When the fact that I don’t eat meat comes up, practically the first question I always get asked is “Why did you become vegetarian?” I’ve always respected people who were vegetarian, at least after I understood the reasons to go vegetarian, but for the longest time I never thought that could be me. I used to be the king of bacon and sausages.
I’m always careful to say that my decision to change my diet was based on a lot of things, but there were two things that convinced me:
- Hearing how easy it was to be vegetarian, not just from other vegetarians, but from vegans, who would often sum up vegetarianism as “the least you could do.” I had already started sporadically cooking without meat, so I thought to myself, why not just step it up until I eliminate meat altogether?
- I firmly believe that we need to do more to improve the environment we live in, and mitigate the damage that global climate destabilization will cause, and I was challenged in a rather friendly way.
Those challenges were really rather simple- the first was that one person stopping eating meat does more for the environment than taking a car off the road. Then I heard someone ask why everyone who supported environmentalism wasn’t vegetarian, and I knew I had to do this. (I’m continuously amazed that the mainstream environmental movement does not ask people to become vegetarian if they care about the planet) If agricultural emissions are such a huge problem, everyone eating less meat seems like a really simple answer. And from there the reasons started multiplying- eating less meat isn’t only good for the environment, it’s cheaper! It’s not only cheaper, it’s healthier! Not only do you feel better, you start to feel more connected to animals and other people, knowing that you don’t have to cause anything pain just to eat. (incidentally, this is why I don’t try to convince people to eat less meat for the animals, I think animal rights is a thing most people understand after they stop eating meat)
The change in attitude that comes from not eating meat is impossible to adequately describe, it’s something that has to be experienced. I’ve not been seriously tempted to eat meat since I stopped in December 2010. In fact, I don’t really like the smell of meat any more, and I’m actively teasing my friends and two thirds of my flatmates about eating corpses.
Now, this doesn’t happen overnight. When I first started being vegetarian, I ate a really unhealthy diet, heavy in falafel, chips, cheese, processed soy food, mayonnaise, chocolate, nuts, and pretty much everything high in fat a vegetarian can eat other than avocadoes. I hardly saved any money from quitting meat at that stage, and as you’ll see if you think about it, it’s incredibly possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian with all the processed vegetarian foods available now. More than a year in, and I had my first soy meat in months last week. I still eat too much cheese, but now my fat comes largely from avocado, peanuts, and nuts. I get plenty of beans, I eat mushrooms every week, giant eggplants cut into cubes fill out my pasta dishes, and I heap tomatoes into everything. I very seldom eat milk or eggs, and I feel better than I ever have before, and I can function on low sleep for the first time in my life. My love of chocolate hasn’t gone away, but now I don’t eat meat, I notice how bad I feel after eating any significant quantity of it. I toy with thoughts of going vegan once I get a day job. (Working nights interferes with your ability to shop if you don’t have a car.)
If you care about the environment, your health, or even your wallet, being vegetarian is the least you can do. It’s easier than living without a car, and I do both. It took me a month to get it figured out, and I didn’t research it nearly as much as I should have. You can still have “hearty” food, warm things, substantial things. You’ll just start thinking about food more- you’ll rediscover vegetables and fruits.
And the best part?
In over a year of being vegetarian, I haven’t prepared a single damn salad, and I never run out of ideas to cook. Salads are something I only end up eating when I go around for dinner with the omnivores. 😉