Why (and how) I went Vegetarian
Back in 2018 I made a new year’s resolution to become a vegetarian. But it took me a long time to get to that point.
It started way back in the ‘90s, when I was just a kid...
I don’t even remember how or why it happened, but one day, I told my parents that I wasn’t going to eat pork anymore. Why? Because pigs are cute.
That was my 7-year old logic. But, it held true - and it kept me off pork for… a few months. When we sat down for Easter dinner, I started chowing down on the pineapple-covered-ham. I had not yet made the connection that ham was made from pigs.
Shortly thereafter, I stopped eating pork. I grew to hate the smell of pork products. Bacon made me gag. Honestly.
I ate other meats, but not very much. I was never a fan of steak or beef jerky, never mind the “fancy” meats like duck and venison. I tried them, but I didn’t really like them - and I always had that itch in the back of my brain about what I was eating… or rather, who.
Fast forward to adulthood, the year 2017: I had lost weight and kept it off for two years. I was exercising every day, but my eating habits were starting to slide. And I will admit: I watched that movie on Netflix - What The Health.
It was the documentary everyone was talking about at the time… at least everyone in my circle. So I checked it out, and it wasn’t the sole reason I decided to try to be a vegetarian, but it sparked an interest in me to learn more, and to challenge myself to see if I could even do it.
I’m always up for a good 30-day challenge. So, I decided to try going vegetarian for one month: No Meat November.
For the first few days I was constantly hungry. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed more protein and healthier foods to feel full.
So I ate veggies— a lot of them.
I made vegetarian chili packed with all sorts of beans, I bought tofu for the first time and I made a Mexican veggie stir-fry and a teriyaki one and served it with brown rice or sometimes quinoa. Delicious! I tried spaghetti squash for this first time ever. I made butternut squash soup. I fried my own falafel! It was a challenge, but at the same time it was fun and kind of freeing!
Even at restaurants, what I thought would be a challenge turned into an opportunity. There were only a few vegetarian options, so I had to try something new - and 9 times out of 10 it turned out to be delicious!
The only really hard part for me was when my family ordered Chinese food. My favorite sweet and sour chicken was whispering to me from across the room, but I stayed strong. Although I was very disappointed with my unseasoned, un-sauced Buddha’s Delight. Come on people! I know you have the power to make veggies taste good!
By the end of the month, I was feeling kind of “meh” about the whole thing.
That was okay, I guess. I could do it long term… but why? I don’t really feel like I’m making a difference in the world. I don’t really think I’m eating much healthier than I used to. But, what’s the point?
December first, I went back to eating meat.
I went to Costco and bought taquitos. I went to subway and got a meatball sub for lunch. I made buffalo chicken dip for dinner. I loaded my freezer with microwavable meals and precooked chicken.
And I realized something:
When I was trying to be a vegetarian, it forced me to really think about every bite of food I was putting into my body. It pushed me to cook my own meals and eat more vegetables and nuts and seeds. I realized I could eat a lot of food, if I was eating the right food.
For me, It wasn’t about not eating meat, but rather about all the things I wasn’t eating enough of (or at all) when I was eating meat... does that make sense?
As a vegetarian, I was making better choices and cooking better food.
The month and the year came to a close, and the time came to make my New Year's Resolutions.
I thought a lot about whether I was ready to become a vegetarian, whether it was “worth it,” and the reasons I was doing it. Not only would it push me towards eating better, but as a huge animal lover, it would also resolve some internal conflict within me. Plus, it would be a small drop in the humongous bucket of helping the environment.
I did a month. Let’s see if I could do a whole year.
A year passed, and then another year. Once in a while I’ll "cheat" and have some sushi or crab Rangoon, but that's about it now as far as meat goes. Just a few weeks ago my family got Chinese food and I just had to try a bite of my beloved Sweet and Sour chicken. Honestly… it wasn’t as good as I remembered. I’d rather just have the sauce with some veggies and rice.
I still eat eggs and cheese. SO MUCH CHEESE! But I’ve thought about becoming a “weekday vegan.” I’ll save that idea for another blog post.
I’m not saying that everyone should become a vegetarian. I’m just sharing my story. I became a vegetarian after years and years thinking about it. For me, it works. It pushes me to eat healthier, and it gives me a greater appreciation for animals and the environment.
As my father always says: That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.