Hello and welcome to this somewhat spur-of-the-moment post! After remembering that this week is National Vegetarian Week, I thought it would be a great chance to share my changing attitudes to vegetarianism over the last year.
I love meat. My friends and I talk about food constantly. I’m the one who regularly demolishes 20 chicken nuggets after a night out. Thinking of crispy bacon, fried chicken and cheesy burgers have me almost drooling. Adopting a vegetarian diet was something I’d never even considered. But as I write this…I haven’t eaten any meat for over three months.
While I always knew that the meat industry was cruel, it never crossed my mind to change my habits. Then I met my now-boyfriend, a veggie who was pretty knowledgable about the issues. I can feel you rolling your eyes now – ‘oh god, she changed for a guy’. Not quite: I carried on eating meat for months after we got together. But the more we talked, I realised that I couldn’t think of a real reason for why eating meat is right. So slowly, my attitude started to shift.
I quietly went away and, without really discussing it with anyone, started to do my research. Watching documentaries on Netflix and reading foodie blogs was really helpful here. I found out that the food industry tells outright lies to the public about how we ‘need’ milk for calcium and meat for protein: in reality, we can get everything we need from plant-based foods – the possible exception being B12 in a vegan diet. We don’t need to kill animals for our survival because we have so much food available that far too much of it goes to waste. I learned about the terrifying environmental impact of factory farms and the cruelty experienced there. I won’t go too deeply into the issues here but if you do want to read more, I’ll link a list of resources that I used at the end of this post.
For a while, I struggled with this knowledge vs the possible impact of changing my lifestyle. How could I adapt from my standard meal format of meat, carbs and a dash of veg? Would I still be able to enjoy eating out in my favourite restaurants? I’ve always been a fussy eater and putting a lot of effort into changing was a daunting thought.
In February, we arrived in Asia and I decided that this would be the best time to try going meat-free. The thought of eating fly-covered street food chicken that had festered in 35 degree heat was less than appealing. Amazingly, it’s been easy 90% of the time. A combination of some amazing faux meats in Vietnam and having fun researching great veggie restaurants means that I’ve definitely enjoyed a greater variety of food than I would have before. Who knew tofu could taste exactly like chicken or that you can get vegan hot dogs that taste like they’re straight off the BBQ?
I didn’t make these changes with a view to even turning vegetarian properly. I just wanted to see whether I could do it and how it made me feel. But now, with my trip coming to an end, thinking about implementing these changes into my daily life does make me nervous. It even makes me a bit nervous putting it out there, a real commitment that I can’t suddenly turn my back on. But I really hope that I can do it.
This even sounds silly to me because it’s easier now than ever before to find meat-free alternatives. But I also don’t want to pretend that I’ve completely changed as a person. When my dad is frying bacon on a Sunday morning, it’ll be tough to say no. I love eating a Sunday roast so I’m already thinking of ideas for meal adjustments. I’m hoping to finally get a grip of cooking nutritionally balanced, plant-based meals. Hopefully I’ll remember some skills from my vegetarian cooking class in Thailand!
Overall, the changes I’ve made over the last few months have made me feel good. It feels weird to do a complete U-turn on an issue in my mid-twenties. But overall, I feel less bloated and my stomach looks flatter. I’m spending less money on meals. And it feels good to know that in a tiny way, the changes I make to my lifestyle could form part of a gradual mass change to protect our planet and our health.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts or experiences on changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet!
Information sources I used to research vegetarianism
Forks over Knives – A fascinating documentary about the impact of animal foods on our health: you can watch it on Netflix. Their website is also a fantastic source of plant-based meal ideas.
Carnage – In March, Simon Amstell released his mockumentary film ‘Carnage’ on BBC iPlayer. Set in 2067 when eating meat is outlawed, it takes a different, funnier approach to the issue.
Hungry for Change – A shocking look at the food industry and what we really need in our diets.
The Ethics of Eating Meat by Peter Singer & Jim Mason – I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this. The authors look at three US families, one ‘classic’ who eat meat and shop at supermarkets, one who buy only organic, free range produce and the other who eat a vegan diet. They examine the issues systematically in a really accessible way. It also looks at the most ethical ways that you can consume meat, fish and dairy if you choose to.
The Vegan Society – Their website has tons of helpful information and resources about turning vegan or vegetarian.
Peta – I’m not a fan of using shock tactics but I used the food section to check out vegan alternatives.