Being A Vegetarian

by on November 27, 2017

in consumer

Being Vegetarian, Easy and Hard all at once

This is a piece about becoming a vegetarian and dealing with the world around you and not about choice or what’s right or wrong for any one person. It’s an observational piece. We all make our own choices, like whether we want to ingest cigarette smoke or not, eat smoked foods or not, drink alcohol to excess or not, play in the middle of the freeway or not. We are a self-selecting species and will defend our choices to our deaths, no matter what. And that’s fine. I just wanted to get that out there.

I’ve been married to a vegetarian for 10+ years. She became a vegetarian after she took an animal husbandry class and saw how the animals were treated and I get it. But I, like most, just never gave it too much thought. When you’re at the counter or table ordering, you’re like, “Hmm, I’ll have that burger with all those non-meat toppings please.” Right? But people actively disengage from thinking about those big doe eyes or sweet disposition cows can have. We can’t dwell on that while chomping down burgers or steaks. Right?

Vegetarian Cookbooks on Amazon

But then one weekend in February of 2017, my wife was out of town and I was feeling lazy so I started making shredded cheese and shredded lettuce burritos. They turned out yummy, lightning fast to make and I liked it! A lot. After that I started focusing on acting like a vegetarian to see how it goes.

To be honest, it’s been going surprisingly great. I feel no different, I’m maintaining my muscle mass and I have literally no after-meal bloat, no more food comas and I don’t have to eat until I’m stuffed to feel full. In fact, after a decent vegetable-based meal I feel satiated without being full. It’s a light kind of full.

It’s easy being vegetarian, but…

Yes, it’s pretty easy being or acting like a vegetarian. For one, when lunch time rolls around at work, if I think about going out, I have fewer options. But that actually makes lunchtime a less complicated and healthier process.

But as the days ticked by, I started noticing just how many options there are for vegetarians and these days, they’re pretty tasty options out there from companies like Gardein, Morning Star Farms, Quorn, Tofurkey and more.

If you have a taste for certain things, it’s amazing how they’ve started replicating healthier versions of things you might have a need for like “wings” or “fish” filets. But the classic veggie burger patty is still also pretty amazing, because they’re making them in so many different varieties of flavors and seasonings.

But…

Let’s talk about a few elephants in the room.

It can be tough being a vegetarian. The world is designed around eating meat products. It is not set up to make it easy for vegetarians. It’s like being in the minority that gets looked down on. Plus some establishments are clueless: I was at a restaurant once that had a vegetarian section in their menu, with seafood listed in it. Crickets

When you are in the grocery store one has to read the fine print on a lot of products that might seem to be vegetarian to make sure no kind of meat stock or product was used or included in creating the product. Unless food products are labelled as Vegan or Vegetarian, you can’t assume. Heck, even out in places like McDonalds, it was a disheartening day for some to learn that that in the early 90s they cooked their fries in a meat-based oil. Now they cook them in a combination of vegetable oils to retain the flavor people learned to love.

If you are a serious vegetarian, when you eat out, most places are not savvy to your plight so when they use gloves to make your order, it can be often right after they’ve handled the previous order that included meat.

Some places, like Jersey Mike’s, actually have separate equipment to cut only non-meat products and train their staff to be aware. Those kinds of places are appreciated. Just the other day, we were at Blaze Pizza, and when my wife asked for new gloves to make her order, it actually happened without a second request or reminder from us. IMPRESSIVE!

Friends can be a confused bunch. It’s fairly amazing how we seem programmed to eat meat, as if it’s the only or best way to eat. Over the years, you learn not to dwell on any options that are out there to eat, you just eat. After living with a vegetarian you start to become more aware of the various culinary options out there, or lack thereof.

But when you tell your friends you started being a vegetarian, they get the weirdest looks on their faces and you get the uncomfortable or confused reactions from many as if they don’t understand how to react to this news.

I don’t walk around advertising it so 99% of my peers/friends/family don’t know. But I was at a cook out recently and when the organizer saw my plate, she said, “Oh my god, you’re vegetarian! I didn’t get any veggie patties!” And I’m like, no worries, I can eat everything else with no problem.

That’s the thing, most folks don’t need to go through any extra hoops for vegetarians, but they feel obligated to do it for some reason. Which is actually nice that they care, but in many cases, not critical.

