Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Life :: On Becoming a Vegetarian

Many people don't know that about a year ago I quietly transitioned from eating poultry to a vegetarian. I still eat fish, which makes me technically a "pescetarian," but since I get mostly confused stares when I tell anyone that, I just stick to the word vegetarian.

My story of giving up meat started when I was eight years old and saw the movie "Babe." The second it was over I knew in an instant that I would never again eat pork, and twenty years later I haven't looked back. Next came beef. About six years ago we were driving down idyllic country roads en route to The Greenbrier, when we drove by a pasture spotted with cows. Looking at their beautiful, trusting brown eyes, I knew in a moment that was the end of my filet mignon with Bearnaise sauce that I so cherished ordering on special occasions.

For the next five years I continued to eat poultry. I always bought organic meat and eggs, trying to only buy from local, free-range farmers when possible, but I questioned how much I could trust the claims made by advertisers in a world where "cage-free" is slapped on nearly everything when in actuality it just means that the animals have "access" to the outdoors {even if the barn they are living in is too crowded for them to even move, let alone ever reach the open air}. I was often faced with the moral dilemma of wanting to treat animals ethically but selfishly wanting to keep my options open when dining at restaurants and traveling. I'm a big foodie and I knew that giving up all meat would restrict my dining experience and pleasure. Plus, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get enough protein.

I've always been an animal lover and often find that I connect more with animals than I do with people. I have volunteered my time and money to animal rescues and animal welfare organizations for as long as I can remember. I sometimes find it hard to get through the day when I think about the cruelty that is in the world, so I try my hardest to act as a force of good to somehow try to bring a little more balance into the world.

What ultimately changed my mind was coming to the realization that we, as humans, are just one tiny part of a huge, complicated, beautiful ecosystem. I know some people believe that everything was put on this Earth for our consumption, but I couldn't disagree more. Who am I to say that my life is more valuable than that of  a cow, chicken, or pig? And who am I to decide that while I spoil and pamper my dog Yoda to no end, there are millions of other animals {deemed less worthy than pets} living in barbaric conditions awaiting their imminent death - all so we can enjoy that chemical-laced hot dog at a baseball game. I felt like such a hypocrite and knew I needed to make a change.

One night last January I was preparing a chicken breast for dinner and flatting it with a meat pounder. A wave of sickness washed over me and it was at that moment that I decided I was going to give up meat for good. It wasn't easy, and I'd lie if I said there weren't times in the first few weeks where I considered throwing in the towel {one particularly tasty Pesto Turkey Sandwich from a favorite restaurant in downtown Indy comes to mind as being my biggest temptation}, but it has been surprisingly easier than I expected.

I've started eating eggs almost every morning for breakfast, and try to supplement with a green smoothie with protein powder as needed. Quinoa, beans, salmon, and meatless chicken patties are a regular for me. My blood work this year is better than it has ever been. It's harder during the weeks as when I get home from work I'm often so hungry I just have to throw a meatless chicken breast in the oven and call it a day. However, the amount of personal satisfaction I get out of it infinitely outweighs the inconvenience. Plus, going out to eat is still a blast and I passed my big test of traveling through France {a country where foie gras is a staple on nearly ever menu} with flying colors.

I'm certainly not here to shame anyone, and won't be sharing any stats on the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat {after all, Ryan still eats meat which I absolutely support - being a vegetarian is an incredibly personal decision which should never be forced on anyone}. I simply wanted to share about a cause that has become so important to me and a decision that has brought me so much happiness. Whatever you do, I challenge you to try to live as kind of a life as possible - not only will it make the world a better place, but it will make your life better too.

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