I stopped eating meat when I was 12 years old. While I don’t have a vivid memory about the day I decided to make the change, my mother does. It was during the mad-cow disease epidemic of the 90’s, and apparently I had witnessed an image on TV of a cow going into convulsions and dropping to the floor. It broke my spirit and my mind was made up. I marched home that day and announced to my mother that I no longer wanted to eat meat. Bless my mother, who already had enough managing an acting career with 3 children, my princess-self stood before her and proclaimed that I would no longer partake in the homemade meals she made for everyone else, but would rather my own variation. Little did I know that that very decision would become a huge part of my identity moving forward and impact every part of my life.
I get asked why I am a vegetarian quite often. Because I genuinely love animals, I adore vegetables, and I care about my carbon-footprint on this planet. It really is that simple. If animal hoarding was socially acceptable, I would have 8 rescue dogs (3 with some type of disability), 2 cats, a few piglets, some birds, a 3 limbed porcupine and a turtle. We would all eat vegetables grown from the soil we live on, and live happily ever after. Alas, that is a little more complicated when one lives and exists in an urban environment such as I do. Given that I live in Chicago, in an apartment in the city, I do what I can to contribute to the well-being of this planet, and everything that exists on it.
I would be lying if I said that I have not dabbled here and there, and occasionally jumped back on the other side of the fence alongside my carnivore friends. There were a few years when I decided I could go back to eating white meat. I lost quite a bit of weight, and enough gained muscle definition I never had before. But I still didn’t feel right about eating turkey sandwiches or chicken dinners. My friends would have you believe that I would order vegetarian omelet’s at brunch, and whisper ‘with a side of bacon’, to our waitress…. simply not true…. but I have been known to have bacon a few times a year… don’t judge…. I know other veggies who have fallen victim to the same seduction bacon brings! Alas, every single time I dabbled with eating meat…. I happily went right back to being a vegetarian.
I have had the privilege to enjoy meals full of delicious vegetables, grains, fruits, proteins, beans, cheeses, greens, and every color imaginable on my plate. My palette is just as curious as the next, and I have never felt as though I am missing anything from my diet. I eat anything and everything I want, without the guilt. I enjoy my food, I savor the flavors, the juices, and sensations that I am left with after devouring all of the earth’s bounty. Guilt is an emotion that never plagues me when it comes to eating vegetarian meals.
Here are some other awesome things about being a vegetarian…
- It helps the environment by reducing pollution
- Your arteries are happier and therefore your heart is stronger
- You don’t get bit by bugs as often (no really, I am serious)
- Your digestive system moves smoothly, gets rid of the bad and makes room for the new
- You have less options to be overwhelmed by when going out to restaurants
- You don’t get as full as fast as your steak-eating friends
- Animals like you more because they will know you are an advocate for their lives and well-being
- You become an elite member of an amazing community of other vegetable lovers, animal advocates, and environmentalists
- Your taste palette expands and you get to eat amazing things from around the world
- You will avoid digesting toxic chemicals into your body
- You can eat as much kale as your body can take
There are 7.3 million vegetarians in the U.S., and the movement is growing strong. Vegetarian diets are known to ward off disease, reverse heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. We live longer, up to 13 years longer than those who eat an average American diet. We have strong bones. We have more energy throughout the day, and become less reliant on chemical-filled flesh. We minimize pollution levels by reducing the demands on the meat industry that dirty our rivers, streams, farmlands. We care about the senseless slaughtering of animals and want it to stop. Promoting a vegetarian diet could help reduce famine. If we were to feed all of the grains that we currently feed our livestock to people, we could feed nearly 800 million people. This list could go on, but simply put, the individual and worldly benefits that vegetarian diets promote is hard to ignore.
Most of my friends, family, loved ones, and dogs are carnivores. I would never suggest to anyone to do anything that did not feel right and authentic to their beliefs. However, I would encourage anyone who has ever thought about being a vegetarian, to give it a shot, even for just a week. You may open your mouth to a world unexplored, and a body full of health.
Inspiration for this blog piece comes from thugkitchen.com – if you need a good laugh, more reasons to eat green, or some delicious vegetarian recipes, this is the blog to check out.