At the tender age of nine, I flirted with the idea of leaving meat behind. I actually disliked the taste of meat, but my mother would not have any of it, with good reason though. I did not like meat, but I also was not very keen on vegetables besides beets and cucumbers. As a nine-year-old, I loved sweets of any kind and white rice. That was about it.
Fast foward to my college years…
My freshman year of college as I was meeting new people from different parts of the country and the world, I found that many were vegetarians and vegans–more vegetarians, though. I thought that was insane. I mean who would want to give up bacon?!
However, as someone who loves animals, traveling, and humans, it was natural for me to start joining environmental clubs. I ended up joining the gardening club, and there I met individuals that, like me, wanted to make a “difference”, but that didn’t necessarily want to give up meat. We understood that the meat industry as a whole is terrible and so is the dairy industry. So, I began consuming less meat throughout the week, I started discovering and trying new foods like kale chips, kombucha, edamame beans, hummus, tofu, artichoke, rice milk, soy milk, and so on. My plate slowly, but surely began to look more colorful.
In discovering new foods, I also learned about nutrition, what’s in our food, how it affects our planet, our economy, and different communities. I realize that through every meal, I was making a choice. My sophomore year, I joined the sustainable food market which was started by a very close friend. Through the food market I was able to connect with people at the local food co-op, and learned about local farmers, shopping locally, and seasonally.
Finally, in my junior year, I decided to go vegetarian. This came as a shock to my family members in particular. They were concerned about what I was going to eat at family gatherings since everything has meat. However, dishes such as, vegeterian baked zitti, eggplant lasagna, vegetable lasagna, and veggie burgers started to make an appearance at all of our family events. This made things a lot easier.
I’ll admit that throughout my first year as a vegetarian, I ate meat like four, five or six times. I think part of this had to do with what anthropologists call, “meat hunger” which means that you are craving animal flesh, but the reason you are craving animal flesh is because your protein intake is low. Although I gave into my cravings a few times, mainly due to my lack of nutritional knowledge, I continued. Eventually, as I ate more beans and more protein heavy foods, the “meat hunger” craving just left on its own.
I spent all of my senior year as a vegetarian, with the exception of two or three times that I decided to have seafood. It all became easier. I felt better. I’ve always dealt with iron deficiency and now I don’t have an iron deficiency.
After I graduated, something changed. I was depriving myself from foods I wanted to eat. I missed dishes such as paella, ceviche, sushi, lobster. I missed seafood. My vegetarian diet was leaving me unsatisfied. I began my vegetarian diet to cut down on my consumption of animal products. Not to be perfect. I decided to incorporate seafood into my diet again. Not much, but some here and there.
Currently? I’ve been thinking of changing my diet once again. I’ve recently started working out to be active and healthy. Although I’m a vegetarian/pescaterian it does not mean I eat healthy most of the time. I have a sweet tooth. I am still debating with myself on whether I want to take the next step–but we will have to see.
The point of sharing my journey is for others to know that you do not have to be perfect to do it. You can be a well-balanced omnivore. You want to eat meat? Go for it! But support your local farmer or butcher, buy seasonally, and decrease your consumption.
Humans, animals, and the planet deserve better. As the generation that preaches about consciousness and awareness–let’s put it to practice, shall we?