makes an effort that is any less than theirs. There is something to be respected about so much zeal, but sometimes it’s nice to see a softer side and an appreciation for any effort, no matter how (comparatively) small, like mine.

  7. Personally, I eat meat regularly, I eat fish regularly, and I eat vegetables regularly. I see nothing wrong with a balanced diet, and I don’t think that I’d be able to run as many miles as I do if I had to restrict my intake to specific foods.

    That, and if I suggested to my wife that we actually become vegetarians, she’d smack me upside the head.

    We probably eat 2 to 4 vegetarian dinners per week, and lunch is almost always leftovers so that may or may not be vegetarian. I live on the ocean, so I eat fish at least once per week, and most of our meat comes from the butcher down the street.

  8. kj_smith says:

    Great post, Matt! You’re right in that titles don’t matter much. Maybe it would help if you asked yourself why you don’t want to eat animals… Are the reasons ethical? Health-related? How do you feel about eating that fish or crab? No right or wrong answer but food for thought… Don’t beat yourself up over eating fish every so often. Your friend that suggested eating fish only when you are out is a good start. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years and I can remember eating an Arby’s chicken fillet sandwich about twice a year for a couple of years. In addition, I once dated a guy that was throwing a fit because I wouldn’t try a bite of this pepperoni pizza that was supposed to be the best on the planet, so I ate a bite. I never stopped calling myself a vegetarian because something in me knew/knows that I’ll never return to eating meat. I no longer indulge in those chicken sandwiches but even if I did, it wouldn’t change I what I call myself unless I started doing it fairly regularly and felt like I was being a veggie hypocrite. I think when or if that tipping point is reached, you’ll know it and can adjust accordingly. So, don’t sweat it.

    Some might give you flack for the “no meat” thing but, as life, it is an organic process. Like Danica said, you’re doing awesome! And this is your journey, right?

    Feel good about the progress you’ve made!

    kj

    • I personally think what KJ said is accurate. You know in your heart who and what you are. And I think what others have said about analyzing why you are doing it is a great and honest idea. I’m a veg for ethical reasons, and that blends into health as well, but everyone has their own reason for turning down this path. And I never thought I’d explore the raw food path, and now I am. Life is a journey, just learn and live.

  9. Matt,
    Enjoyed this post and everyone’s comments.

    Overall, ‘It does not matter what you call it’. That is an external thing. Personally, I am high% raw and higher% vegan. The details are not important to anyone but me. If someones asks, I generally state “I eat very healthy with lots of raws fresh fruits and vegetables, sometimes XYZ.” What I make for myself and what I sometimes eat in small quantities and in optimal food combinations are different. Just like the tree in the wind we sometimes need to bend a bit to reduce stress on all involved. As Sandy suggested, what is cost to you and your relationships to having a hard edge on anything? Stress greatly affects digestion; if you can’t eat stress free it does not really matter what you eat. If you stress about eating a ‘pristine’, ‘labeled’ diet you could benefit less than if you ate with a soft but aware edge.

    On the nutrition:
    – I would much rather hear you are eating a little fish than dairy. Dairy is a net negative on calcium, highly acidic and mucus forming. Plus, pasteurization kills all the enzymes needed to digest it; and homogenization fragments it into artery damaging micro-particles. Q: What other species drinks milk past infancy? Q2: What other species drinks the milk of another species? Q3: Would you like antibiotics and foreign hormones with that?
    – Omega 3s are highly affected by heat. If you are cooking your fish or beef, you are not likely getting much Omega 3s.

    PS. Love Maggie’s 100 mile diet – this brings up the whole other aspect to eating with less footprint. Might have to adopt that now that I have some heat in the Northeast for a few months.

