In the same week in the 7th grade I saw a graphic movie (a la “The Jungle”) and watched my dad catch and fillet a fish. I promptly gave up meat.
My vegetarianism became a friendly bet to see how long I would last. Never challenge a 12-year-old headstrong girl to a battle of wills with pride on the line.
After weeks and months, the vegetarian “thing” just became habit.
I was a vegetarian through most of my teens and early twenties – this was in the 90s when there was even less awareness and options as there are now.
Let us define our terms: A vegetarian is one who doesn’t eat anything that had a face. Or, as I more recently heard: one who doesn’t eat anything that had parents. If you eat fish, you are not a vegetarian you are a pescetarian. If you eat chicken, you are not a vegetarian. If you eat things made with beef stock, lard or consume any other animal flesh or fat product you are not a vegetarian – or at the least you are a lapsing vegetarian. If you eat animal rarely you are a flexitarian (thank you Michael Pollan).
Ok, so now that we have our terms clear, I was an Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian – meaning nothing with a face but I did allow eggs and milk. I almost never (like once or twice a year) had plain eggs or milk but cheese and not being choosy about my bread products were my great block to vegan. I’m not even sure I knew that word at the time. Again, there was not as much awareness – including by me – and alternatives at the time.
I did ok though. There is so much junk-vegetarian food and I never was into boca-ish substitute stuff. I like salad. I like veggies. I cooked a lot for myself but options, particularly of salad, are available – albeit in varying degrees of freshness – almost everywhere. You can order almost any carb dish sans meat and because our portions in the US are way out of control, you will eat just fine. I even got really good at ordering burgerless burgers in college.
After about 7 years of being ovo-lacto, I missed turkey one Thanksgiving and so had some. I got wicked-triptophan-almighty-you-might-need-to-take-me-to-the-ER sick. Yet, the seal was broken and the next week I was craving a BLT. I had one and didn’t get (too) ill. Then I discovered sushi.
I thus became a flexitarian.
This was still before there was a word for it (that I knew). It was often easier to say I was a vegetarian because people at least somewhat understood what it meant. My meat intake waxed and waned but I rarely had it more than 5 times a month.
Mostly I did without but if I felt my body was craving meat I would find and eat the best (most humane, eco-friendly, local) I could afford. Or if I wanted the french onion soup made with beef stock or was at a particular place known for their steak/sushi/what-have-you, I would enjoy that. I was choice in my choices.
I figured that doing that was better for me than eating meat-substitutes with all the -ides, -cites and poly-s that are listed on the packaging. I convinced myself that it was somewhat better for the world too.
A few years ago I read the Paleo Diet book and while it made some sense and I know a number of people have befitted from it, I knew I couldn’t emotionally eat the amount of meat required for it to be sustainable for me. Paleo – like an omnivore diet – works for some but is not my choice.
In the lead up to running my first Trecedem, however, I was also biking a good deal and intentionally upped my protein intake. I made the common noob mistake of meat/eggs = protein (booo). I started eating an omelet for breakfast. I’ve had a chicken aversion for the last three yearsish so the athlete/dieter’s default hasn’t been a part of my diet at all but I started adding meat into meals a few times a week.
I don’t think it made any difference in terms of my “training” and I didn’t feel all that much better. Since finishing the race in I cut way back again to more flex- lifestyle.
The impetus for the Veg*an move (vegetarian + vegan = veg*an) was the intention to start yoga-teacher training this month (part of the ethics of the practice and my particular studio). That, unfortunately, isn’t going to happen. I decided to stick with the commitment and accomplish one of the things on my waylay point list: Stay Vegan for 3 months.
So here we are. Since going to full vegetarian – psychosomatic or no – I can tell the days I have more or any dairy and the days I don’t. I know how to eat better now for exercise purposes. While there is still a predominite/strong paleo movement to the community, the vegans are catching up. Finding resources (No Meat Athlete, One Lucky Duck, Thrive Foods and Nerd Fitness) has been incredibly helpful. I’m planning to do a double century bike ride in April and then again in July while staying vegetarian (the former at least I will be vegan).
Going veg again hasn’t been that much of a transition but going vegan is/will be
(I’m looking at you cheese).
Besides le grande formage, it is more the dairy and eggs hidden in other things that is problematic. I’ve become even more ritualistic about reading packaging. “Trace amounts” are everywhere and I’m going to avoid as much as possible but also think the thought here counts. I don’t care for the taste of soy milk and it is easy to continue to stay away from the meat-alternative-junk.
On the plus side, I discovered coconut milk for my coffee <gasp – she takes milk in her coffee?!> which while I can and do drink black is the literal splash of something cooling and creamy in the first cup is huge for my morning routine. Most importantly: I feel good about the choice and am mentally ready to take on the challenge.
I feel better physically back fully vegetarian and know – as long as I’m balancing and not trading one junk for another – that going vegan will likely improve my health as well. We’ll see.
That is what this is about: seeing what is best for me. What I like and don’t.
I’m making my enjoyment of food more intentional.
I don’t promise that I’ll never eat meat or cheese again but I’m doing what feels right for right now and the immediate future.
Keep drinking and eating what you enjoy – intentionally,
Tips for the vegan noob are much appreciated in the below. Anyone else trying a dietary shift that they are excited or nervous about?