Ode to Half a Chicken Nugget

Ode to Half a Chicken Nugget

This is a story about something that our culture is not all that supportive of…the concept of changing our mind. Have you ever noticed how much hell a candidate has to pay if they switch political parties or —gasp — arrive at a different opinion than they may have held previously? When I was a child, I was unbelievably stubborn and would stick by a belief even if I were drowning in its fallacy. As I’ve gotten older, I still have a stubborn thread that weaves throughout but I attribute that to being (A) an only child, (B) half-Greek in ancestry and (C) an Aries. Stubbornness aside, I can admit when I’ve had time to look at something from a new perspective or analyzed new information or circumstances, and I am willing to say…I’ve changed my mind, blasphemous though that concept may be.

Twelve Februaries ago, I became a vegetarian. No beef, no pork, no fish, no poultry. I had my reasons, and to some people, I felt I had to defend them.  Over time, some health concerns led me to add fish back into my diet about 2 years ago. I thought it would help with skin and joint concerns. But years later, I still felt myself relying too heavily on dairy products because one cannot live on beans and soy products alone (well, you can but I choose not to for various reasons). So I made another decision to change again earlier this year — a few months ago, in fact. I decided to add chicken and other poultry back into my diet. And do you know that it wasn’t the challenges of gradually phasing this meat again into my diet for smooth digestion or any other possible physical side effects that worried me most. No, what concerned me more than anything were the possibility of…finger-waggers.

The folks who will insist I’m making a mistake leaving the vegetarian brigade.

The folks who will admit now they thought I was foolish going all-veggie back then in the first place.

The folks who believe it is just plain wrong to have a change of heart, a reversed opinion… a change of mind.

If I didn’t have all of the health issues I already do, I probably would have continued pursuing an all veggie-life, but while I am by no means an energetic person anymore unfortunately, I do feel I have an increase in energy since adding poultry back into my diet. And when I reach for a low-sodium turkey and cheese sandwich for a snack instead of something ‘vegetarian’ but more fattening, I find the sandwich satisfies my hunger more than my choices in the past, and I consider that a positive step in the right direction.

I can honestly say my body was craving protein. And I heard this…for years. I kept trying to fill the tank by other means but it simply wasn’t giving me the fuel I needed.

I can get past voices that will chime in with their uninvited opinions on my decision — I do so all the time. I learned many moons ago that I will never please everybody though I am only in recent decades figuring out not to give a damn about this anyway. But the hardest voice to quiet is the one in my head. Hypocrisy is a loud sonofabitch and quieting its voice has been tough. When I added fish back into my diet to help me with my existing knee cartilage problems and other joint pains, I cried. I did. I actually cried about going back on my decision to not eat fish. I’ll never forget having this conversation with my friend Nancy and her trying to soothe me being distraught over all of the fish I would be hurting. I remember her telling me, ‘you have to think about Chris, too.’

Amazingly, my body has accepted the change really well. I started with a half a chicken nugget. That’s right. On a Sunday, I had half of one of the hubs’ chicken nuggets. Just to see how my body would react. Then, I tried a chicken broth on a Tuesday. Wednesday night, I had a little more of the chicken broth at lunch with my other usual lunch items and that night, tried a very small piece of baked chicken breast. Still, no negative side effects. Even though my body had not digested chicken in 11 years! I was stunned but I ushered in the diet change gradually and enveloped it with other foods my body was used to so it wouldn’t be such a shock to the system. By the next week, I was eating a regular turkey and swiss sandwich for lunch and a full chicken breast for dinner the night after.

I will still continue to seek vegetarian options when the opportunity arises and I feel like I’ve satisfied my protein needs at the time.   Soy burgers will still be in my fridge. I see no reason to stop eating all of the veggies and grains I’ve grown to love over my whole life. Nothing is changing that drastically. I won’t be opening a butcher shop anytime in the near future and I see no reason to add any other meats into my diet at this time, and don’t plan to do so.

I didn’t cry when I made this decision. Not yet anyway. I haven’t told many people. Only a handful of people know. But I suppose this qualifies as an official decree, not that I think my eating habits are of any concern to others but it is my way of waving the flag of approval for changed minds.

There is no crime in re-assessing a situation or even a new set of circumstances altogether and deciding that what is best for you now isn’t what was best for you then.

Changing our minds, changing our lifestyle, is not defeat but acceptance and listening to our hearts and in this case, our bodies.

My advice to anyone thinking of making any kind of change in their life — a change of heart, of mind, of lifestyle, anything — listen to yourself first. And don’t be so hard on yourself for doing it.  Give yourself a break. It’s okay. Really.  xo —  Chris




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