But it was a problem. It compounded already existing emotional challenges - the kind that we all experience from 13 to 17 or 18. I didn't feel great about myself, I hated school, I was being bullied, I did not feel loved or supported by my folks... thank goodness there was no facebook or blogs back then - or everyone would have been reading about it. It wasn't all bad, of course. I had two great brothers, a handful of excellent, fun loving friends and as it does, time moved on and the hormones subsided, I got older and wiser.
At 19 I was in my first year of art school back in Australia and starting to sort things out. I read books on spirituality and philosophy. I wanted to work out the meaning of life. I wanted to find my purpose and place and come to some understanding of the nature of being. I felt a need to define my own standards of living. It didn't take long before I realised that eating meat was not something I was comfortable with. If we lived out in the wild, I acknowledged, I would never slaughter a cow or a pig or even a chicken for it's flesh. It's just not something I would consider. I would forage for fauna and eat fruits and vegetables. It seemed natural to me. And nuts. So, I cut out all meats. Then, before long, I stopped eating dairy or any kind. I became a vegan. I was also doing long runs in the evenings and swimming. I lost all my chubbiness and became slender and sinewy. I was living on just fruit and veges and nuts. Then I cut out veges. I am not sure why. Streamlining. Then I stopped eating fruit as well. In the end I was just eating raw nuts. Two small containers worth per day. I think I was high on being so light and eating so little. I could run so easily and quite a distance, too.
When I returned to Japan to visit my family, my Mum immediately started crying when she saw me. She was so worried by my new svelte (gaunt) appearance. I refused to eat anything but the raw nuts. But it was harder to do in Japan and eventually I ate a few bits of fruit and veg. When I came back to Australia I went to see a psychiatrist would informed me that I had the early stages of anorexia nervosa. He made me look in the mirror and pointed out my protruding ribs. Not good, he said. Not normal. And my weight - 59kgs. Not enough. (I have been more than double this weight since then, at my heaviest. My optimum weight is around 90kgs.) So, anyway, it made sense. I had gone too far. I started eating - and enjoying - fruit and veges and grains again. Being a regular vego.
In those days, though, in Australia in the 80's - it wasn't normal. I was an art student so normal didn't matter - but for at least a decade there was always a bit of a kerfuffle at restaurants or at people's houses for dinner. 'No meat? None at all? What about sausages? Chicken? Chicken must be alright, then, eh?' Er, no.
So for the next thirty years I was a vegetarian. Then, around fifty I was tempted by a foodie girlfriend who fancied herself as a bit of chef to have 'one little taste' of her beef cheeks stew. I resisted. But, of course, it was futile. One bite led to another. Then a small bowlful. Over the next year or two the floodgates opened and I sampled all the meaty delectables I had denied myself for so long - bacon, BBQ lamb and sausages, chicken, hamburgers....
Eventually, I realised it was time to return to my natural tendencies. I became a vego again. I will sometimes eat seafood but not very often. Some tuna in a salad or sushi a few times a year as a treat - but that's it. It just feels cleaner and healthier. I am glad I took that break, the foray into full carnivore territory, because it's made coming back to eating just things that grow, nothing that has to be killed, something I appreciate and respect even more.