I stopped eating meat more than four years ago. Even when I was in Togo and it was culturally unacceptable to reject meat when offered, I managed to avoid it. 

The only compromises I made were if I was not told something was prepared with meat until after I consumed it; and occasionally when a sauce was prepared with meat but it had since been removed.

However, a lot about my lifestyle has changed since Togo. My job comes with a busy schedule and limited control over things like my diet. Sure, I am pampered with three fabulous meals per day but sometimes I wish I had more control.

This was most difficult as I revved up my running to train for a half marathon. For several weeks, I found myself hungry and tired more often but still had to stick with the three meals a day routine. I could not just whip up homemade protein snacks like I did in Togo, so I began to glance at other items on the buffet to supplement my higher protein and iron needs.

The meat section tempted me most. At first I dismissed the idea and piled the beans, tofu, and quinoa a little higher on my plate. Then, after a few weeks of soul searching and inner debate, I decided to give meat a one month trial. 

I ate exactly two lamb-beef gyros and several varieties of fish. I tried mahi-mahi, tilapia, salmon, and swordfish, at none of my own expense. 

Contrary to what I was told, adding meat to my diet marked no adverse reactions. I experienced no noticeable digestion problems nor did it change my running performance or overall health.

The major change I noticed was my perception of meat consumption. Each time I laid a piece of meat on my plate I felt guilty. I felt bad for eating an animal and worst of all, I felt like I failed as a vegetarian.

The funny thing is, I had nothing to prove--to myself or anyone else. Most of my friends actually encouraged my meat consumption. 

Still, each time I ate meat I felt like I was letting myself down.

I continued like this for a few weeks until I had another realization: I missed my beans. Fish was delicious too but I missed the good old beans, grains, and legumes that functioned as my only protein/iron sources for so long.

I did not finish the month before I went back to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Now, I have no plans to eat meat in the near future--I actually want to experiment with limiting all animal products, including dairy, honey, and eggs. 

However, I realize now that four years of labeling myself as  a vegetarian might have pigeon holed my beliefs too tight. 

Instead, I plan to live with new rules. I will eat what I want whenever I feel it is right. That might include some meat or none at all---but let's be honest, my plate will probably always include lots of vegetables.