Why I became, and still am a vegetarian

Wondering if you should become a vegetarian? I’ll tell you why you should! My goal is not to promote a vegetarian diet but rather to share my own experience, and maybe you’ll find something useful for yourself. Let’s dive right into it!

How I became a vegetarian

I became a vegetarian for the first time about five years ago because I felt sorry for animals. Besides, cutting out meat was always on my bucket list: I knew I would do it, at least as an experiment. A vegetarian diet also seemed to fit my passion for yoga. I didn’t eat any meat or fish for six months.

There were two main problems that I faced back then. Firstly, I didn’t have enough time and money, as I was a student, to make sure I was getting enough nutrients. The problem is that whenever something goes wrong, you attribute it to the fact you became a vegetarian. If I was tired or had stomach pain, I got afraid I could possibly lack protein or B12.

Another problem was other people, who tried to argue with me over the topic of nutrition. My family can’t imagine their lives without meat, so they were shocked. They were concerned about my health, which made me even more unsure deep inside. Some people felt uneasy because I could barely eat anything when I came to visit them. I was not prepared to debate, and it made me hesitant and my life difficult.

I started eating meat again, but three years ago I read a couple of books about nutrition that made me think of going back. When I began to research the topic, I learned that being a vegetarian can be even healthier than being a meat-eater. I found out how to respond to other people’s questions and remarks, and I also felt more confident when I defined my own reasons for choosing what I eat. And that is why I am still a vegetarian.

Love for animals

When people ask me why I am a vegetarian, their first guess is, “Do you like animals so much?” Yes, I do! I’m not a PETA activist, and I don’t have any pets, but I don’t like the feeling of eating someone. I also don’t really like the smell or taste of meat, so giving it up wasn’t difficult for me at all.

However, I’m not a vegan, though I tried. It caused me too much stress and limitations. I tried to put a label on myself, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I also wasn’t sure how much of a vegan I could be. What should I do with my old leather shoes? Should I throw them away? How do vegans feed their pets? Can vegans cook meat for their family and friends? For now, I just want to do as much as I can without labelling myself, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be ready.

Healthy lifestyle

My new journey started three years ago when I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II. The China Study explains in detail how the consumption of animal products affects the human body and how those processes may cause cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. According to Campbell, consuming too much animal protein and animal fat increases the risks of the above-mentioned diseases.

I was never good at biology, so it took me time to understand what the book was trying to say. But it definitely showed me that a plant-based diet can be healthy. I learned that my family didn’t support me only because they didn’t even assume health can benefit from a vegetarian diet.

Another book that I read was The Starch Solution by John A. McDougall and his wife Mary McDougall, who believe that you can beat diabetes or arthritis by simply following a plant-based diet. This diet is primarily based on starches, such as potatoes, rice and pasta; besides being plant-based, it’s low-fat and doesn’t contain cholesterol at all. Yes, McDougall is up for potatoes but not french fries.

The Starch Solution and the approach explained there were criticised because of its extreme restrictions and boring food choice. This book and The China Study are still seen as controversial (as well as the whole topic of nutrition, to be honest).

But more and more research reflects on the benefits of eating plant-based. Many people still can’t believe that meat can be bad for their health, but recent studies indicate that yes, red meat increases the health risks, while a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Both The Starch Solution and The China Study say you should strictly follow a plant-based diet, but I prefer to be more relaxed about mine. I eat 80% plant-based, but if I want a cake with dairy and eggs in it, I’ll just eat it.

Good for the environment

At the time I became a vegetarian, I didn’t know that it helps the environment. It was a pleasant surprise: I could reduce my carbon footprint by simply eating plant-based! In Ireland, for example, the agricultural sector has almost 40% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture is even more harmful to the environment than transport, though it shouldn’t prevent you from supporting your local brands.

By going plant-based, I can save the land, water and oil resources spent on producing animal products, and I can also reduce the amount of pollution caused by animal agriculture. We could do even better if everyone reduced meat consumption as much as they could. Even reducing it from every day to five times per week would do!

If you decide to become a vegetarian, too, the first rule is to have fun! It’s primarily not about what you cut out of your diet; it’s about what you consciously choose to eat. I would also recommend you to define your reasons for going vegetarian (or vegan) because it’ll make you more confident about your choice.

Have you ever thought of becoming a vegetarian and why? If not, why not?

Kamila Mushkina
Kamila Mushkina

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