  10. veganrunningdad says:

    Matt,
    I agree with most of the people in that you have to do what is right for you. Also, you are of course free to call yourself whatever you want. If you are going to be a vegetarian, be a vegetarian. If you’re going to be vegan, be vegan. If you’re going to be omni, be omni. Your ability to qualify for Boston will not be adversely affected by not eating fish or dairy. You are already aware of the protein myth as we discussed on Twitter. Animal protein is detrimental to bones and kidneys. As far as calcium, where do cows get it? Plants. Actually, not anymore since they are being fed low grade corn meal and cow (the blood from a cow put down for mad cow disease is allowed to be mixed into the corn meal per the USDA. Swells the corn so the animals eats less, saves $$). Milk now has to be enriched with calcium (from plants). The almight Omega-3’s? Little fish get it from plants. Big fish eat little fish.
    There is no reason to have to compromise with whatever you choose. If people cannot accept that you are living your life according to values you hold dear, is that your problem? Most people that act out towards vegans/vegetarians do so because they feel some kind of threat and need to defend themselves for whatever reason. If you are going to a friends, i would assume you would have talked things over first to negate any surprises.
    Bottom line: do what you want to and be that person. It would do no good to say your vegetarian and then eat meat around people. After that, why would they believe you’d stand by anything else you say?
    A few final thoughts: you ever think about what an egg truly is? All female mammals do it. Also, with respect to milk don’t forget to add blood, puss and mastitis to its contents. Veal comes from male calves born from dairy cows. Babies are always taken within a number of days. Mom cows are killed after they are no longer useful, usually while still pregnant (gotta be pregnant to make milk).

  11. Christina says:

    I was a little thrown by the title of the blog and that you still ate fish..
    I feel like I must come to the defence of “dumb”fish.
    I found an article about fish behaviour.I’m sure there are others
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/19/2166204.htm

    You could always change your blog to almost no meat athlete ;P

  12. I think I’m following the same timeline as you are… first no meat or chicken, then examining the eating of fish. Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard myself saying, “if it has eyes, then I don’t want to eat it”. But I still have eaten it. With less and less enthusiasm.

    On the other hand, I really like what Sandy says above “… refusing a “non-vegetarian” meal prepared for you by a friend is more toxic than simply saying “thank you” and enjoying the fruit of their labors and friendship.” As I was reading your blog, I wondered what your friend who made the pork sandwich thought when you turned it down. I would’ve been disappointed had I been him.

    It seems to me that the strongest sort of person can lean a little when the situation requires it, but still hold steadfast to their values. As in, happily try a little bite of the pulled pork if it means not offending your friend AND feel good about being able to eat it, knowing that your lifestyle is to generally not consume meat. The all or nothing mentality seems to be more apparent when someone needs extra control to keep them attuned to their choice.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to eat healthily, feel good AND not be a pain in the ass to the meat-eating world? Besides, food has long been associated with friendship and communal gatherings. It’s a social thing- bringing people together, business lunches, relaxing over dinner, etc… You don’t want your vegetarian/meat/fish-eating choices to keep you separated from friends and family. It’s not about something as shallow as a title. It’s about balancing your convictions with your tolerance and acceptance of yourself and other people.

  13. Matt,

    I read your latest blog last night and was a little disappointed, not for myself, but for the people like Colleen and Pete whom you recently highlighted as unlikely but awesome supporters of the website and lifestyle. When you stop doing fish recipes don’t you think you loose a lot of the people in the middle who are trying to change but don’t possibly have the determination to go full Veggie (or almost) as you?

    I think it all goes into the question whether you are doing this a personal choice and writing about the results, are doing this for others who share the same personal choice as you, or are doing this for as many people who could potentially take away something from the website. Personally, I hope it is the latter and we continue to see a broad range of veg and pesce recipes. If you think I am mistaken about the lack of a fish option scaring away middlemen like Pete I would love to hear why!

    Pat

    • You make an interesting point. As everyone else has pointed out, what I eat is a personal decision, but I also really enjoy the fact that this blog has helped others to eat less meat.

      So since this blog (and indirectly, how much meat others eat) is important to me, then doing what’s good for the blog also must weigh into the decision. If I were to give up fish and it resulted in five meat-eaters no longer reading, then if they stopped making their one or two meatless meals per week, perhaps the harm from this additional meat consumption would outweigh the fish that my diet change saved.

      This is a stupid exercise because my goal isn’t necessarily “save as many animals as possible,” but it demonstrates that your point is good and that what’s good for the blog and its readers is something else to consider when I think about a diet change.

  14. I actually really don’t like fish. I only did the shrimp meal once until I read the bag of shrimp I recenly bought and saw how much cholesterol is in shrimp so I decided to eliminate that from my diet. It is a good point though, i’m sure there are some readers who are looking for the fish meals only who might become disinterested in this blog. I really just look forward to new ideas and the vegetarian ones seem to catch my eye(buffalo tempeh tonight!).

