For the past year, I’ve been transitioning into a pescatarian diet. Since I was young (11 years old to be exact) I’ve never really been into meat. When I was 11, I was vegetarian for a few months (maybe even a year…I don’t quite remember). I was only 11 and didn’t really know much about health but I just didn’t like the idea of eating meat. I loved animals growing up (BABE was like my favorite movie…the pig was so cute!) and I never really had a taste for meat, so I didn’t see the point in eating it. I’m not sure whether in 1998 being vegetarian was cool or trendy but I think part of the reason why I gave up meat was because I thought it was the “cool” thing to do. I stopped being a vegetarian because I actually stopped getting my period, so part of me was worried.
Sometime during my teenage years, I realized that I had inherited my mother’s anemia. I would be at work, 15 years old, and would suddenly experience bouts of dizziness and light-headedness and my mom attributed it to anemia. Fast-forward to about 9 years later, and I’m 24 years old and damn near fainting. I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me what I already suspected; I was in fact anemic. The doctor prescribed me with iron pills (with a lovely stool softener to go with it -_-) and sent me out the door. Looking back, because I was anemic, perhaps during my cycle my body felt that I was losing too much iron while menstruating, so maybe that’s why my period stopped when I became a vegetarian.
So fast forward to two years ago, when one of my best friends and I binge-watched healthy documentaries on Netflix. We watched Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead, Forks Over Knives, and a slew of other health-related documentaries. [I’ve actually watched every food-related documentary currently on Netflix]. After watching Forks Over Knives and hearing from Dr.Campbell, I was convinced that meat was not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. The China Study is the vegetarian/vegan’s bible, if you need that extra push to give up meat. So being that I was never big on meat anyway, I decided that I was going to give up all meat except eggs (I love my eggs). Never really been a big fish person so I figured I should cut that out too. So last year, as I’m beginning my transition into this pescatarian lifestyle, I decided that I wanted to follow a long-time dream of mine and enter a fitness competition. It’s always been on my bucket list, since I saw a True Life episode in 2006 where this girl from Harvard competed in one. So during the preparation of my first bikini competition, things were rough. As I started gaining more knowledge about protein sources and overall nutrition, I learned the hard way how difficult being vegan/vegetarian is. During a bodybuilding competition, the ultimate goal is to lose fat and gain muscle. In order to lose fat, most people have to cut their carbohydrate intake. The problem arises because if you are not consuming meat, it’s VERY difficult to find LOW-CARB protein sources. Vegetables are good sources of protein but the amount of them that you have to consume to equal a piece of steak or chicken is insane. I was eating vegan protein sources (black bean burgers…yummy) and vegan bacon etc., but I was finding that I was always feeling bloated and I soon learned it was because most processed vegan foods are high in sodium in order to preserve the ingredients. I was feeling defeated because I did not want to re-introduce meat back into my diet but it was so hard to reach my protein/fitness goals on just eggs. (No matter how delicious they are lol). Towards the end of my competition preparation, I started re-introducing meat (only chicken and fish) back into my diet and after my competition was over, I cut the meat back out.
So fast-forward to about 2 months ago, around the time that my first bodybuilding competition culminated. I was eating more carbs but still feeling weak and depleted. I was teaching a class and AT LEAST once a week, I would have to run out to grab something out of the vending machine because I felt like I was going to faint while teaching. I did not know why I was feeling this way but I figured it was because my iron was low. But how could my iron be low when I ate tons of veggies that had iron in them? I could not understand it. I also took a multi-vitamin with 200% your daily recommended iron in it so I didn’t understand why I was constantly feeling that way.*
After doing some research, I learned that there are actually two types of iron that can be absorbed from food. Heme iron is from animal-based sources and non-heme iron is from plants, nuts, veggies, etc. Our bodies absorb iron from animal sources more efficiently than iron from non-animal sources. If you have a big bowl of iron-filled veggies, your body will be able to absorb the iron in those veggies less effectively and efficiently than if you ate a big steak.
So about a month ago, I decided I wanted to give blood. I didn’t realize it can save up to three lives and I’ve never done it before so I was excited to donate (who doesn’t want to save a few lives?) When I tried to donate, I was informed that my hemoglobin (iron) was too low to donate. I was livid. How could my iron be too low when, like I said, I ate tons of iron-ladden veggies AND took an iron multi-vitamin? Something wasn’t adding up. I told myself I would do an experiment. I would not only eat meat for the next week and a half but I would eat the most iron-filled food, steak, every other day for a week and a half. After that week and a half, I told myself I would try to donate blood again and see if my hemoglobin was higher. So after conducting my experiment, lo and behold, my hemoglobin was exactly at 12.5; what it needed to be to donate. In addition, I noticed that my fainting spells had ceased during the week and a half that I was eating steaks. I had a lot more energy.
This was severely disappointing because I know all the research that’s been done about meat and particularly red meat. We know how “bad” it is for us, so why was I feeling this way? Well around the time that I donated blood, I picked up a book called Eating Right for Your Blood Type. It had been recommended to me by two different people but something nudged me to check it out, so I did. After donating blood, I learned that I was an O blood type. This was unbeknownst to me. Upon reading the book, I got some important answers that I had been seeking for over a decade. People who are O blood types THRIVE on meat. Also people with O blood types should stay away from dairy! This was comical to me when I read this because dairy actually bothers my stomach a lot. While prepping for my bodybuilding competition, I also learned that certain vegetables make me bloat and those EXACT vegetables were what was listed as ‘not optimal’ for O blood types. Could all of this be a coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. The doctor who wrote the book had anecdote after anecdote of patients he’s worked with who were eating diets that were not suited for their blood type and after transitioning into blood-typed diets, they’ve seen vast improvements in their health and any ailments they were suffering from. For those with O blood types, our stomachs produce a lot of acid. If we’re eating a diet that only consists of veggies and no meat, this can exacerbate acid production in our bodies and could be detrimental to our health.
After reading this book, I actually ran into someone I knew that was a vegetarian. She was telling me how she was eating meat again and I was shocked. She had been a vegetarian for 11 years but developed some type of auto-immune disease/disorder so the doctor recommended she re-introduce meat back into her diet. After doing so, she said her digestion was greatly improved (more regular bowel movements) and she felt more energized.
So I say all of this to share with you an important realization that I’ve come to. I was totally on the vegan bandwagon like many others. A few of my close friends are actually vegan and watching them really made me what to make the full plunge into a plant-based lifestyle. I had told myself that eventually I wanted to transition into a vegan lifestyle for an improvement in my health but after doing my own research and based on my personal experiences, perhaps cutting meat from my diet is not optimal. For those of us with O blood types, based on the research of many naturopathic doctors and health care providers, veganism/vegetarians is NOT for us. Other blood types are better suited for vegan and vegetarian diets. But if you’re like me, and you’re a type O, cutting out meat may actually be a detriment to your overall health.
Since re-introducing meat and red meat back into my diet, my energy has improved, my hemoglobin is higher, and my digestion and bowel movements are FINALLY regular (this has been an ongoing issue for me since I was young).
If you have decided to eliminate animal products from your diet, you should definitely research the blood-type diet and investigate whether a plant-based diet is actually the right diet for you.
Hope this was informative! Let me know if you have any questions or concerns:
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