Vegetarianism and Me
I would encourage everybody who is interested in healthy eating to consider vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice. I believe that it is the logical conclusion of a journey towards healthy eating.
They look at me with admiration because they think it is a very self-sacrificing lifestyle, which I assure you it is absolutley not! If it was, I wouldn't have survived almost all of my adult life as a vegetarian, because I like to enjoy my food!
Here's the secret--- being vegetarian is easy, when you know how, and when you are not doing it out of a feeling of obligation!
I would like to share with you my approach and ideas about this topic. They come from my own personal experience, not from an ideology. In this way, it is perhaps different to the approach of many veggies, who take a very ideological stance on this issue and an all-or-nothing approach, which many aspiring veggies find off-putting.
I believe that all change has to come from within, including a change diet. Human beings don't like being lectured to, or being made feel guilty. We don't like self-guilt trips either, which is why feeling we "should" go vegetarian never works in the longterm. Our hearts and souls have to be convinced as well!
Absolutist approaches don't work either. Announcing we are giving up meat and then sneaking some meat when no one is looking, is no way to live. But for some reason, new vegetarians find it difficult to admit that they still have cravings for meat and sometimes eat it. That's okay. You are on a journey. You may even have relapses. Most people do. But hey, who's keeping score?
So, my approach is that we really have to leave all this baggage aside. Otherwise, we are taking on too much. Food is a very primal, elemental thing. Food has emotional resonances for us, that remind us of how we were nurtured by our parents and of the tastes of our childhood.
Permanently changing what we eat, is a huge step and it can only be done as much, or as little, as our hearts and souls want us to change. If we try to run ahead of ourselves and let our rational minds, our ideology, or our guilt-feelings direct us, our vegetarian endeavour will fall apart.
I believe that you don't really have to make a decision to go vegetarian if it seems too much to take on. Just go a little bit of the journey as you feel able, and the chances are, it will eventually lead to you becoming a vegetarian in time. But it will be a gradual, gentle change, that is sustainable for you. That is how it was for me.
My Veggie Journey
I grew up in a very traditional, conventional household. I don't think I even met a single vegetarian in all my years growing up. In the upper-class, professional circles that my parents mixed in, vegetarianism would have been considered extremely bohemian. Something odd, suited to rebelling students, San Francisco hippies and lesbian feminists!
Lamb chops, spaghetti bolognaise, chicken, Sunday roast beef, turkey at Christmas --- these were the staples of our diet. I can honestly say that a lentil never entered our kitchen larder, never mind a slab of tofu!
My earliest memories of not really enjoying all that meat, was when I was a teenager. Like most fully-fledged veggies, red meat was the first thing I stopped eating. I hated the thought of eating meat, and the blood in red meat reminded me what exactly it was. For a few more years, I continued to eat chicken, until educating myself about the conditions in chicken farms put me right off that too.
The next phase of my journey was as an occasional, fish-eatng vegetarian. Ususally, I ate fish when eating out, as it was often the only option.
And then, over time I stopped eating fish and found I was a fully-fledged vegetarian, without ever having decided to be! But my heart had decided actually---I just didn't realise it at the time. I had simply followed my heart, which is the best way.
So, it doesn't have to be instant and it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. You can be 'a little bit vegetarian'! That's okay too. It's certainly better for your health and for the health of our planet, if you only have six meat dinners a week, instead of seven. And then six can become five, as you get better at cooking....and five can become four.... and so on....
So here is my advice for would-be veggies, or those of you who are not yet committed, but would like to dabble....you're welcome to the club, try it out and see how you like it!