Then you get the reactions from friends when they learn you’re vegetarian, that range from how they feel about it to how they only eat a good steak every now and then but mostly eat salad-like offerings. One of the funnier reactions I encountered was a butcher saying he’d lose his butcher’s card if he turned vegetarian. Then there was my New Hampshire-based, meat-and-potatoes biological father whose honest reaction was “What? Do you drive around with a bale of hay in the backseat?

But honestly, it almost feels like they’re making excuses as to why they eat meat and at times, it’s pretty funny to see the reactions from folks who aren’t sure how to react as if you have just announced the death of a family member. It’s like their meat-eating programming did not account for this reaction! LOL.

But there’s the other side of the coin, the vegetarian themselves.

I’ve been pretty quiet about this endeavor. I mean, it’ just eating and that’s that. I don’t beat my chest about my favorite color or musical group. Right?  But I’ve heard from some who mention how some vegetarians wear their practice like a badge and act like they’re better than others because of it. I was pretty surprised by this observation, but I guess they’re out there and it makes sense. Curious as it might be.

Our eating habits are our own and to be honest it doesn’t matter what we eat. It’s a choice and nothing more. Meat eaters have choices like chicken, beef, ham, etc., and so we too have merely expanded our sets of primary choices beyond the standard expectations. It’s truly curious how no one bats an eye about what band you like, but talking food seems to transcend some kind of emotionally traumatic barrier. It busts the advertising-based brain washing that declares what you have to eat or consume.

Then there’s this perspective from the vegetarian’s side:

It’s an amazing mindset to see how people think they have to eat meat or that it is the only option available. And before you go to the “You can’t get the necessary kinds of nutrients and proteins from plant-based sources,” I have to wonder what source or who they’re quoting.

Protein is nothing more than an “Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, which can be synthesized by the body or ingested from food

In fact chasing meat-based protein exposes your diet to fat and saturated fats, the kind that can kill you slowly.

“Studies show that the healthiest diet is one that is high in carbohydrate, low in fat, and adequate in protein. Increased intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is recommended for weight control and preventing diseases such as cancer and heart disease. High-carbohydrate, low-fat, moderate- protein diets are also recommended for optimal athletic performance.”

But there are too many vegetable or nut-based protein sources to say you can’t get your proteins from veggies. It’s just an excuse, but that’s OK. Humans tend to focus on what they’re comfortable with that’s fine. We’re all like that.

But if you have some kind of argument in your head about needing the protein from meat for physical performance or muscle building, don’t tell vegan marathon runners or these vegan bodybuilders that:

Vegan Body Builders

But the meat industry is much like the dairy industry, where they spend millions upon millions on advertising and political support to keep themselves in business. In 2013 the meat and poultry industry processed 33.2 million cattle. And the fast food industry drops ~$4B a year in advertising. $160M a year is spent pushing beef alone.

I’m just saying these things because I like pointing out the different aspects of any subject, so with that…

The natural resources required to make a mere quarter pound hamburger is fascinating to look at, so let’s take a quick look at the numbers:

There’s the cow who eats feed and creates fertilizer, and processes required to convert that cow into a steak and salad dinner. Each cow is going to be eating grass/hay, and the water and farming resources needed to raise a cow are suggested to be pretty high versus just growing the green stuff.

It’s noted from various studies that it takes

460 gallons of water,
13 pounds of cattle feed,
65 square feet of land,
0.126 pounds of methane,
4 pounds of greenhouse gases

to create a quarter pound hamburger.

Now if you take into account that there are an estimated 20 billion ‘food’ animals in the world, well, sorry, I can’t do that math but that seems to suggest a massive amount of resources used to feed folks.

– – –

But I’m digressing here.

Being a vegetarian is only as tricky as you or your circle of friends make it. Nothing more. You might feel like meat is the only way to eat, but it’s not. I used to think that way, but then as I started trying this new lifestyle, it worked out rather well. There are a ton of options out there for everyone and all the choices we make in life.

  • – –

Sources:

businessinsider.com/hamburger-environment-resources
spgenergy.com/the-hamburger-footprint
pcrm.org/the-protein-myth
meatinstitute.org/
usda.gov/statistics-information
grist.org/fast-food-industrys-4-2-billion-marketing
smartncompassionate.com/usda-spend-millions-to-promote-the-meat-industry

This is a three-part series, but I was quoting from the second link:
gracelinks.org/water-hogs-smithfield-pork-deal
gracelinks.org/why-meat-eats-resources
gracelinks.org/rethinking-the-big-mac-environmental-limits

Vegetarian Resources:
vegetariannutrition.net
nutrition.gov/healthy-eating-vegetarian
vrg.org/nutrition/

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