There was a time in my life when I convinced myself that I could never be a Vegetarian. The thought of giving up a perfect, medium-rare filet mignon for a boring salad was reason enough. Little did I know that this would one day change.
Last spring I picked up a book titled Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. I always noticed the book on display at Barnes and Noble and finally decided to read the back cover. I was intrigued by the sarcastic-ness of these ladies and wanted to hear their insight of the dieting world so I made the purchase. Let me tell you that I could not put the book down! It was definitely the most encouraging diet book I had ever read. Not only did it introduce me to the Vegan lifestyle, it also opened my eyes to factory farming, slaughterhouses, and animal cruelty, which did not sit lightly with me. In order to take action, I made a personal decision to try out this new lifestyle by starting slowly as a Vegetarian and then switching to a strictly Vegan diet.
I never made it that far. At first it was simple and I felt like a completely new person. More energetic, healthier, thinner. My skin was even glowing from cutting out fatty animal foods. But that didn't last long. Soon, I became the worst Vegetarian ever. Two months in and I was already craving meat again. I even cheated and ate it on a few occasions, always trying to justify my faulty actions. Then one morning, it was all over. I woke up to the smell of bacon and couldn't resist. From that day forward I promised myself that I would not try the diet again until I was better informed and more prepared.
Throughout the year I limited my meat intake and was eating healthier all around. But being a full-time student and working two jobs made it difficult to start up my Vegetarian lifestyle for the second time. Fast forward to this spring. After months of researching the lifestyle, educating myself on health benefits, learning the unfair ways animals are treated, and gathering yummy recipes, I was ready to start new.
Vegetarian vs. Vegan
Vegetarian is a broad term used to describe a person who, for the most part, excludes meat from their diets and focuses on a plant-based diet. There are many types of Vegetarians, and I myself identify with the lacto-ovo Vegetarian group. This means that I do not eat any type of animal meat, but still consume animal products such as eggs and dairy. When the term "Vegetarian" is used, it is assumed that people refer to the lacto-ovo type. The most common types include
- Ovo Vegetarian: includes eggs, but not dairy or meat
- Lacto Vegetarian: includes dairy products, but not eggs or meat
- Ovo-lacto Vegetarian: includes animal/dairy products, no meat
- Pescetarian: semi-vegetarian; includes fish and seafood
- Vegan: excludes all animal meat and animal products
As of now, I am a practicing Vegetarian. One day I will live the Vegan lifestyle, but know it will take some time to make the proper adjustments. Soon, I will be participating in The 30 Day Vegan Challenge and hope that it will give me the push I need.
How Do You Get Your Protein?
This is the first question I am asked whenever people discover my choice to follow a meat-free diet. Well, the answer is quite simple. I get my protein the same way that "meat" gets its protein: from plants. Because the type of diet I adhere by allows for dairy and eggs, I incorporate them into my meals for protein. But because I want to ween myself from these foods eventually and practice Veganism, I try to focus on other sources of protein. They include whole grains, fruits, green vegetables, lentil, soy, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and brown rice. Tofu has also become my best friend because it takes on the flavor of whatever you're cooking in it. Plus, one serving is packed with about 20 grams of protein. There are also meat substitutes out there that taste almost like the real thing if that is what you desire. Boca and MorningStar are my two favorite brands for these meat replacement products. They too, are also rich in protein.
For anyone who is interested, please know that it is not as difficult as it seems. If you are truly ready to make this commitment, then you will. I am not, by any means, suggesting that one lifestyle is better for anyone than other. This is not me forcing my beliefs upon others or trying to convert you. This is my personal decision. Seeing the ways animals are treated makes me never want to go back to my previous lifestyle. This is a healthy and respectful way to live without contributing to an industry so cruel to animals. I admit that I was first attracted to being a Vegetarian/Vegan because of the health benefits, but I know that I will stay this way because of what I have learned through my research.
The Kind Diet - Alicia Silverstone
Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer
Skinny Bitch - Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Forks Over Knives