Monday, June 3, 2013

On being a veg-head

"If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty."
(Sir Paul McCartney)

It's kind of funny being a vegetarian.

Two and a half years ago, I was the meat-lovin girl that ate beef at every chance possible. I mean, every meal my family had was some sort of meat dish that was pretty stinkin good. I couldn't ever turn down a good cheeseburger or a pig-in-a-blanket.

But here I am, someone who's been meat-free for over two years! I don't like to make a big deal out of it, because me not eating one food group isn't anything for anyone to freak out about... or so you'd think.

My freshman year of high school, I wasn't really happy with how I was eating and feeling. I didn't pay any attention to the nutrition and I specifically remember eating a Hardee's cheeseburger every night after volleyball practice during that fall (Thinking about that now, UGH, that was horrible for me). A few friends told me about this book they had read, Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, so I checked it out and read it.

It's a pretty intense book: it goes through all of the details of animals being slaughtered and processed and hung in the most unsanitary situations and I was pretty grossed out by it. The authors are ultimately trying to push for an organic, vegan diet for multiple reasons. Now, I'm not a vegan nor do I eat everything organic, but I really enjoyed the perspective. It's gross and it's extreme, but if you're looking for something different, this book's for you. It changed my whole life!

Basically, I reduced my meat-eating because I thought it would be interesting to try. But hey, as I always say, go big or go home. So I gave up meat completely. I knew that the crap they were putting into the meat I was eating wasn't good for my body and I didn't like knowing how they actually treated and 'sanitized' those animals.

Someone once told me that my body was 'made to eat animals'. It was sort of a weird thing to be told. We were made to eat animals, but that was at a time when meat wasn't as processed as much as it is now.

The rest of the year wasn't necessarily the best health-wise- I wasn't eating meat, but I was missing out on the nutrients meat brings. A lot of girls think that eating salads all the time is alright, but you NEED protein. It comes in many forms: peanut butter, nuts, whole wheat, dairy products, etc. It tastes good and it makes you feel better...I promise. Trust me.

Which another thing that I find interesting is that people always seem to ask me about how I get my protein, and it makes me chuckle a little. I had never thought of it, before, but if the only protein source you're getting is from a preservative-filled hamburger, are you really eating that healthily either? I'm not, under any circumstances, saying that you can't be healthy and still eat meat. There are most definitely ways to avoid the things I'm trying to avoid, but I enjoy the way I've chosen and I would hope others would as well. Regardless, I knew that I was going to have to put in a little more effort to make sure I was eating enough protein (and iron and B-12), but hey, I'd rather put in the effort now rather than when I'm too sick to help myself. It's my body and I'd like to treat it well for the long run.

And in the process of going meat-free, I learned to LOVE foods that I never thought I would. I used to absolutely hate any type of nuts, but I treasure them now. I never liked salads, vegetables, fruits, or yogurt the way I looove them now. I ate more healthily because I wasn't eating meat and loved it. I'd even say that becoming a vegetarian helped me to enjoy cooking and baking today.

You don't even have to be in love with tofu or soy, heck, I can't stand tofu. I know that's something that you're supposed to like as a vegetarian, but I just don't. Nor do I like every type of vegetable (eggplant really isn't for me) or want to eat beans at every given moment. It's all about balance and eating what you like for the benefit of your body.

It was definitely an adjust in my family- everyone that I've ever grown up with loves and adores meat (so did I!!!) and it just seemed unfathomable to just give it up like that. They really didn't think I'd stick with it, which is understandable. If you're thinking about going meat-free, tell your family and tell them why. You can't demand your own food at any meal, so get used to making your own salads and knowing how to politely ask if there's any meat in the casserole.  I know that there are negative connotations to 'counting calories', but tracking my food on MyFitnessPal (website and app) has really helped me to make sure I'm eating right.

You'll have to change some of your ways, but I think at the end of the day, it's absolutely and positively worth it.

There are plenty of statistics that support my reasoning for being a vegetarian- lower risks of heart disease (heart disease is the #1 killer of women), colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. You can add an average of 13 years to your life by switching to a vegetarian diet.
It's even good for the environment: "According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams." (Vegetarian Times)
It help prevents famine all over the world: "About 70 percent of all grain produced in the United States is fed to animals raised for slaughter. The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the American population. “If all the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” says David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University. If the grain were exported, it would boost the US trade balance by $80 billion a year." (Vegetarian Times)
And of course, the obvious: the way they treat animals in slaughterhouses is absolutely cruel and completely disgusting. Just look it up and you'll never be able to think about it the same. Even Paul McCartney once said, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."

I can't express how many people have told me that they "could never give up meat", and trust me, I believe you! I was never someone who would turn down a cheeseburger- it was a staple in my diet. I used to think that vegetarianism was some tiny, obscure world that I'd never ever consider, but I'm incredibly proud to be a part of it.

I LOVE being a vegetarian. I feel 385928392x better than I ever had, so many pluses to being meat-free (or even just not eating it on such a regular basis- do whatever you can!) that I recommend it to anyone who wants something different. I hope my blog shows you other ways to eat, too!

I love being a vegetarian, and I hope that you learn about how a meat-free lifestyle can change you. Just check out any online sources about a vegetarian lifestyle, especially the Vegetarian Resource Group, a super helpful site that can help introduce you to this way of life, find recipes, find other vegetarians, and overall inform you even more.

And an actual quote from Albert Einstein: “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”  



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