07/12/2012 08:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Vegetarianism Fails

By Debra Moffitt

In 1999, I stopped eating meat, fish, pork. But last week after a long period of feeling physically depleted, I discovered that my digestive tract could not process the soy- and vegetable-based proteins and nutrients that I'd long relied on.

My body needed mackerel, sardines, oysters, trout and other omega-3 and protein-rich fish. Vegetarianism for me is a practice devoted to non-violence. It respects all of life and seeks not to harm. But faced with the prospect of more depletion or an immediate change of energy, I opened a can of sardines and ate them. My body immediately responded with a huge sigh of relief.

Some vegetarians make their lifestyle choice grounds for judging and criticizing others. I have not been one to judge friends and colleagues who eat meat. In fact, on the contrary, often when we eat meals together they apologize to me for having a chunk of meat on their plates even though I said nothing and had no ill feelings about their choices. My choice prompts open discussions about why and what meat alternatives exist. I remind people that we each have to listen to our conscience and know our bodies to decide what path to take. For many years mine had said eat a vegetarian diet.

The shift to fish brings me to reflect on the ways that native peoples treated animals and game. In the Inuit tribes before consuming them, they honored and thanked the animals and fish for giving their lives to sustain them. With the fish in front of me I did the same. My energy immediately shifted after I ate it, and I felt a thousand times better. The real lesson of the change in diet relates to adapting. Our bodies, minds and spirits are going through rapid and intense transformations. What worked yesterday may not work today. Keeping an open mind and being willing to go with the flow of change becomes essential in staying vibrant and alive.

While I may not continue eating fish long term, I realize that this past week I have felt physically better than I have in a very long time. And I'm very grateful to the oysters, mackerel, trout and sardines that gave me that energy. In spiritual practices I've learned that no rigid rules apply. What works as an effective practice in the beginning often needs to evolve and adapt as we grow. One of those long enduring spiritual practices for me was vegetarianism. But wisdom opens the door to flexibility and necessity. I believe more than anything that we need to continually adapt and change as our bodies, minds and spirits call for this in these rapidly changing time.

For the month of July, Intent Blog is featuring 30 Days of Recipes. Everyday we'll feature recipes and food-related articles contributed by bloggers in the health and wellness sphere. Our intent is to encourage you to get back into the kitchen and re-connect with your food in a way that promotes greater health, happiness and well-being! This week, we're focusing on veganism and vegetarianism. If you have a recipe to contribute, please send it to us (along with a brief story about why you love it) at editor [at]

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photo by: SweetOnVeg