I’ve been talking about something that I really wanted to change in my life for the longest time. While this has all been going on, it has also been one of the biggest fears of my future. There is just so much change behind it and there’s a part of me that isn’t ready, still attached to my comfort zone. But I still want to make this change so SO badly that it hurts inside that I’m not at this stage yet.
What I’m referring to is in regards to vegetarianism. I know the horrors behind the majority of our factory farming systems. I know that there are delicious plant based substitutes for meat and animal byproducts. I know eating plants is “cleaner”. I know a vegetarian grocery budget is less expensive. I know that meat is a burdensome carbon footprint and eating no meat saves tons of water and carbon emissions. I know how amazing it feels to eat less animal products–with eggs and dairy as an exception. I know that it’s easy to not want to eat meat if you know these things. Why am I so afraid, might you ask?
Well, a while back when I was really into veganism and vegetarianism and its benefits, I read a few articles. Not going to name names or pick anyone out because I don’t want these people to receive hate mail. These articles shed a whole ‘nother light on the vegetarian lifestyle. The people behind these stories had an entirely different experience than those who sported the colorful smoothie bowls, chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeals, raw fruit platters and rainbow kale salads, bragging how “abundant” their diet is. This is the side that every vegan/vegetarian representative I follow does not reveal.
These people suffered physiological problems such as anemia, hair loss, dulled cognition, moodiness, dizziness, cravings and deficiencies of B12, iron, protein, vitamin D, fatty acids, etc. and had to constantly suffer the pain in order to “stick” to the lifestyle. They also ate in abundance: quinoa, veggie burgers, huge smoothies, huge salads, nuts, soy milk, fruit, beans, rice, tofu, tempeh, etc. The vegetarians ate a LOT of eggs and dairy, because they were the only animal byproducts they could eat despite needing nutrients that are readily available in animals, but not necessarily as high in plant foods. Despite overeating, neither felt satisfied and they still didn’t remedy their nutrient deficiencies.
They also had to reject social outings, even holiday dinners. I had to suffer enough when getting started in my healthy lifestyle, where I’d get upset after accidentally eating a piece of white bread and have no one understand. They salivated at every piece of meat that passed by the dinner table, rejected homemade baked goods by friends and co-workers, and would get very anxious when they couldn’t cook their own food. Their diet trapped them in a social bubble. And yes, these people did go vegetarian and vegan for ethical reasons, not just health and environmental, which is much harder to surrender than the other aspects.
The scariest part about the articles was that some people actually turned vegetarian for the worst–by that, I mean psychologically and socially. Food was no longer seen as an enjoyment, or a victory. They threw fits when they couldn’t choose the restaurant, when they were surrounded by foods cooked by family members, and drag their family and friends into their problems, whether it be struggling to find a vegetarian restaurant all around town or waiting an extra hour to get a plant based meal. Food was a subject of anxiety all in itself. Vegetarianism/veganism was the enemy.
I took all of these stories into account once I revisited the sources I knew that favored meatless eating. It’s scary to see how skeptical you become after comparing the two. Are humans meant to eat meat, or are we omnivores? Is dairy actually digestible? Do we eat too much protein? Do vegan/vegetarian alternatives really satisfy the same nutritional profile as their carnivorous and dairy-filled products?
There are days when the thought of meat just horrifies me and there are other days when I just CRAVE it like a madwoman. I seriously do want to eat less meat and dairy, but there are times when those are the only options around, or I just so happen to want them. I felt so ashamed of myself the day I was in a food court and I chose to eat teriyaki chicken. I could’ve chosen a vegan burrito bowl, or some tofu, or a plain bean salad. Nope, I chose the chicken. The hot, moist, tender, buttery, savory, flavorful chicken. I really only needed a small amount–maybe less than three ounces–to satiate me. It was amazing, but I felt so horrible because I voluntarily chose the meat. I’m supposed to not need meat. I should be preparing myself for the future.
For me, personally, I will rethink going full on plant based one more time, but I am still committed to eating plant based most of the time with the occasional eggs and dairy, seafood or chicken if there are no other options or if I just well feel like it. Vegetarianism is a definite route until I say so otherwise, because it’s easier to stock up on dairy and eggs than nothing at all if I find myself less satisfied with plant based protein. I don’t want to eat and eat and eat until I feel sick to my stomach, only to fail to fulfill my nutritional deficiencies. Sometimes the power of the mind doesn’t work. You can tell yourself a billion times that you don’t need meat, you don’t need meat, you don’t want meat, but it might not change your food desires.
You can only predict the future so accurately, but I really want to go vegetarian and then transition to a plant based diet because I have faith in it and myself. I’ve felt so, so good with less meat and dairy before. I find that my bloating reduces, my sleep improves, my energy increases slightly, and I feel a lot better. At the same time, I do feel a bit constrained when I seek vegetarian options, sometimes I feel hungrier, and I become a bit more fixated on food, which may be natural because you have to be extra conscious. In all honesty, I may or may not become plant based later than initially planned, but I am still eager to do so. I know that I have to find a good challenge for myself in terms of health, but also a sense of stability. Yes, giving up certain foods for ethical reasons is not a cause for eating disorders, but sometimes reasons can combat each other and the power of the mind is not always in tact. So, it may take a great sense of discipline to really decide. However, I believe in my instinct to try it. Who knows? I’ll probably find myself wanting a chicken breast instead of tofu, and I may have the flexibility to eat it if I want to, because it is my body, my nourishment, and my soul.