    My advice for the NMA is to be selfish and make this decision solely on what you want to be and accomplish. It shouldn’t matter what readers or bloggers think of you. If you are morally against meat, then go full vegetarian. If you are ok eating meat a couple times a year, then do it. If you want fish, get on Trock’s boat and catch the biggest rock fish you can. Your friends and family will support any decision you make. Maybe take a new 10 day challenge and go full vegetarian and see how it goes.

  15. I see where Pat was coming from in terms of “informing your audience” but I also think Pete makes a good point…we will support you no matter what. You need to do what’s best for you and we will respect that…it goes both ways in that you respect our food choices and wherever we are on the spectrum of eating. No matter what, you are providing valuable information that we can use everyday. Plus, the honsety with which you write makes it a little less scary for those of us who might be afraid of change. I can tell you that I would still love the blog if it were “fish-free” and I am not just saying that because you are my brother-in-law.

  16. I just wanted to add, that you have to remember that you have come a really long way, and you will continue to discover and make strides to what is best for you, in all aspects of your life, health and mind. What you may think now might change, and it’s totally okay. I think it’s sometimes good to go slow for some people, and try out different situations to see how you do with them.

    For me, personally, I stopped eating any and all animal products a few months ago and haven’t turned back. I did it for health first (severe diabetic and only 30) and I decided that I needed to fully commit and find out as much as I possibly could about what I decided to eat. For me it really became a health journey, and I just researched more and more and more, and came to my own conclusions. And for me, it’s paid off really well, since going vegan I’m now in control of diabetes and off meds, and lost a ton of weight. But I had to do what was best for me and my body, and my mind, and that was to do all or nothing. I’m just not good at “a little”, which is why I eliminated all of it.
    Just my two cents.
    You are awesome and you are doing great things…

  17. You know the kind of diet I’ve had for a long time. I’ve developed so many dietary restrictions overs the years that I no longer feel it’s necessary to explain why I don’t eat meat or why I don’t drink orange juice or why I can’t have creamy sauce on my pasta. My choices are based on my value system and my digestive system. ;) Although most people are gracious and respectful there have been times when these choices have caused some minor problems and in unexpected ways. Sometimes I find I must ease my restrictions in small ways to be polite. Sometimes I’ve felt left out of the fun of going to Rita’s for ice cream or Starbucks for coffee. Sometimes it’s frustrating to try and make a dinner that satisfies everyone in the house. However, I discovered that there is great satisfaction in doing what I know is right, and healthy, for me. Perhaps you’ve discovered that satisfaction too.

  18. Gen Mailhot says:

    I am not a vegetarian by any means, but I am pretty close to it. I believe in the food chain; I am just totally disgusted by any sort of connective tissue in my food. Rather than waste the rest of what I am eating when I run across it (as was common practice all through childhood), I just avoid it.

    For the record, there are always other options. I have eaten a large salad for dinner or a plate of veggies many times. I have yet to run across a restaurant that won’t accommodate you if you politely inform them that you would like a slight variation in what they have to offer. A good dinner party host wouldn’t turn that idea down either. Adjustments usually involve just beefing up the side portions.

    But, I do understand about the crabs. They are one food that (luckily) fit my strange preferences and taste good. I have no advice for you there. I’m so hooked I carry around a shaker of Old Bay in my purse in the summer :o(

    • Thanks for commenting Gen! I haven’t been out to eat too much since I started this diet, except to restaurants (like Thai) where I know there will be plenty of options. Good to know that other ones will generally accommodate you.

      I’m chuckling about your phrase “beefing up the side portions”!

    • Ex-SuperSteakLover says:

      Regarding the Food Chain-

      As a vegan I believe it is a natural part of our world and our history. As a matter of fact, personally I don’t have any problems with killing an animal for food or warm clothing when necessary.

