Vegetarianism for beginners: why I've quit eating meat
I feel a bit stupid, telling people I'm giving vegetarianism a try, at the ripe old age of 32. It feels like a distinctly teenage thing to do – to decide that, in fact, eating meat is "gross" and, in any case, What about the animals?! But in another way, it feels like one of the most mature decisions I've made in a while.
I can honestly say that throughout my teens – even into my twenties – opting for vegetarianism simply never occurred to me. I love meat. I've always loved meat. And I somehow got around the niggling guilt about eating it by justifying it to myself in myriad ways. Ultimately, I made a decision to eat meat. And I was happy with that decision.
What changed my mind? I hear you ask. Well, it's pretty simple. I don't believe there's any way to ethically and morally defend the farming of animals for consumption. We simply don't need to eat meat. Maybe we were designed that way, but society has progressed to the point that we can get all of our nutrients without killing other sentient creatures.
And, like I said, until recently, I believed that and still chose to eat meat. But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt about it. There's nothing else in life that I do regularly while simultaneously believing I'm doing something wrong. It started to gnaw away at me.
Was there something that pushed me over the edge?
This is another yes-and-no answer. I think I probably would eventually have come to this decision myself, but there are definitely a few little things that have influenced my decision – and the fact that I'm making it right now.
Before I get into it, know this: I haven't watched a single pro-vegetarian documentary. I keep getting asked about this! "Have you seen X, Y or Z?" The short answer is no, I haven't. I have, however, watched Blackfish, which definitely fed into my feelings of discomfort around how we treat creatures we consider "lesser".
I did, however, read an article in the Guardian about this couple who accidentally adopted a giant pig. It was just one of those articles that stuck with me; I thought about it a lot. There's a line in it where they talk about just how intelligent their pig, Esther, seems, that really affected me.
If you look a pig closely in the eyes, it’s startling; there’s something so inexplicably human. When you’re lying next to her and talking, you know she understands.
How can we really defend eating animals, when we know that they think and feel? They mourn their dead; they miss their families. Industrial farming is, quite possibly, the worst thing we'll have done to this planet.
Not to mention the impact on the environment – which is massive (although I won't lie, animal welfare is my main reason).
What will I eat?
Well, not to state the obvious, but: vegetables! In an ideal world, I'd probably go vegan, but I'm trying to take things one step at a time. Right now, I'm focusing on eating a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, keeping protein and fats high with eggs, cheese, avocados and things like coconut oil, butter and cream, and keeping carbs relatively low – because there is a real possibility that I'll end up living on cheese sandwiches!
To be honest, I'm trying not to worry about macros or calorie content, at least for now – like I said, it's about baby steps, and once I get used to the fact that I don't eat meat, I'll worry a little more about how my body's reacting to it.
How does my trainer feel?
I was so sure that Niamh, my personal trainer, would be incredibly anti my vegetarianism. And while she is (she thinks that humans perform optimally when they eat fresh, organic meat), she's also interested to see how my body will react. What will energy levels be like? Will I be able to eat a high-protein, low-carb diet without meat?
Will I be taking loads of supplements?
Again, this is a kind of "I'll cross that bridge" thing, but I reckon I'll get most of my required minerals and vitamins from eating a largely plant-based diet. I'll keep reassessing and will probably go and get bloods done to test iron levels and so on, after a month – at which point I'll report back!
For now, I'll stick to what I'm doing: omega 3s (although I'll be going for Udo's Oils over fish oils), a multivitamin and a B complex. I'll also be having a greens-n-protein supplement occasionally (I take that anyway, especially if I haven't eaten enough green veg in any given day) and taking whey protein after workouts.
So there you have it: why I'm trying vegetarianism and how I'm approaching it! I've already got so many helpful links and recipe ideas from people, so if you have anything you think I need to know, please, comment below!