I read an article on the Huffington Post this week called, "The 17 Dumbest Things Vegetarians Have to Deal With." As much as I had to laugh I could really relate to it. It also made me think about the personal decision I made to become a vegetarian.
By defining myself as a vegetarian I mean that I do not eat meat. No, not even fish (which, contrary to the popular belief of half of the people I come into contact with, is truly meat). I do eat by-products. This means I'm lacto-ovo (dairy and eggs), eat honey, and wear products like wool and silk (I'm not a fan of real leather or fur, but this has nothing to do with my decisions to be a vegetarian).
I became a vegetarian mainly for health reasons. I used to suffer through extreme nausea and other digestive issues, including blood in vomit. It was especially bad during times of stress and you could find me curled up in the fetal position, in my bed, with a heating pad. Sometimes I was in so much pain I couldn't eat.
I've also been a vegetarian twice. The first time I quit it was because I was a lazy and unhealthy vegetarian. I wasn't getting enough protein and iron in my diet, and it was becoming extremely apparent when I began to get into running. I started eating meat again in under a year of this lifestyle. In August 2012, after months of plaguing stomach issues, I cut meat out of my life for a second time. I haven't turned back since.
After already choosing to become a vegetarian (again) for health reasons I read the book, "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. This changed my outlook on vegetarianism from reasons of health, to reasons of personal morals and values. Now, don't get this confused. This does not mean I am against people eating meat for food. I am against the cruelties of factory farming that effect animals, the environment, and overall societal health. I'm not going to preach but factory farming does have some serious issues. I support local meat and dairy farming as practices are less cruel and more natural.
As a vegetarian I used to be a fan of "fake meat". I go through phases of missing meat and craving it in my diet. Usually this is because I need to up my fat, iron, or protein intake in an alternative form. Either way, I used to eat soy products such as fake taco meat, fake chicken, veggies burgers, etc. I've tried to cut this down. I eat veggie burgers on occasion, and soy only in form of the actual bean (such as edamame). Soy is not for everyone. Personally, I bloat until the point where it is uncomfortable and look like I'm pregnant.
What don't I eat? Beef, pork, chicken, fish, or, in short, meat. I also don't eat soups that have been made in a meat broth, and other such products. I try to stay away from soy. I also try not to drink beverages that are high in caffeine and alcohol, and I try to stay away from sugar. These ones are harder for me to give up than meat was, but they also affect my body in the same way that meat does.
What do I eat? Many things! I love vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans. I also love cheese and yogurt, but in moderation. I like eggs, too. I try and eat food that is local and in season. I use my Sunday afternoons to bake, cook, and prepare my food for the week. It becomes much easier to eat well and healthy so I can keep up with my running and busy academic life.
I understand that people don't want to be forced into vegetarianism or have it thrown in their faces, and I completely understand. I do not look down on people that meat eat and I eat around my friends and family while they eat meat. It doesn't bother me and I support your diet/lifestyle of choice. Most of all, I understand that being a vegetarian is not the answer for everyone. It just so happened it was the answer for me.