I became a vegetarian in March of 2013. Before this I had been thinking about it for a long time, as you should before you make any big decisions that affect your life. As a freshman, I developed kidney stones, and had to have surgery for them. When I was leaving the hospital one of my doctors recommended to me becoming a vegetarian as a generally healthier life choice, and as a way to help stave off future kidney stones. So in the two years in between, I thought about it and I read about it, and I made friends with several vegetarians. I got some second-hand knowledge from watching them and seeing the varied ways that they disassociated themselves from meat. Finally, one day in March I decided to become a vegetarian.
I’ve stuck with it ever since, and so many of my problems have cleared up. I’m actually less tired than I was as a meat eater, and a lot of my stomach issues have cleared up. I feel healthier every day, and I eat a much more varied diet. Of course, some people don’t understand my choice. People often get defensive about their own choices to eat meat. I don’t fully understand this. I never got defensive about my meat-eating before my transition, and I don’t judge anyone for their choice to eat meat. Being a vegetarian doesn’t make me better than you, it doesn’t mean I think I’m some holy martyr. I just choose not to eat meat. Another annoying side effect of being a vegetarian around omnivores is that they seem compelled to ask me a LOT of questions. I don’t mind generally, but sometimes the questions get a little weird, and sometimes downright annoying. When the tide has changed from a curious “So what kinds of things do vegetarians eat?” to “But how can you live without bacon?” then I get annoyed, and then I get defensive. After a considerable amount of the bacon-infatuation, I inevitably burst out with “IT’S A STRIP OF PIG FAT, NOT OXYGEN!” and get labeled as the touchy vegetarian. Not my intent.
There are definitely some cultural and societal downsides to being a vegetarian, but the perks greatly outweigh them. Of course, the number one perk is getting to try so many new foods. White sweet potatoes, collard green soups, sun dried tomato sandwiches, veggie-rice burgers, avocado toast, and salads galore. That’s another thing, I actually LOVE salads, but they’re not all any vegetarian eats.
Another perk of vegetarianism? Awesome discussions about different foods with awesome vegetarian friends. Now that I can participate in these, I learn so much each time. A fair few of my friends are also public health majors as well as vegetarians or vegans, so we get our nutritional information from them, but we also all discuss recipes, and the best way to cook kale vs. collared greens, quinoa vs. brown rice, and what lunch recipes we want to try. (Seriously, that’s my only struggle, lunch. I have an entire Evernote notebook devoted to options). There’s also a great community of vegetarians on the internet to connect with as well. It’s a beautiful time to be a vegetarian.
I love being a vegetarian for all these reasons and more. There are a lot of studies that show the health benefits of a plant based diet. I feel healthier. My choices reduce (if only by a tiny fraction) the amount of damage the meat industry is doing to our planet. I am part of a great community of people creating new recipes and forging ahead in ways to increase nutrient consumption from each food.
There are lots of great resources online if you’re considering becoming a vegetarian or just curious about what a vegetarian diet looks like (it’s not all salads). One of my favorites is the Face Plant Project archives. They haven’t updated since June, but I keep hoping for it. There’s also pinterest, allrecipes, tumblr, and a LOT of blogs. Coming soon, vegetarian recipes!