It’s just now occurring to me how appropriate it is that I decided to become a vegetarian on Valentine’s Day. Cheesy as it may be, I like to think that eating with compassion is one of the best ways you could choose to show love! In this past year I’ve learned so much about what it means to love people, to love God, to love myself, and to love the other living things that we share this planet with. I had no idea that changing what I ate could effect me in such a way. I can’t imagine EVER going back! And because I like to keep it real here, I’m going to share the good, the bad, and the lovely about my first full year of plant-based eating. Note: I have a lot to say.
(The little hand on the right is my baby sister’s, who I LOVE more than words can say.)
♥ I’m one of those people who doesn’t just eat to live. I live to eat. And for the past several years I had struggled with the idea of disconnecting from my food. Most of us grow up seeing an illustration of a fluffy white chicken in our storybooks that says “Cluck! Cluck!” and know that the tasty piece of meat covered in gravy on our dinner plate is also somehow chicken. What happens in between? Nothing. Disconnect. Eating this way was no problem for me for a long time! And for the majority of people, it never is a problem! Meat tastes really good, and it’s deeply intertwined into most of our cultural lives. Even when you know that at some point an animal has to suffer and die to become that meat on your plate, it’s much easier to say “Well I’d just rather not think about it.” I don’t judge ANYONE for doing this. In fact, I hope that if you eat meat you DO disconnect yourself, because it shows that you have a loving heart and don’t want to think about the pain of an animal being the source of your food. I would be creeped out (and recommend a therapist) if you sat at your dinner table thinking to yourself “Mmmmm, pain and death…” as you chewed away. But for me personally, I couldn’t continue on that way. I knew that if I opened my eyes and heart, I would never be able to personally torture, kill, and then eat an animal. So why was I okay with letting someone else do it for me? I wasn’t. And I’m not. So that was that. A year later and I’m still in love with eating out of love.
♥ I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but my SOUL feels GOOD every time I refuse to eat an animal. It might sound high-and-mighty of me, but I ENJOY taking the high road. The high road feels good! And I’m not sorry about that. We all make choices when we spend money, and everyone has the power to be a conscious consumer. Every person has a choice when they sit down to eat, and I feel happy with my choice. It comes with sacrifices, and they are totally worth it to me.
♥ I feel so much closer to animals! I’ve always liked animals, but I never had a pet or spent much time with them. A couple years ago we bought a little betta fish named Freddy (who has since been adopted by my sister if anyone was wondering). Last year we adopted our DOG, and I am head over heels in love with that furball. So is Jason. He’s part of our family now!
Cynewulf has taught me so much about the complexity and intelligence of animals and their capacity to feel. He has solidified my beliefs in a powerful way and his life is so precious to us, just like the life of every animal should be. I really want to visit an animal sanctuary sometime this year!
♥ Besides the ethical reasons, the other main reason I made this choice was for health. Eating a plant-based diet is an incredible way to show your body love! I feel so happy knowing that my longevity has increased (especially because I started this lifestyle at a young age) and I strongly believe that I will be able to avoid many of the chronic illnesses that run in my family like heart disease and high blood pressure. That means more time with my future kids! As far as day-to-day health differences, the most major thing I have noticed is an improvement in my digestion. I suffered from IBS and just generally poor digestion for most of my life, and have seen those problems almost completely disappear by becoming plant-based.
Which leads me to my next hooray…
♥My brother David became a vegetarian, too!!!!
You have no idea how thrilled this makes me! I don’t flatter myself by thinking that his choice had anything to do with me, but it’s SO AWESOME to have a meat-free compadre in our family. Without him, I would literally be the lone vegetarian in my entire family (that includes Jason’s side). David made the choice because he suffers from poor digestion too, and says that he feels so much better when he eats this way. I’m so proud of you, David!
♥ I would never tell a person that becoming a vegetarian is easy. It’s WONDERFUL, and completely WORTH IT, but it is not easy. Not in my experience. It is a choice that requires extra effort, extra thought, and sometimes a little extra fight. You have to live with the following certainties: you will visit restaurants where you have zero to few options, you will be asked (possibly judgmentally) why you don’t eat meat, you will have to refuse food from family and friends, you will have to draw attention to yourself by asking if something contains meat, and someone inevitably will ask out of concern whether you’re getting enough protein. It happens. Animal products are ingrained into our society. Rejecting them is rejecting part of society, and that is usually not an easy thing. What I would say is that it gets easier. A lot of places are becoming more progressive, and your friends and family will learn to live with it. You learn to brush off the looks and the questions, to eat a lot of black bean burgers and roasted vegetable sandwiches (token vegetarian menu options), and to remember why you made your choice and enjoy that high road I was talking about before. Oh and when asked where you get your protein, if you’re feeling feisty reply: “My food. Where do you get yours?”.
