Time flies when you’re not eating animals, am I right? It’s my two year anniversary of being vegetarian, so I thought I’d reflect on my time sans meat and share some of the things I’ve learnt!
I’ve never been a big meat eater but I love food so the thought of limiting myself from enjoying life’s simple pleasures was daunting and delayed me for a long time. But a couple years ago, I started taking my health seriously and learning more about the agricultural industry, and it no longer made any sense for me to continue eating meat. I don’t feel deprived or limited in any way, cooking is way more fun and creative now!
I know it’s a privilege to be able to make this choice and for a lot of people, it’s simply not possible. Vegans and vegetarians have a stereotype of being self-righteous and judgemental, holding everyone up to their standard of cruelty-free perfection. While I do think the world would be a better place if more people cut down on meat and animal products, food is incredibly personal so I would never try to convince anyone to ditch their carnivorous lifestyle, I just focus on what makes me feel good and that’s being vegetarian.
I’m not a nutritionist and in no way am I claiming to be an expert on this topic, I’m simply sharing my experience and passion for personal and environmental health.
Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
People will be cynical
Don’t take it personally. Some people feel they have to challenge you on this ~radical~ lifestyle you’ve adopted, sometimes with such an aggression, it’s as if you’ve threatened their comfortable and ignorant way of life? (heh I joke.. kind of.) While I think it’s great to spread the anti-meat agenda and I love a good debate, if you face cynicism sometimes it’s better to just ‘smile and wave.’ Again, it’s not really my job to justify my diet or convince anyone else to become vegetarian. This is my choice, I’m happy and healthy. Just in case though, I recommend learning some cold, hard facts about the benefits of being a vegetarian/vegan so you can drop the mic occasionally.
Pay attention to your iron levels
At first, I was often light-headed, exhausted and dizzy. I didn’t realize I was anaemic as hell. I started to include iron-rich foods like leafy greens and spirulina in my diet, but when this isn’t possible I take Floradix tablets. (note – anaemia isn’t exclusive to vegetarians, it affects anyone with an unbalanced diet, including meat eaters.)
You will have slip-ups, and that’s fine
At first, hungover Pani had very different sets of values and I tended to cave when my flatmates were cooking bacon. Fortunately, I don’t crave meat at all anymore but if you feel like something, I think you should absolutely do whatever you want! You’re only human.
Eating out will get frustrating
Luckily, I’m not a picky eater so I’m generally happy to eat whatever the vegetarian option is on the menu. Brace yourself for mostly mushroom dishes – so many mushrooms. Sometimes the lack of vege options can get annoying, but it also forces me to try different things. If you’re planning on eating out, just check the ‘vege-friendly’ section of Zomato or download apps such as Happy Cow which will show you all the vege and vegan restaurants near you.
When travelling, take supplements with you!
Usually, I try to get my vitamins and nutrients directly from my food, but when I travel I think it’s incredibly important to make sure you are taking supplements. No one wants to be anaemic and fatigued while on an adventure! Look after yourself! Pack some B vitamins and Iron, I would recommend – Floradix Iron Tablets, a vitamin B complex, spirulina tablets and an easy multi-vitamin like Berocca (something I truly despise at home but love when travelling).
Do your research
Get inspired. The documentary Cowspiracy set in motion an awakening for me, I watched and read as much as I could about the food and meat industry, learning about the health and environmental benefits of a meat-free and (almost) dairy-free diet. And I continue to research nutrition to make sure I’m as balanced and healthy as possible!
I love discussing health, so please feel free to ask me about any of this! I hope this was useful to you. If you’re thinking about becoming vegetarian or vegan, my advice would be – just do it! For me, it was easier to go cold-turkey (ironic choice of words, I know) but everyone is different. If that’s daunting for you, starting with ‘meat-free Mondays’ is a step in the right direction.
If you’re interested, I’ll share my favourite vegetarian documentaries, websites and recipes in the next post.