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I didn’t write down the date I became vegetarian. It took me a while to really commit to it. I came around to the idea when I was at a friend’s birthday party and a friend from school walked in who looked like how I would have loved to feel – like perfection. Over the course of the night, it came up that she had gone vegan, and I also discovered that vegans can eat bread (I just assumed it was like cake with less sugar!).
I sat on that conversation for a few weeks, brooding on the different implications of eating meat. I had always had to purposefully convince myself that what I was eating was not an animal even from the age of a small child. It always bothered me.
I eventually came to the conclusion that something was not sitting right inside me, and it was the steak, and the chicken, and the pork and the beef. But I must say that it was the environmental impact of eating meat that really was the deal-breaker for my meat-eating lifestyle.
I see eating meat as a luxury, particularly in the amounts we eat in the Western world. If you consider the fact that the most meat we are to consume a day is the size of your palm, eating slabs of steak every night is overkill (sorry not sorry for the pun). We have the luxury of supermarkets where we can get protein and iron from such a range of other places. Even if you don’t want to go full-vego, even having ‘Meatless Monday’ will do wonders for your health and the environment.
I’m not trying to criminalise meat-eaters here either. I don’t judge people that aren’t vegetarian. I did, however, want to share a few things about my journey so far if it’s something you’re thinking about starting, and encourage you if you’ve already started this journey.
1 – You Won’t Miss Meat As Much As You Think You Will
Before going vegetarian, I was known for my love of steak. Like most Western food eaters, I never considered a meal was complete without too much meat scattered through a dish, or lumped on the side.
At first, I found it unusual. There seemed to be no star to the dish. The whole meal was a side dish. But after a week, I wasn’t missing it at all. The smell of it was still good – don’t get me wrong. But on the few occasions I actually broke my veg-only lifestyle, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. With that surprising realisation, I’ve found it easier to view this as a long-term lifestyle, rather than having a try before you buy mentality.
2 – You Will Become An Incredible Cook
It’s very easy to assume a flavourless life for vegans and vegetarians. I have actually found the opposite is true. There is a myriad of ways to cook vegetables. Ever considered dry-frying a slice of pumpkin with the lid on the pan? It steams and bakes it at the same time. Pumpkin on toast is a joy to my taste buds. You will get creative very quickly, and you will be more open to trying new things. I have found it has made me a much better cook, as well as a healthier one.
3 – Your Attitude To Food Will Completely Change
When eating a normal Western diet, you always have a little voice in your head saying, “Don’t eat too much!” Once going vegetarian, you become obsessed with your nutritional intake. You will download every app you can think of to help you track vitamins you’ve never even heard of. Your ears will pick up like a dog every time an ad says “health food”. Quinoa and chia seeds will be your new best friends. I haven’t even looked at rice since going vegetarian.
4 – McDonald’s And The Majority Of Fast Food Chains Will No Longer Be An Option
I promise – you will go to McDonald’s and order a burger without the meat. And you think it will taste the same. But it will be a massive disappointment and you will regret ever going there. You will, of course, repeat this exact scenario at least 3 times before you realise the food you make at home taste 50,000 times better anyway. This means you will be putting less evil toxins into your body, meaning you will be losing weight and be healthier.
5 – Lentils Will Wreak Havoc On Your Digestive System
Please forgive me for including this, but it needs to be said.
I was not prepared for the onslaught I endured, and I feel like my conscience will be clear knowing I’ve passed on this important information. You will fart like you never knew you could fart for weeks on end as your body gets used to lentils.
The bacteria in your digestive system changes to adapt to be able to efficiently break down the food you eat. With big changes in your diet, your body will not have the bacteria to work the way it optimally does. Eventually, it’s not even an issue (“Thank God,” I can hear my husband thinking.). Once you have been on a vegetarian diet for a while if you then eat meat your body will have the same reaction. If it is just a once off, it is not quite so intense. Just understand this is a normal response to your body adjusting to having to break down new forms of protein.
6 – You Will Feel Like Disney On Ice – Fantastic
That being said about lentils, even during all that you will still feel better than eating meat. I can speak for myself here and say I feel the way people who lose 20 kilos say they do. More energy, feeling lighter, more confident, and you will probably start considering life changes you never thought you would, such as going vegan, attempting to grow your own food (which is a lot easier to consider if you know you won’t need to be slaughtering any animals on a weekly basis), looking into way to cut down on waste, whether that be food or plastic waste, or even starting to take exercise more seriously.
I have always loved running, but I have always been so insecure about people seeing me exercise (I know, it sounds really stupid – but it’s true!). Since going vegetarian, I realised how in-control I was of my body. My body isn’t something that happens to me. It’s a tool that becomes whatever I use it for. It can be a hindrance if all I do is lie in bed or on the couch, but it can also be a weapon in times of danger or a vehicle that can take me from A to B a lot quicker than I ever considered it could. I run whenever I want to now.
7 – You May Not Stay Completely Vegetarian – And That’s Okay
Don’t feel like the label of being ‘vegetarian’ puts you in a box. Remember that just as much as it is your choice to be vegetarian, it is also your choice to eat meat. It’s your body.
After time you may find that you want to eat a little meat, maybe fish once a day. Maybe you will eat meat when you’re eating out. Maybe it might be when you’re at a friend’s house and they forgot or didn’t know you were vegetarian, so you don’t want to make things awkward. Maybe not at all. It is completely your choice, and it’s not for others to judge what choice you make.
Do what you think is right. Bodily autonomy goes with what you eat just as much as everything else.