Being vegetarian is hard | Confession time
I quite like the idea of doing a series of confession time posts* and starting with explaining why I'm finding being vegetarian so hard is as good a place as any. I'll be honest; I had decided against writing this post, but a conversation with my therapist (which I won't get into because the only thing more boring than people who relay conversations they had with their therapist are people who relay their entire dreams to you in graphic detail) changed my mind.
Putting yourself out there
Essentially, I'm finding it really difficult being vegetarian – but I'm also very aware of the fact that I put my decision to go vegetarian out there (very out there). So I know that, if I start to backtrack on my choice to give up meat, I risk looking like a hypocrite – or, worse, an idiot.
I've already had so many comments and snaps pointing out my hypocrisy around being vegetarian. Don't get me wrong; mostly, I think these people mean well. But I've had questions about whether or not I'll wear leather or suede anymore (I will, but only secondhand – although honestly, I'm finding it so tough to find nice non-leather shoes!). I've had people pointing out that the Parmesan pizza I ate last week wasn't veggie. (I knew Parmesan wasn't vegetarian, I just momentarily forgot – or chose to forget, because it's delicious and the idea of never eating it again makes me sad.)
I've had people point out that, if I think farming is morally and ethically wrong, I should technically give up dairy, too. And I agree with them, actually – I should. I'm just not ready because, like I said, being vegetarian is hard enough already.
A future without Superquinn sausages
That's just one thing I'm finding difficult about being vegetarian; at least once a day, I think of another thing that, if I stick to this veggie lifestyle, I'll never be able to eat again. And don't get me wrong: I want to stick to it! But I do doubt my own willpower – and, honestly? Going veggie has taken a lot of the joy out of my day.
I would be the textbook emotional eater. I eat when I'm happy; I eat when I'm sad. But now, with this massive food group (meat and fish) off the menu, it's really difficult to find foods to look forward to. What can I "treat" myself to now that I can't eat Eddie Rocket's chicken tenders, Bombay Pantry's tikka masala or even Sprout's turkey satay salad? (There's a whole other blog post on the very sensible idea that "treat" and "cheat" meals are BS; we're not dogs, and we're not cheating by eating a burger.)
Previously, I would punctuate my day with meals that I was looking forward to. And, working for yourself, you need to find fun ways to punctuate your day! I would take myself out for Brother Hubbard's home-baked beans with chorizo on the side, or toddle down to Arnotts for a burger in Clodagh's Kitchen. If I was being virtuous, I'd head to Two Boys Brew for their avocado and eggs – again, with chorizo on the side. I feel genuinely a bit sad that I'll never be able to eat this things, at least not the way I like them, ever again. (And before you say it; I know these are first-world problems. I live in the first world. These are the things I consider problems. I don't for a second think they're more important than other, y'know, serious problems.)
Energy level: low
I don't know if being vegetarian for, oh, three weeks qualifies someone to say, definitively, that energy levels are, in general, lower without meat – but I definitely don't feel like I'm at my best. Now I know these things are always tough to measure. It could be to do with where I am in my menstrual cycle. Maybe I'm just going through a "meh" spell since the clocks changed. Maybe it's the tides!
I notice it especially in the gym, where my stamina and strength are not what they used to be. I feel like I'm tiring a lot more quickly since I started being vegetarian and I don't enjoy it. Over the past year or so, I was really beginning to get used to feeling strong and capable, physically – so to feel a little drained is disheartening.
Being vegetarian requires a lot of planning
Lifelong vegetarians will definitely be rolling their eyes at this – I know, academically, that it's not difficult to eat plant-based meals! But for me, a lifelong carnivore who ate meat at every single meal, it's tough. I don't have any clue about what to make myself, say, for a quick late dinner or an on-the-go lunch.
As it stands, if I don't plan my meals, I end up eating brown toast with butter (two dinners and counting), Glenisk natural yoghurt with almond butter and berries (three) or mixed berry scones from Avoca with jam and cream (one, and so worth it). I've essentially gone from a relatively clean, meat-heavy diet to a very carb-heavy one with, I'd say, fewer vegetables than I was eating before. Not ideal.
It also requires a good deal of support
And, honestly? I don't feel like the 32-year-old woman who suddenly announces that she wants to start being vegetarian elicits a huge amount of support from friends or family. Stephen – who, to be fair, does the majority of the cooking – thinks I should "just go back to meat". I guess he's on the front line: dealing with my frustration at not knowing what to cook and my low energy and general grumpiness. "What have I got to look forward to if I can never eat another sausage sandwich as long as I live?!"
My trainer, too, sees the energy difference and has been urging me to eat fish, at least. It's an easy way to get protein in and means you don't have to resort to carb-heavy pulses to bulk up every meal. But I feel like, I'm being vegetarian because I don't think that we, as humans, should breed sentient animals to slaughter them. And that includes fish (even if my personal jury is out on just how sentient they are – like, do prawns have thoughts?).
So... am I giving up?
Not quite yet. I follow enough Insta vegetarians to realise that it can be done. I just need to try a little harder to vary my meals and relearn methods of cooking (which is a pretty big challenge as I don't love cooking anyway, and had just about got to grips with my old methods!).
I'm also going to try to plan out my meals – at least for the following two days – and make sure that I have a neverending supply of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for emergencies. Because I reckon I'm probably better off scarfing two eggs than eating four slices of white bread... Even if the white bread is more delicious!
I would love to hear the experiences of other late-term vegetarians – and to everyone who's sent me recipes and websites, thank you so much! If Stephen can't support me (!), at least I know y'all will :)
*A lot of the time, my post ideas are coloured by what I wish other bloggers would write about – and I'm nosy as hell, so the idea of reading their "confession times" is thrilling! Imagine!