The end of my veggie days?

Veggie or omnivore – which diet is better for me? Right now, omnivore. This is why…

Back in March I once again reverted to vegetarianism and, this time, I stuck with it (previous attempts have ended in boredom quite quickly, except for my original 20-year-plus stint from ’85 onwards). I’m still enjoying the food, which is the main thing, the recipes I’ve published have been mostly well received, and there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s saved me a hell of a lot of money, but there’s one unavoidable aspect of it that worries me greatly – my health has deteriorated savagely.

Things are so bad I can barely function – and yes, I admit I’m also depressed, many people who are seriously and chronically ill are – so it should surprise nobody that my first thought most days is “Is it worth carrying on?”.

Prior to March, though, I was actually improving. Well, OK, I had mostly bad days, but there were enough tolerable days, hell, even some days when I was able to get out of here, to make the answer to the above question “Yes – for now, anyway”.

Now, though, I’m in unbearable pain round the clock, I have no energy (most days I’m fighting to stay awake from about half an hour after I get up), I’m profoundly weak, unable to concentrate, and suffer from chronic insomnia, all of which have worsened dramatically in the past few months and, recently, I’ve found myself wondering how much my diet is contributing to that? Not the pain, obviously – I know what that is (although see below) – but the other stuff.

As far as I know I’m still supposed to be on a high-protein diet (it’s an instruction from March last year that has never been rescinded so I assume I am – certainly, every time I pitched up in hospital (last time in November), I got the full high-protein treatment.

In theory a veggie diet should cause no problems, but in my case there is a very good reason why it might, and probably does.

If, like a normal person, I ate 3 meals a day, two things would happen. For most of the afternoon I’d be unconscious (Rants, passim). And I’d be very fat. No-one can explain the former, but the latter is obvious – my level of activity is so restricted I actually need little food to sustain it, and so gain weight rapidly. The relationship is a simple one – take in more calories than your body can use, the surplus gets stored as fat.

Many years ago I figured out that one meal a day solved both those problems (though it still took little to send my weight rocketing), and therein lies the problem.

Before looking at that problem, during the winter, and into spring, I was eating lunch, deliberately high protein – usually a salad of pickled eggs, cottage cheese, and beetroot (salad doesn’t have to be rabbit food), and as I said earlier, at that time I was improving.

Fast forward to now and it is, perhaps, impossible on my veggie diet to get enough protein on one modest meal a day, especially as I might also have absorption problems. Sorry to be so vague, but I’m plagued by doctors who don’t see it as part of their job description to keep me informed – in March 2013 one fuckwit consultant diagnosed me with Addison’s Disease – and didn’t think he needed to tell me. Hell, he even hid it from my GP in my discharge notes.

So I’m going to conduct an experiment. A rummage on Google revealed that everything I’m currently experiencing, even insomnia, can be caused by protein deficiency (in the case of insomnia, specifically animal protein). Yep, I know there’s a lot of new-age cobblers out there but not every source can be wrong. When researching on Google I always check out multiple sources, as many as I can, not least because every fruitcake with broadband and an opinion is out there spouting bollocks. Anyway, I have no better ideas.

So, for a few weeks I’m going to reintroduce meat into my diet to boost the protein content. It won’t take a hell of a lot – a sliced sausage or two in a bowl of bean soup (with bread) will probably double the protein content. It’ll bump up the calories too, which I don’t want, so my best course, rather than boost my usual veggie meals with meat, is to switch to a meat-based diet entirely for a short while.

This is what I have on order:-

12 Gourmet Sausage Waitrose £6.24

1 Ocado British Boneless Leg of Lamb £10.72

2 packs Ocado British Sliced Lambs Liver £3.60

3 packs Pigs Liver essential Waitrose £2.61

2 packs Frozen Hake Fillets Waitrose £8.98

After being portioned and frozen, that will keep me going for weeks. The lamb will be going into more of the casserole mentioned below, plus the traditional French dish, with white beans (Cannellini in this case), rosemary, and garlic.

Pigs’ liver is absurdly cheap (380g, 87p), and while it’s rubbery fried it makes an excellent, rich, casserole – a one-pot meal with vegetables and potatoes, while lambs’ is the opposite, beautifully tender if fried but left pink (pink, not bloody – there’s a difference!), tough as old boots if stewed.

The hake – if I actually get it – will be going into this dish for which, of late, I’ve had to use cheaper species as most hake goes to Spain and is, as a result, very hard to find.

The sausages, which are really pretty good, are just general-purpose protein, for use as and when.

To kick things off, tonight I’m having the final portion, from the freezer, of a lamb casserole with chick peas, dates, black olives, sour and sweet cherries, shallots, carrots, swede, and Harissa, which is amazingly good (though freezing tends to blunt the Harissa’s impact, so I’ll add a little more). And to keep me ticking over until my order arrives on Tuesday, I’ll defrost a haggis overnight. That will give me two meals.

Of course, it’s possible I’m on the wrong track, and there’s nothing I can do about the deterioration (not pessimistic – I’m doing well to have made it this far given everything that’s wrong with me**), in which case I’ll have a hard decision to make at some point but, for now at least, I have to try and salvage the situation.

**Among the many things I’ve been kept in the dark about is why I’ve been taking the maximum dose of Thiamine (vitamin B1), for 15 months now. OK, I know I have a deficiency, so what is that deficiency doing to me?

Well, for a start it can also cause all the problems I was complaining of, above, and more, and, I’ve only recently found out, from a TV ad of all things (but subsequently verified), it can be a major factor in heart failure. Which explains why my cardiologist was adamant that I had heart failure (in 2011), but was mystified as to the cause – nobody was looking for Thiamine deficiency at that point. And as you might recall, I refused a highly dangerous test (24% risk of stroke), and asked for the safer option, at which point he walked away.

So as well as one condition that IS causing heart failure, I also have two others – COPD, and aortic valve calcification and stenosis – which can cause, and/or exacerbate, heart failure.

Oh, and there’s not a single source of Thiamine in my veggie diet – that’s not helpful. Even switching to meat isn’t going to change that in any meaningful way as the best source is brewers’ yeast, which I can’t take as it makes me profoundly ill.

It also explains why I’m losing the use of my right hand – that, too, is symptomatic of Thiamine deficiency.

Look up “royally screwed” in the dictionary – it’s probably got my photo next to it!