I was born and raised in Texas, where meat is not only expected at meals, but it could possibly be classified as a lifestyle.
I live in Texas, and I am a vegetarian.
Being vegetarian is a new decision for me. For most of my life, I consumed meat. It wasn’t until last year that I decided to fully commit to cutting out meat and most animal products (I still eat dairy). When this shift happened, I got a lot of support—which surprised me. I expected people to call me crazy or try to convince me to eat meat again.
My loved ones have all embraced my change with open arms—they even often cook vegetarian meals when we’re together.
However, this has not stopped experiences of judgment from occurring outside of my support system. I was at a work training a few months ago, and as an icebreaker the presenter had us break up in to small groups where we were asked to write one word that describes us.
I decided to write “vegetarian.”
When we were asked to share among our group, every single person in mine acted like I was insane, saying things like “I would die without meat!” (Obviously, you wouldn’t, because I’m still alive, but okay, I get what you’re exaggeratedly saying).
Then, when we were sharing with the whole group, I was encouraged by my group to share mine. The whole point of the exercise was to see how many of us connected to other’s characteristics. When I shared, the presenter asked if any other vegetarians were in the room. Silence. So the flustered presenter said “Okay, maybe not vegetarian, but who here really likes fruits and vegetables?” Everyone in the room laughed and raised their hands.
This experience irritated me to my core. I went home and grumbled to my husband.
I think that society in general has a skewed view of what being a vegetarian means, so I’ve decided to clear some things up here:
1. Being a vegetarian does not mean that I only eat fruits and vegetables.
Sure, I make a more conscious effort to eat a plant-based diet. But I also eat heaps of pasta, bread, and sweets. I still have plenty of tasty options when it comes to food, not all of them being good for me. Being healthy is a great thing, whether as a vegan, meat eater, or vegetarian. But it is still so easy to continue to eat processed junk that being a vegetarian does not automatically equal being a health junkie.
2. Being a vegetarian is not a religion.
Usually when a new person finds out I am vegetarian, they get defensive with me about eating meat. It is not my prerogative to judge what you decide to put in your body. My husband, friends and family eat meat. I still think meat smells delicious. I remember what a good hamburger tastes like. I get it, believe me, I do. Otherwise I would not have been a meat eater for as long as I was. So please, do not feel like you have to defend yourself to me.
I am not judging you. Just because I made the choice to stop consuming meat, it does not mean that I am part of a clan that goes around preaching the “vegetarian agenda.”
I am a normal human being, just like carnivore humans–and I am not here to judge you.
3. Being vegetarian does not mean I eat chicken.
If you are laughing at that sentence, I understand. It’s absurd. But there is a reason I felt the need to type it out. I have been asked that question so often, I almost expect it when someone finds out I don’t eat meat. I also don’t eat fish. Just thought I should clarify.
4. Being vegetarian does not mean I don’t eat enough protein.
I get plenty of protein through whole grains, beans, nuts, and other plant based sources. I take a B-12 vitamin daily, as it is hard to find enough B-12 through non-animal food sources. But I still have plenty of energy. I probably feel about as tired as every other full time, overly stressed, typical American feels.
5. Being a vegetarian is not easy.
I am still learning how to navigate the world of restaurants and dinner invitations. Because meat is such a prevalent part of our culture, I do not want to be seen as a burden. It is also important for me to stand by my values, however. It has been a hard transition but one that I am proud of.
Vegetarians get a bad reputation. For the most part, I understand where that stereotype comes from. But believe me, most vegetarians are normal people who are making a lifestyle choice that is abnormal. And for the record, I did not decide to be vegetarian to be “healthier”—it certainly helps, as the option to drive through McDonald’s on the way home is completely gone now.
I chose to be vegetarian to protect our beautiful green planet and to help animal welfare. I am not going to exhort my choices, but I am happy to educate if you ever want to know more about my decision to eat this way.
And if you want to order bacon on everything when you’re around me? Go ahead, I’ll be munching on something equally as delicious.
Author: Beth Bolton
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Zeetz Jones at Flickr