Flexitarianism: The practice of eating mainly vegetarian food, but making occasional exceptions for social, pragmatic, cultural, or nutritional reasons.
That’s me. More or less.
Obviously there are many grades of flexitarianism and if I would have to be ranked on a scale from one to 10, I would probably give myself a six.
I can do much better.
Throughout the years, I learned about the devastating health and global effects of excessive meat consumption.
However, born and raised eating meat on a daily basis in all sorts of forms, shapes and cooking styles, I only decided to start eating less meat about two years ago. It took me a while to make conscious efforts to cut down on meat because I’m blessed with good health and am not extremely involved in animal rights.
I eased into flexitarianism when I found myself living in a place where meat was simply not readily available, except for fish and chicken—on a boat in the Indian Ocean. As my yoga practice intensified, I became more aware of my meat consumption and started consciously decreasing it more and more.
Now, at times, I also refuse to eat fish, like the months I spent in Goa (India) and saw they were selling baby sharks in every single restaurant by the beach. The meat industry may be rotten through and through, but there is just as much to be said for the overfishing of our oceans. So I boycotted the fish restaurants where they sold baby sharks and felt good about it.
Unfortunately, when I went “public” with my newly found principles, I received various condescending and mocking comments. And after two years, I still do.
“You? Not eating meat anymore?” with a look of disbelief and worry because they don’t know what to cook for me now.
“Oh, I thought you stopped eating meat?” full of denigration when I take a bite of anything containing meat.
Or how about the contemptuous “Oh, is it because you feel sorry for all the little lambs they are killing?”
So there I go again, stating my reasons, giving my arguments and explaining it’s not really that complicated.
Sometimes I think that pretending that I’m allergic to meat is the easier way out. Everybody understands allergies. They will bow with respect and go out of their way to prepare a meat free dinner.
Perhaps full vegetarianism is easier to explain too: I don’t eat meat. Full stop. No discussion.
But I choose to be a flexitarian.
I want to stay healthy and I have some concern for our planet. I dislike the mass production of livestock and am worried about overfishing practices.
Yet, I love a good piece of meat and could eat sushi all day.
So to me, it’s not that black and white. I may get there one day, but for now I’m learning to deal with the mocking chuckles or the sceptic glares, as well as my own hesitations each time I do or don’t eat meat.
May the following ramblings help those who are embarking on a similar journey or are struggling to stay on the path.
1) I’m aware of the amount of meat I eat and the quality of it.
Is it a big, juicy 400 gram steak from the organic farm once a week or is it 50 grams of cheap ham on the sandwich grabbed from the corner shop at every lunch time? Is it a pasta carbonara made for dinner by the new friendly neighbour or is it bacon sprinkles to “dress up” a quick salad at home?
By simply being aware of the quality and quantity of meat we eat, we turn a thoughtless action into a conscious decision, which is where the process towards convinced flexitarianism begins.
2) I don’t deprive others from meat.
I cook vegetarian food as much as possible for myself. But most of my friends and family are not flexitarian, let alone vegetarian. So when I cook, I add meat for those who want it. I have nothing against touching and preparing meat. I may even try a bite, to make sure it tastes good. But I won’t eat a plate full of it if I can avoid it.
We can of course treat our friends and family to a delicious and healthy vegetarian meal every now and then. Just to give their consciousness a little nudge.
3) I don’t feel guilty when I refuse meat, nor when I accept it.
When invited and presented with a beautiful meal that includes meat and vegetables, I don’t feel guilty for leaving out the meat. I enjoy the vegetables and explain to my hosts that today, I choose not to eat meat and that it has nothing to do with their cooking skills.
When I don’t have a choice, for example when it’s a lasagna from which you can’t very well remove the minced meat without butchering (pun intended) the dish, I’ll eat it without remorse.
We need to be aware of the social consequences of our choice.
4) I enjoy eating meat when I do.
Once I have decided that I will eat this meat, I make sure I enjoy it. I savour it, I consider it a treat. I try to make exceptions only for quality meat, organic and non-processed. Sometimes I stray and I eat “bad quality” meat, in which case I may feel happy when I eat it but I know I’ll feel bloated and lethargic the next day.
Still, in general, I enjoy the experience.
Why should we choose to do something and then not enjoy it? No regrets, right?
5) I don’t complain when there is no vegetarian option available.
When in restaurants or at someone else’s dinner table, I am grateful for whatever is available. I don’t go for the vegetarian option if it’s crap nor do I feel insulted if there is no veg option on the menu. It’s my choice to (not) eat meat but it’s the cook’s choice to (not) cook meat.
We each make our own choices and should respect the choices of others.
6) I feel so much better when I don’t eat meat
Perhaps the karma thing is overrated, but somehow, I do feel better knowing that I contribute to a lower amount of environmental pollution and animal unfriendly killings. Above all however, I feel less bloated, less heavy, less lethargic or, to put it positively, much lighter, much slimmer, much more energetic.
And in the end that’s what we do it for, isn’t it?
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Apprentice Editor: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Catherine Monkman