Reader, I married a carnivore

I talked about good dietary choices last night over dinner out (yes, I ate veggie) with a runner girlfriend. And we thought about it simply in terms of fuel — purer fuel burns more cleanly in your body and makes for a better physical experience. She said she could feel the difference if she was eating healthily or if she wasn’t. And she should know — she’s training for her first marathon.

The ideal yogic dietary choice would be vegetarian, if not vegan. For yogis such a choice is a way of living by ahimsa, the idea of non-harm: by eating vegan you’re not harming other animals, and you’re reducing the harm to the planet caused by meat and dairy farming.  I’ve just read Gannon and Life’s Jivamukti Yoga, in which they put forward an impassioned argument for veganism (for a flavour of their stance, there’s a short web piece by Sharon Gannon here). And I can see there are clear ethical arguments in favour of veganism, even if I don’t agree with all Gannon’s arguments).

So am I vegan? Far from it. I’m not even vegetarian.

The best I’ve got is advancing to two vegetarian suppers a week in my household, plus a fish night if all goes well. And I no longer eat meat at breakfast or lunchtime (and I’m very much the bacon sarnie type of English girl, so this is big for me!). I also have a weekly organic fruit and veg box and I try to ensure the meat and eggs we have are ‘ethical’ within the limits of modern farming methods.

On the dairy side of things, I’ve made little progress. I could say it’s because I can’t conceive of a life without proper cheese (I dream in cheese) plus I can barely get through a single day without Greek yoghurt. But in my defense I did repeatedly try giving up milk in favour of various non-dairy alternatives and they all made me very sick. I can’t choose to live feeling like that.

So I have to fall back on the argument that the full expression of ahimsa can’t reside in thinking globally, if I don’t also think locally. I need to look after myself and those around me, and that too is an act of compassion and non-violence. A full-on dietary change doesn’t seem viable for me: the non-dairy alternatives make me feel lousy. And so far as meat is concerned, my husband is definitely carnivore, and he married me assuming I was too. And if there are two things he’s always disliked – it’s English women and vegetables. Although I convinced him to change his mind about one of those….

… could I change his mind on the other?

When I started yoga, we had a conversation about yogic diets — cue anxious question: “you’re not going to go all weird and vegetarian on me, are you?”, and I promised I wasn’t interested in that side of things. And I wasn’t. Then.

Now I can’t pretend that I abide by any of the yamas and niyamas sufficiently well that an interest in what I eat is the result of my virtuous adherence to these guidelines for yogic living. And yet something weird happened (happens? I don’t think this is just me) as a result of sustained asana practice. My tastes have really changed, are still changing all the time, and I just feel more inclined to eat more natural, healthy foods. And wanting less meat goes along with this.

But I have to say I think this is much more about physiology than philosophy. My teacher has never uttered the v-word that I can recall and I can’t even claim that some of my best friends are vegetarians. So I don’t feel anyone calling me over to the veggie side. Plus interestingly my meat-eating hubby is more amenable to adapting his diet than I ever expected. Yes, he does practice yoga, but very much in a gym-workout-it’s-just-exercise kind of way: his eyes glaze over if I go all spiritual on him, so his willing compliance at a few non-meat meals a week can’t be ascribed to conscious ahimsa.

I don’t know, maybe this aspect of ahimsa is an ongoing practice that will develop over time. Or maybe not. I have given up trying to predict how my yoga will evolve. For now I think a balanced approach (=local+global) is no bad thing. I’d rather be happily married than needing to downgrade to an organic veg box that serves one.

6 thoughts on “Reader, I married a carnivore

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  1. Without meaning to cause marital mayhem, you might enjoy browsing this site: http://deliciouslyella.com

    I’m really interested in all things diet and exercise and find Ella’s story really quite amazing. Due to illness she had to give up meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, anything processed and all chemicals and additives – practically inconceivable! Like you, I’m also partial to the odd bacon sandwich (and I have an insatiable sweet tooth), but I relish in being able to swap at least the occasional meal or snack for a whole food alternative – especially as these are genuinely appealing and tasty recipes. I hope you will find some inspiration and who knows, even hubby might be tempted by a tray of brownies (just don’t forget to hide the sweet potato peelings!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment J25. I’ve heard of deliciously ella before but haven’t looked at it yet, so you’re inspiring me to check it out. I like your pragmatic notion of swapping a few healthier choices in: starting small can lead to great things (or not) – at least it’s a step in the right direction. thanks for reading! x

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  2. I frequently go through my own similar debate of local or global ahimsa. I feel best when I am eating sustainable, humane meats and no dairy or soy (so no fake meats). I agree with you, what it comes down to for me is starting locally within my own body.
    Thanks for sharing the side no so widely accepted in the yoga community.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Nicolle (and sorry, no e acute on my ipad keyboard). I know I’m not being ‘pure’ about this, and I didn’t mean to be massively controversial, but certainly for me with a history of health problems it’s definitely a case of ‘fasten your own oxygen mask before helping others’. I reckon I best serve others through my yoga practice as a whole if I’m practicing self-compassion first. Otherwise I’m no good to anyone locally (my long suffering husband) let alone globally! Thanks for your honesty here too! X

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