Pass the Veggies: How Lupus Led Me to Give Up Meat

Kellie McRae avatar

by Kellie McRae |

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Lupus vegetarian

Sushi is one of my favorite foods, and I used to indulge in a great steak every so often. Surf and turf was something I truly enjoyed, especially if lobster was involved. All of that changed once I was diagnosed with lupus.

One of the first things to go was pork. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest. Out of all the choices for flesh, it was the one I ate the least. When it started tasting like sawdust, I initially thought it just wasn’t seasoned properly. I gave it a shot a few more times, but each time it was awful, so I said “no more.”

All of a sudden that “great steak” was causing stomach problems. I spoke with my doctor, who said bison was better anyway. I thought she was crazy. I needed beef, not buffalo. (I even did a funny video on it.) I didn’t like bison, either. I tried grass-fed, hormone-free, steroid-free, home on the range, land of the free beef so I wouldn’t have to give it up. I’m kidding, but I did look for the cleanest beef possible so I keep eating it.

No matter what kind I tried, though, it would cause me more pain than it was worth. So I gave it up, believing that I still had sushi and chicken. Ditching pork and beef meant I had to substitute something for them, of course. I started experimenting with vegetables that I’d never tried, I was adding more beans, lentils and grains as well. I found I was actually feeling better.

I decided I could be happy without those meats. Who needed them, anyway? But I became tired of eating chicken. And forgoing beef and pork meant that eating out was a problem, too. I began to cook more at home, and discovered that chopping was actually therapeutic. I would often chop way more veggies than I was going to eat, but it inspired new recipes.

Living in Florida, it was easy to get fish from the wild, which is the best kind. No farmed fish for this girl, so I was buying free-range chicken and things were good.

Then I started getting heartburn when I ate anything that was born — other than eggs. I tried an experiment to see how I felt. First I ate chicken and fish, and then, for the next few days, nothing but veggies, grains, beans and nuts. No heartburn. I thought it was a fluke, so I tried it again. Heartburn, tummy issues, pain and other problems. So I decided to become a vegetarian.

This lasted for several months, until I moved abroad. I went to a doctor here about how to regain weight because lupus had dropped me from 170 pounds to 109 in three months. At a hair under 5’8,” I felt like I was waif-like, and I didn’t like it. The doctor said you have to incorporate animal protein. I was almost relieved.

I really wanted some chicken, and this gave me the perfect excuse to try it again. Maybe the doctor could fix the tummy troubles if they cropped up once more. For a while, eating chicken was OK, or I would suffer through the tummy issues. I got up to 130 pounds. I celebrated the victory on the phone with my family, and even posted the scale numbers on my Facebook page.

Then the chicken, which was on shaky ground to start with, turned on me. It was already causing heartburn and tummy aches, and then it started to taste like sawdust. Again I thought it wasn’t seasoned properly, so I made it myself . . . Sawdust. Then I went to a popular place that sells great wings . . . Sawdust.

So, I am back to being a vegetarian and down to 116 pounds. But I am embracing my new figure. And I’ve been really enjoying finding new ways to make tasty, meatless meals.

Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? Thanks to lupus, I actually think I am a much healthier eater. And it manifests itself in a lot more high-energy days for me.


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