January 27, 2010 by Sarah S.
Over the past 6-8 years I’ve had a highly fluctuating relationship with food. I grew up in a vegetarian household (we did eat eggs and dairy) and didn’t taste my first bite of meat until I was well into my teens. It was one of those “I’m not allowed to do this so I gotta do it” type of things. I wasn’t vegetarian because I had my own reasons, I was because my parents said I had to be. As with most teenagers, I had to find as many subtle and not so subtle ways as possible to rebel, and meat was one of those hot button issues.
A common assumption people make when you tell them you’re a vegetarian is that you really love to eat vegetables. Maybe for some vegetarians that is true, but I can’t tell you how many times I was sorely disappointed with my “vegetarian plate” of soggy vegetables sides while other people ate the meat and pasta that was the main course at various functions. You see, it’s actually quite easy to eat “bad” and still be a vegetarian. In fact, it’s too easy. Check out any mainstream menu and pick out the vegetarian items. Besides the salads, your choices are things like grilled cheeses and french fries, pasta with creamy sauce, etc. And guess what? Cake is always vegetarian! What I’m trying to get across here is that even though I grew up vegetarian, I didn’t have a fondness for healthy food and vegetables. That’s how I gained weight when I finally hit college. And college is where stuff got interesting.
In college I did eat meat sometimes. But I was very particular — chicken tenders were ok, cheeseburgers, pepperoni on pizza — basically things that didn’t seem too “meaty” for me. I decided to take a course on Animal Rights and that’s where things got a little crazy. After sitting through several weeks of one horrifying PETA video after another, crying during and after class, I was a mess. I couldn’t walk past the dairy section in the supermarket without stopping in front of the eggs and bawling my eyes out, thinking about how those poor chickens had their feet grown into the cages because they weren’t permitted to walk around and the cages were so small they couldn’t move anyway. I decided the only move for me was to become Vegan, because I couldn’t stomach the idea of adding to the pain and torture those poor animals were going through. However, I didn’t go at it in an educated way. I didn’t read up on proper nutrition, and I didn’t really like vegetables, so I buried myself into a nutritional hole. I felt very tired all the time and had trouble concentrating in class, and I had a whole lot of french fries and vegan baked goods (you know I bought a vegan deserts book, but not a real cookbook!). Basically, I couldn’t maintain the lifestyle change, because I simply wasn’t ready to be serious about it. So I dropped it.
You might ask how I went from crying in the supermarket to just eating whatever the hell I wanted to again. And honestly, I hadn’t really given it much thought until now. I think that’s how I deal with things that I can’t find a simple, solid solution to — I just block them out. I don’t like to think of any living creature suffering, but I think it is most appalling that us civilized people come up with such horrible ways of torturing animals — to eat them. Where is the respect? Where is the compassion for another creature who lives and breathes just like you? I have come to the conclusion that no, I am “okay” with it. It sucks and it’s really unfortunate. Am I going to go around telling people to stop eating meat, picketing, throwing paint on people who wear fur? No. I’m not. I respect everyone’s right to eat what they want to eat. I do hold strongly to the idea that if everyone were required to actually hunt and kill their own meat, we’d drastically reduce the amount of meat consumed in our country, but that’s really not going to happen.
I suppose the most confusing part for me, though, is that while I feel that very strongly, and while I’ve currently adopted an animal-free diet, I can’t sit here and tell you that I’ll never eat cheese again, or never dig into some scrambled eggs. I can’t tell you that I’m going to scour the ingredients in every product I buy, or that I’ll say no to a Louis Vuitton bag. It’s a struggle for me, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people, because it’s a huge commitment to make, and life just isn’t black and white like that — at least, for me. I have a carnivore husband-to-be, who has been totally awesome with eating the onslaught of vegan dishes I’ve been making, but who isn’t going to give up meat. We’ll always have it in the house, along with egg products, and I just can’t see myself ever making a huge stink about that.
I guess the point I’m trying to get at here, and is that this time, I’m not eating vegan because I cry over the various injustices against animals in the food industry. I’m eating this way because I want to be healthier. I don’t want to have clogged arteries and high blood pressure, I don’t want to develop diabetes, which runs in my family. I don’t want to get really fat. I want to be happy and healthy, and eating this way is doing that for me.
I’ve love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I know a lot of people on the blogs I’ve read have adopted a flexible eating style, being careful not to label yourself one way or the other, and I think that’s a good thing. There are so many labels and terms being thrown around on the blogs though, and for me, totally new to this world, it can be very easy to try and stick on of those labels to yourself before you’re really quite sure of what you are doing.
Anyway, I’m done with the mind-probing. I’m off to make some dinners and I’ll update the blog later with my eats for the day, because I actually made myself a 100% raw lunch (and guess what, it lasted in my tummy for all of… 55 minutes. Haha.)