After reading this post about (UK) National Vegetarian Week on Happy Herbivore, I realized that I have never really talked about the fact that I have been a vegetarian for over four years.
Truthfully it's not something I talk about that much anyway, on my blog or off. I mean, sure, if someone at my work happens to notice I don't eat meat then of course I'll talk about it, but I don't go out of my way to bring it up. Several of my friends are veg*ns (nice easy way of including both vegetarians and vegans) so that makes dinners out fairly easy since we know which restaurants in Cleveland are veg-friendly and we all like to cook, too, and have done potlucks in the past. My family is also super supportive, often making all meatless meals or buying me veg alternatives (like one of the fancy Quorn chik'ns for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner).
I would like to be able to say I went veg for ethical reasons but, really, it was for health. And when I say "health" what I mean is that four or five years ago I had no self control and was at the fast food drive thru three or four times a week, getting, like, 3000 calorie meals each time. Like, I'd go to Taco Bell and the meal that came with 2 chalupas and one taco wasn't enough, I'd order another four tacos on top of that. At McDonald's I'd get the 10 piece chicken nugget meal super sized with a double cheeseburger on the side.
And don't even get me started on KFC.
This is all rather mortifying to admit to. I mean, I was eating something close to a week's worth of calories in the span of two days. That is just so not okay.
I was in need of a drastic intervention and in my mind the only way I could stop myself from eating multiple cheeseburgers at lunch was to remove the variable: meat. I mean, if I don't eat chicken then I can't inhale chicken nuggets. So that's what I did. It really was that quick of a snap decision. One day I was eating meat the next day I wasn't.
At the time I was dating a vegetarian so that made the transition pretty easy since he was able to introduce me to new restaurants and new meals and at first I did drop some weight. But when left to my own devices I kind of floundered for a bit and began using carbs in place of meat. I was more of a "pasta"tarian than anything else and, let me tell you, it's fairly easy to be a vegetarian without ever eating vegetables. I wasn't adventurous in the kitchen and scared of trying new things when it came to cooking so I stuck with what I knew. And I knew pasta and bread and veggies only ever showed up as toppings on my cheese pizza.
There is a belief that vegetarians are naturally healthier and skinnier than their omnivore friends, but that only works if you actually eat correctly. Otherwise you'll be like me a year and a half ago: not eating meat and weighing in at 311 pounds.
Four years in as veg and 16 months on Weight Watchers and I clearly have it under control. Fruits and veggies are my best friends and I've rediscovered a love of cooking. I get excited trying new recipes and new foods. I also enjoy finding ways to adapt my old meat standbys in different ways. For instance, a few weeks ago I discovered that cooking black beans in taco seasoning is not only substantially cheaper than using Morningstar Meat Crumbles, they are actually tastier, too, and add a new layer of health to my taco salads. And just a few months ago I made homemade peanut butter and chocolate vegan ice cream in my ice cream maker. Just because I wanted to see if I could. Honestly, with enough creativity and experimentation anything can be made veg-friendly.
Don't let cost fool you, either: I do 90% of my grocery shopping at Aldi. Just a few weeks ago I discovered that, at least during the summer, they even sell Boca burgers!
I have friends who were vegetarian for years and then went back to eating meat. Me, I'm happier not. Part of it is because I don't trust myself, but, really, I just feel better on a meatless diet. Even back when I was eating way too many starches, there was this sense of buoyancy, versus feeling sluggish and weighed down from meat. (Of course, that might have had to do with the fact that my meat was all fast food, but in my head they work together.) The only time I've had any issues was, oh, maybe two years ago when I was just tired and fatigued all the time. But once I started taking a daily multi-vitamin I was fine and have been ever since.
Of course, recently it occurred to me that as a tattooed vegetarian who colors her hair with henna and practices yoga, I am way more crunchy granola than I ever would have anticipated. Then again, I did once have a yogi in Las Vegas say he could tell I was vegetarian based on my healthy skin complexion, so maybe there's something to be said for my choices.
Have you ever considered, or tried, a vegan/vegetarian diet?
Love from the ashes,