Well I’ve been absent. Lo siento. Class. Moving. Things people don’t care about.
I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now and missed commemorating my one-year anniversary. I’ve wanted to write about my experience for some time now and finally had an opportunity when I was given an assignment for class. Read on…
I awoke in a sweat. My stomach was churning. Rotting flesh. Rotting flesh. It was all I could think about. Startled awake in the middle of the night by the unsettled feeling of my beef stroganoff dinner, I made a resolution – the outcomes of which, I could not have anticipated in that moment.
Spurred by a desire for change and the book Skinny Bitch I resolved to become a vegetarian just over a year ago. In that time I have gained an entirely new perspective on food and the food industry, and discovered a newfound respect for my body and the things it can do.
The decision was not one I spent much time deliberating and came as a surprise to just about everyone who knew me. My parents, while supportive, were skeptical. My sister didn’t think I would last. My brother, the cool Brooklynite that he was, didn’t think anything of it. One of the first things I discovered about my new lifestyle was that whenever you tell someone you have become a vegetarian, generally the response is “What made you do it?” The first time I was asked that question, it forced me to actually put into words why I had done what I had, and I appreciated the opportunity to talk about my choice. Now, I have it narrowed down to a quick “curiosity/animal rights/chemicals in the food industry,” answer.
If I’m going to be completely honest, one of the motivating factors behind my dietary change was weight loss, although I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time. Here’s what I learned: just because French fries and cookies are acceptable in a vegetarian lifestyle, does not mean you can justify eating more of them simply because you are no longer eating meat. It was not until I understood this fundamental rule that my new diet choice really began to make sense.
I started to actually think (what a unique concept) about what I was consuming. I gave merit to the food I was putting into my body. What were the ingredients? What were the benefits of eating this? And the most important question of all: how am I going to feel after I eat this? Hummus became my new best friend. I returned to the old apple-a-day routine that I’d grown accustomed to in high school. I tried tofu again. And again. I actually liked it. That’s not to say there were no French fries or cookies in my diet, I just stopped to think before mindlessly shoving them into my pie hole. Eventually there was weight loss, but it did not happen quickly or strictly from a vegetarian lifestyle.
When I resolved to stop eating meat, I did not know how long it would last, but after a few months, I decided to try it for at least a whole year. I felt like I had something to prove, if only to myself. I was curious. I wanted to know more about what I was eating. I read books and articles about food, animals and the food industry. I discovered that when I thought about what I was putting into my body, I felt better inside and out. I felt as if not eating meat had made me lighter. I had energy. I felt great. Most importantly I was happy. I am happy – happier and healthier than I can remember.
As my one-year anniversary approached, I seriously contemplated incorporating meat back into my diet. I didn’t. I did nothing special to commemorate the occasion. I didn’t cook a big meat-free meal or celebrate with friends. I don’t even know that I mentioned it to my parents. I did recently go buy another book about food and the food industry though, which has continued to feed my curiosity and reinforce my commitment to this lifestyle.
There are still times when I think fondly of my old favorite pork, beef and chicken dishes – even of the beef stroganoff that put me over the edge – but for now I’m sticking to the resolution I made in the middle of the night. My choice to become a vegetarian has given me something to believe in. As hokey as that may sound, it’s true. It is an adventure that I began blindly on my own, an adventure that has given me a deeper understanding of food and the importance of nutrition. It’s an adventure that has been exciting and enlightening, and has taught me the power of persistence and conviction. It’s an adventure that has taught me more than I expected and an adventure I will continue indefinitely.