      However, I am a big opponent of the very unnatural aspects of Factory Farming, in which animals must live in confinement and suffer their entire lives just to be killed for food or fashion. It is the inhumane suffering that is extremely wrong. I’m sure you know this already, but to stubborn meat eaters like my former self- when your conversation distinguishes “suffering” versus “simply killing,” it evokes a better understanding of the issues. Of course be sure to treat them to some good veg*n cooking so that they know they can still enjoy the extreme pleasures of eating while being ethical =)

      With that said- I believe veganism should be a natural evolution of humanity. For example, our ancestors originated in Africa, but began to use animal fur to keep them warm in order to migrate elsewhere to look for food. Before modern times, animal protein and calcium was necessary as speedy transportation for plant based proteins and calcium (legumes, collard greens, etc) did not exist. However all the animals used then were not subject to factory farms, as they are today.

      So onto the present- because of our need to feed billions of people in our world and all the modern advances, humans must consciously evolve to live on plant-based diets. We have all the transportation advances to provide access to any nutrient that plants can provide. I think it is very irresponsible to use modern technology (antibiotics, growth hormones) to factory-farm the animals in order to satisfy our outdated need for their flesh or by-products.

      Just my 2 cents for your future conversation with interested people =)

  19. How do you feel about carnivorous plants?

  20. I just stumbled upon your blog, and I’m glad I did! I am a runner and vegetarian- so I’m excited to browse around and read your recipes. I was reading through the comments to this post, and I just wanted to add my 2 cents about the concerns some people raised about offending friends/family members who might offer you a meat-based meal. In my experience, people have been very accepting and supportive of my dietary preferences. Sure, a person might be offended if they prepare a meat-based dinner only to learn about your vegetarianism at the dinner table. If someone invites me to dinner, I make sure they know about my vegetarianism ahead of time and if it’s a potluck thing, I’ll take the opportunity to bring a mouthwatering meatless dish to pass. I’ve found that people are open minded and interested to hear about and try veg dishes. Friends and family members are awesome because they love you for you, and know better than to feel slighted simply because of what you chose to eat/not eat. Good luck!

    • Hi VeggieRunnr! I’m also glad that you accidentally found me. I think what you say about friends and family being supportive if they know about it ahead of time is right. So far I’ve gotten no weirdness from anyone. I’m sure there will be a few awkward moments when I inadvertently offend someone, but if it’s anything other than a miscommunication, then I think their lack of respect for my choice would say something important about the real depth of our friendship.

      By the way, I think there’s a typo in the link in your name. Not the Veggierunnr part, I get that the e is missing on purpose. But in the address. Want me to fix it?

  21. Oops! Yes please and thank you! ;-)

  22. The definitions are fairly simply:
    Vegetarian = Lacto-ovo, or lacto, or ovo.
    Vegan = plant food only.

    Thus if you abstain from eating fish or fish ingredients in conjunction with your current diet, you are a vegetarian.

  23. Ex-SuperSteakLover says:

    Awesome blog! I was formerly the biggest meat-eater in the world or at least I considered myself that as recently as summer of 09. Currently I’m vegan. Personally, it was a relatively easy transition period because A) growing up my family’s culture doesn’t consist of dairy B) fortunately I live near NYC, a vegan’s paradise (try Vinnie’s vegan pizza if you’re in town).

    With that said, I find your post here and on your blogs in general similar to what my mindset was when I converted. Wtih your pulled pork, the thought of giving up what you consider “tasty” is daunting to any human. However, I later realized this is just a facade and an acquired conception. Going veg*n is about reconceptualizing what great taste is. For example instead of waking up to a bagel with cream cheese, I now programmed myself to waking up to a bagel with hummus. Further I’ll have that with coffee and hemp milk which is extremely tasty. You’re on the right pace considering the pork ordeal and eventually you will grow to other areas, perhaps fish. Everything must happen naturally with healthy mental debates along the way.

    This has probably been mentioned- for me to avoid being a party pooper I would always ask if I can bring a couple of dishes so that my veganism is about sharing knowledge about incredible plant-based foods, instead of feeling preachy or feel I will be interrogated. Taken from the owner of Blossom in NYC, “The best way to promote veganism is with a fork and not your mouth.”

    Lastly, when you are “ready” please watch Earthlings (free on the net) if you haven’t done so. I became vegan before watching the movie, and my resiliency to not stray from my lifestyle comes from watching the movie.

    Kind Regards

Leave a Comment

*