“No meat? -what do you eat?”
That is one of the many types of questions one often gets from confused omnivores when they find out that you eat without it!
Let me share my experience of being a vegetarian since childhood in an Omni household and then later on as a vegan as an adult. I grew up in a family where things like animal foods were seen as just that another food option, not as just animals. I, however, once I reached an age of realization of what meat was it was from animals dying I couldn’t even as a young child in primary school eat any visible meat again.
Even though friends and family were still omnivores, I couldn’t do the same anymore. People just had to accept that I wouldn’t go back to meat. So I was even at a young age (and particularly more so as I grew up in my teen years where social interactions were more of importance) being singled out as different. The impact the lack of knowledge my caregivers had about a vegetarian diet affected my nutrition and social connections. It doesn’t take that much extra thought to find a vegetarian alternative to meat, though (at that stage I was still a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian where I ate dairy and eggs too).
I remember one particular primary school teacher making an effort to include me in a class lunch where others had meat based items I was given beans for my taco instead this is one of those things that makes a difference to a child who may not fit in. To have a suitable alternative available so I could eat well and fit in more comfortably with the group! 🙂
Too often throughout the years at various social functions-school, friends, family, church, etc., I was the vegetarian who was given the tomato sauce and bread option at BBQs perhaps with onion or chips at times but often not a suitable alternative for nutrition like a veggie burger. The times people made an effort actually to do so really is critical times showing their thoughtfulness. It took some time but eventually at home I was able to get more proper foods and was put on iron tablets at a young age as at that time my iron was low and was for years. However, that is not the only thing you need to be careful of on a vegetarian diet, but that was the focus I was given. I was often tired and got colds in winter a lot.
However, I noticed that when I went away say to a school or church camp/conference/event that was well catered to vegetarian diets, I was feeling fantastic! 🙂 Some of the best camps in particular where we stayed which were run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church (a Christian group who have a large population of plant eaters in their congregations and hold free nutrition talks). The vegetarian meals there were a lot better than the meat ones that often people nearby to me would want to go vegetarian as well! I felt quite alive with having so many nutrients and adequate calories there that I knew there was a difference in the ordinary way I was living and times away.
It is imperative to get the right nutrients like a plant eater not just give up something you got to replace it with something else suitable! 🙂 With having the most positive experiences of being catered for and accepted more quickly as I grew up over the years people knew that Tabitha is a vegetarian and those who were sincere in accepting me for me would show that. Looking back I greatly appreciate the people who took the time to include me.
Vegetarian pizzas, lasagnas, pasta, roast veggies, veggie burgers/sausages-all, are things that helped not only fill my stomach but also substantially make me feel welcome as a person worthy to have my lifestyle choice recognized, accepted and normalized. 🙂
Eating a certain way doesn’t just affect your body but also your mental and emotional health too. It is important to have appropriate supports around you to make it easier and happier! 🙂
By the time I got to my mid-twenties, I had experienced a lot of unexpected realizations about the world this also included things like there were hidden animal ingredients in foods. Things like shellac, gelatin, l-cysteine, different flavors, etc., it got to be a bit overwhelming for me. With that new found information and with the other things also going on in my life at the time I had a breakdown and became obsessed with finding out the small details instead of looking at the bigger picture of things.
I wouldn’t eat or drink much unless I went through a thorough checking of the ingredients, calling/emailing various food companies for more information and getting them to contact their suppliers as well for more details too. It was quite extreme. My health suffered, it didn’t help the plant based cause much either to be so trying to regain control of my life in such a fearful way. I share such to make you the reader aware of where I have journeyed from and hoped to share that it doesn’t have to be that way at all for you.
Once I gained enough “safe” things for my diet, had made some helpful vegetarian/vegan connections and was getting the other areas of my life more stabilized things improved! 🙂 I still love to know what is in my food, I love lists and understand a lot about what different symbols on packaging means. However, I realized it is the big picture that matters.
I avoid animal products as ingredients but don’t necessarily avoid a product because it may have been made nearby to an animal product at a factory. Yes, I once was that particular getting the information on what other products were made there in what order even. I realize this was just a reaction of mine to gain control of something I was overwhelmed about(food production methods and ingredients) and realized that how I wanted to live was free for myself but also choosing a lifestyle that helped others be free too. The way I was going about it needed to change and that it did! 🙂
I don’t wear leather/wool/silk, I try to use cruelty-free plant based cleaning and toiletries, my foods and drinks are plants, not animal based ingredients. I no longer try to worry about things like the even more hidden things in day to day life that may contain animal ingredients. I know that I have found a level of being ethical that is right for me, that the more people who also choose to live more humane will have a greater impact on the animals lives being saved. It is about finding a balance that works for you so you can be happy, living your life peacefully as well while at the same time saying no to animal cruelty. It has been an insightful journey discovering who I am, my place in this world and how my choices affect things.
Even if you don’t have perfectionist traits like mine, there is still various traits we all have that influence how we see the world and make decisions. It is nice to acknowledge who you are and realize how that shapes your worldview. Once you can accept yourself for who you are then, you can see what unique way you have to assist life on this earth to be more peaceful-starting with you! 🙂
I now live a vegan lifestyle that is more focused on getting more plant whole foods into my diet and fewer junk foods. It wasn’t easy because when you are used to a particular way of living it can be difficult to change as we often have emotional attachments and long term habits there. However, I saw the benefits others were having with such a choice and wanted that for myself too. Instead of just pushing the idea away as I had in the past when I knew I couldn’t perfect it-I decided to change things at my pace and see how it went.
Well, I must say that I have been surprised to see that not only can I live a life that is better for the animals, and planet-my health is improving a lot. Am I perfect at it? No, and that is okay. I am making real changes, and that is what matters.