Warning – long post ahead!
New friend: Have you been a vegetarian your whole life?
Me: No, it’s been an on again off again type of thing, but over the past four years, I’ve pretty much stuck with vegetarianism.
New friend: What made you decide to do that?
…enter an abbreviated version of this post.
I’ve alluded to why I became a vegetarian back in August 2010 (I can’t believe it’s been four years!). However, having never written a full post about this and seeing that it’s one of the most common questions I get asked, I decided it was time I talked more candidly about my decision.
Before I share my story, I have to emphasize that dietary choices are very personal in my opinion. I am in no way trying to convert people to vegetarianism! There are so many factors that influence our choice in food, including culture, preference, convenience, medical conditions, etc. And while some may argue that one way of eating is better than the next, I don’t think that’s the case. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t stand for what they believe in, but we have to be respectful and open to the choices of others. You can only control you!
So I’ve been an on again off again vegetarian most of my life. My mom has been a vegetarian her entire life, while my dad has always eaten white meat (mostly chicken and turkey). Because my mom was the main cook, we grew up eating a strict vegetarian diet at home but would occasionally eat meat when dining out. Because I wasn’t very well versed in nutrition back then, my iron count would decrease every time I switched to vegetarianism. I remember a couple of different conversations with my mom that ended up with me agreeing to incorporate some meat back in my diet. My reasons for going back and forth were never based on religion or anything like that as most people assume. It was more like I was trying to make a statement but would then get drawn to the other side for one reason or another.
Anyways, when I moved to Tucson, Arizona in June 2010, I ate my fair share of turkey, chicken, and fish! However, my aunt and her family (who let me make their home in Phoenix my weekend home) were eating a 95% vegan diet. Over the course of the next couple of months, I found myself eating less meat. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I guess you could say my family rubbed off on me! I even toyed with the decision to quit prior to August but couldn’t quite commit to the idea of eliminating meat from my diet.
But then in August something happened. I came across Food, Inc. on Netflix. For some reason, I was under the impression that the documentary was about fast food in America (don’t ask), so I didn’t bother to read the summary.
Well, within the first couple of minutes, I figured out that this film was about something completely different. I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer in headlights as I watched this incredibly sad but eye opening documentary about the industrial production of meat in America.
At the 15 minute mark, tears were streaming down my face but I couldn’t turn away. In a weird way, I felt like it was my responsibility to keep watching. About half way through, I called Vishnu. I was literally bawling. He kept asking what was wrong, and when I finally told him, he suggested I turn it off since it was making me so upset. I told him I couldn’t do that and declared that I was officially a vegetarian. We got off the phone, and I continued watching and crying all the way to the end.
Now, my experience is a bit different than most people. The film and the information it shared honestly shook me to my core. And I know that most documentaries are biased, but I figured if even 40% of the information was true, I couldn’t go back. Not everyone is impacted in the same way. I know plenty of meat eaters who have watched Food, Inc. and made no changes to their diets. And that’s fine too! Like I said, it’s a very personal decision.
So that is my long-winded answer to why I decided to become a vegetarian!
And if you’re looking for my personal opinion on the documentary beyond the fact that it turned me into a vegetarian, you won’t find it here. I honestly don’t remember enough details to write an educated post, and there is no way I’m watching it again.
A few other bits of information about me and vegetarianism…
- I did eat fish while in Turks and Caicos last June. Having enjoyed my fish tacos in Turks, I ordered salmon at a local restaurant here in Miami. Let me tell you – eating around the skin was a traumatic experience, so I decided not to be a pescatarian. It wasn’t something I felt 100% comfortable to begin with, so I decided to stick with vegetarianism.
- My decision to not eat meat has not affected Vishnu at all. He still eats pretty much everything. I do, however, try to make the best decision possible when buying the meat products he eats at home.
- Even though I occasionally cook meat dishes at home for Vishnu, I am not 100% comfortable handling raw meat. That’s where Vishnu is great. He knows this and is always available to do the ‘dirty work’ for me.
- I do eat eggs and dairy. I once had someone tell me I wasn’t a real vegetarian because of this. I just shrugged my shoulders and ignored him. I think he was confusing vegetarianism with veganism, but I didn’t want to get into it so I’m not sure what made him say that.
- When it comes to eating out, if I know a dish contains some meat by-product, I won’t order it. However, if I unknowingly end up eating something made with chicken broth, for example, I won’t throw a fit.
- I do not foresee myself going back to my meat eating ways in the future (minus my brief stint as a pescatarian last year). Vegetarianism works for me and I truly enjoy eating this way!
Phew…I guess I had a lot to say about this topic! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments or via email.