Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Observations from my life as a vegetarian

on September 14, 2010

In college, I had a several friends who were vegetarians and over time, their reasoning started making sense to me. I began to lose my taste for meat and ate it less and less. One day, I went to a reception after a family event and my meal choices were salmon, chicken or beef. I wasn’t terribly excited by any of the choices, but decided to go with the salmon. I think I ate one bite and literally could not eat another. It was at that point that I swore off meat.

I went strong for 4 years. I was reasonably strict, though I didn’t give up marshmallows or some other products that contained gelatin (which is made from collagen in the skin and bones of animals, or so Wikipedia tells me). I didn’t eat red meat, poultry, pork or fish (Side note: If you eat fish but no other meat, you’re not a vegetarian. You’re a pescetarian. You’re eating an animal and therefore cannot be a vegetarian. Sorry – pet peeve of mine). For the most part, I felt great. I felt lighter and like I had more energy. I lost a bit of weight too. Especially in the beginning, being a vegetarian helped me to make smarter food choices. I began throwing vegetables in all my pasta dishes and started diversifying what I ate. Overall, I just felt healthier. Sometimes I would catch a whiff of something meaty and I thought it would smell good, but I was never really tempted to eat any of it.

Sure, it was frustrating sometimes going out and having very limited options for food. There were definitely times when I was out and my meal consisted of a series of side dishes because there were no vegetarian entrees on the menu. I also had to deal with some friends and family questioning my choice, but by and large, people were very supportive and would make accommodations for me, which I was always grateful for, but still felt a bit bad about.

Meat Tower: actual photo from cocktail hour of my wedding

About 6 months ago, I was walking down the street and realized, for reasons unbeknownst to me, that I would kill for a meatball sub. I have no idea where that craving came from, but it made me realize that my body was probably trying to send me a signal. I had become an increasingly slack vegetarian. I wasn’t eating meat, but I wasn’t being as diligent about getting my protein and iron like I had when I first started. I realized that I wasn’t eating very well and I think this was starting to have an effect on me. Subsidizing my diet with processed soy products chock full of sodium and chemicals wasn’t the vision of healthy eating I had first started out with. I decided that if I couldn’t be a good vegetarian and do what I needed to in order to get balanced nutrition, I would actually be doing myself more harm than good by not eating meat. At that point, I decided it was time to start re-introducing meat into my diet. I won’t bore you with the details of that, but despite not eating meat for nearly 5 years, I really didn’t have any problems transitioning back.

The point of this wasn’t to chronicle my life as a vegetarian (even though that’s what I just did). What I want to get across is that eating should be an intensely personal process. Our bodies are good at telling us what they need; the trick is to listen to them. This is part of the reason I have a real problem with all of these fad diets. I knew people in college who went on a vegetable soup diet for a week or so. It was ridiculous. Sure, they may have lost some weight but they were all lethargic and cranky for the entire process. I’m guessing once the diet was over, the results didn’t last either. I fully admit I’m no nutritionist, but I can’t imagine putting your body through such trauma is a good thing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you need to be the ultimate judge of what to eat, and what’s going to work for your body. Jumping on the bandwagon of some crazy diet just because it’s in the news won’t do anything for you if you’re going to be cranky, miserable and won’t stick with it. When I started craving meat as a vegetarian, I knew my body was telling me it wasn’t happy with something. Give yourself, and your body, some credit and listen to what it’s telling you. This, I think, is what ultimately will make you feel the best.

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One response to “Observations from my life as a vegetarian

  1. eleganterica says:

    I question when a vegan questions a vegetarian as to why their not going all the way… or when a vegetarian looks at a pescetarian and tells them that a vegetarian who eats meat is not a vegetarian.

    Personally, I would think a vegan or vegetarian would be happy with anyone decreasing meat/animal product intake, rather than getting mad at ‘fakers’ or people who do not fully take on the same lifestyle choice as them… and a lot of vegans and vegetarians are supportive. But I’ve found a few who made me veer away from even trying it because of just how intense they were.

    It doesn’t bother me so much since I’ve chosen to be pescetarian simply to have a healthier diet. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone else.

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