♥ As someone who was raised in the South, I am programmed with the fact that MEAL=MEAT AND THREE. And no matter how hard I try to program myself out of this, I have not really been successful. I suppose that after 25 years of eating that way, it’s going to take a minute to un-learn it. A lot of nights I end up making a meat and three type meal for Jason and just eating the “three”. Which is fine…but not ideal. I don’t like feeling like all I do is eat “side dishes”! I haven’t “mastered” meatless cooking the way I want to. I’m still learning. There are many wonderful blogs like Oh She Glows and Keepin’ it Kind that give me great recipes and inspire me to get creative. I’m getting there. Slowly.
♥ My precious Jason is still an avid carnivore. If ethical reasons were my only motivation for not eating meat, I would be satisfied to leave him with his personal ethical choices because those aren’t for me to make. I don’t force any of my spiritual beliefs on him. And he doesn’t force his on me! He’s been wonderfully supportive of my decision. BUT the health aspect of this whole thing really tugs at my heart (and he knows this). With all the research I’ve read about the harm meat and other animal products do to your body, it makes me feel sad and guilty to still feed him those things. He’s my other half! I want long lives for both of us, not just me!
♥ There are a lot of really gross “meat substitutes” out there. I have eaten more disgusting excuses for food in this past year than probably my whole life combined. Does that sound bad? Keepin’ it real. At this point I’ve learned to mostly avoid fake meats, because I hate the taste and texture of almost all “soy product” that is trying to be meat. Not to mention that stuff is very far from being clean food. Oh well.
The LOVELY (surprises I’ve encountered along the way):
♥ I don’t have to talk myself out of eating meat! I struggled with this for a few months (I even gave in a few times) but that feeling completely disappeared. I’d never even consider it now!
♥ I don’t crave meat! Sometimes the dishes I make for Jason do look tasty to me, but I never find myself craving the actual thing. I think this is just because my tastes have changed.
♥ I eat healthier! I have to admit that for a while at the beginning of this I was mostly living off carbs and cheese. It was comfort food for me and it helped me transition for some reason. But now I’m really embracing plant food, and I eat way more fruits and vegetables now than I ever have in my life. It feels great!
And perhaps the biggest surprise of all…
♥ I’m an accidental vegan?! Let me elaborate (because clearly this post isn’t long enough). I have a low tolerance for lactose so I avoid cow’s milk altogether (I drink nut milks instead). As for other animal products (butter, cheese, eggs), I eat them very rarely. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had an egg. And since I don’t eat meat ever, it turns out that many days of the week I actually eat a completely vegan diet. While this is cool and a positive thing, I’ve decided that I really don’t want to try and live up to the label of veganism. I’d rather not put the pressure on myself at this stage in my life. I eat plants, I don’t eat animals, and that’s it. I avoid animal products where I can. That’s pretty much as complicated as I get. Honestly, if I could pick a label to identify myself I would pick “whole-food lover” as Sarah from My New Roots says. And if I want an ice cream now and again or accidentally eat something cooked in chicken broth, I’m not beating myself up over it. Also, I love cheese, man. And I’m not sure what my life would be without the occasional croissant. Long story short: I eat “mostly vegan” but am not “going vegan”.
If you got through all that writing…well, you’re my valentine. I love you. Here’s a little video in case you’re not sick of me talking just yet (if that’s even possible)!
And this, my friends, will be my last official “update” on going meat-free. Plant-based living is a permanent change for me! You can expect to see lots more meatless recipes and tips about living a plant-based lifestyle in my regular posts. Thank you guys for all the support and encouragement along the way!
Flowers and chocolate are amazing (hear that, Jason? I still want chocolate), but do something to show your BODY some love today! It’s going to be around a lot longer than a bunch of roses. At least I hope so. Happy Valentine’s Day!
The rest of my journey:
I Went Vegetarian! (my announcement post)
Reflections on Meat-Free Life: 60 Days Later
Reflections on Meat-Free Life: 100 Days
Amazing posts from other bloggers about going plant-based:
How to Make (Almost) Any Recipe Meatless by Oh My Veggies
The Most Laid-Back Guide to Going Vegetarian You’ll Ever Read by No Meat Athelete
What is Love? by Vegan Rabbit