When I was in high school, one of my friends became a vegetarian. Everyone noticed when she brought simple, meatless lunches to school. For some reason, this was a big deal, and everyone felt they were entitled to say something. Despite the ridicule, she believed in what she was doing and didn’t give in. I quietly observed her dedication, and I became intrigued by this concept of vegetarianism.
Well, I went off to college and practically forgot about this experience. One day, however, I thought about her again and wondered how she had done it. At the time, I practically lived off of meat. It was a main staple of mine, and I couldn’t imagine living without it. I thought I would be weak without the protein and wouldn’t be able to exercise or hike again. But I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. I watched a documentary on vegetarianism and started looking at websites that exposed meat factories. Afterward, I wanted to throw up. I couldn’t believe the pain many animals have to go through just so we can eat half a burger and throw the rest away.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think eating animals is wrong inherently from an ethical standpoint. I’ll explain more about this in a later post. However, I think it is unethical to torture animals.
All of these experiences led me to the point that I was willing to change. Discovering the truth about meat factories pushed me over the edge, and I vowed to never eat meat again. One of my roommates said I would never be able to last. That just gave me more motivation.
After a short time, I started to find that I had more energy than before. I felt lighter and happier and gained peace of mind. I found that I didn’t have to give up exercising. I just got protein from other sources (and really, it’s not as hard as people make it seem).
I started to find that I had more energy than before. I felt lighter and happier and gained peace of mind.
I also struggled. Most restaurants don’t offer many vegetarian choices, and after staring at menus for what seemed like forever, I would give up and just order fries. My friends started to look at me differently. They would ask “Why did you become a vegetarian?” When I explained about the pain animals went through they would respond with “That’s just hippie crap” or “Animals were meant for humans to eat. They don’t care.” A professor of mine even said that it was against our religion to be vegetarian because God gave us animals to eat. [I have to insert here that I am still a strong believer despite that.]
During all of this, I had been planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail. This had been a dream of mine for years. I knew vegetarians have hiked the trail before, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to be picky if I was trying to just eat as many calories as possible each day to maintain my weight. The trail is over 2000 miles after all. After much deliberation and a year of living meat-free, I started to eat meat again. At first, I was picky about the meat I ate and only ate cage-free, animal-centered meat. I wanted them to suffer as little as possible so I could make my dream come true.
Long story short, my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail was postponed, possibly indefinitely, and I still ate meat.
I felt that I had somehow let everyone down. Myself more than anyone. When I first began, I had been an animal advocate, and now, I was proving all my doubters right. I didn’t have what it took.
I noticed changes in my body as well. I felt heavy all the time. I had a hard time finding the energy to exercise. Worst of all, nausea became a constant. I kept thinking back to my time as a vegetarian, wishing I could have that energy, peace of mind, and control. My friends would grow sick of my talking about how much better I felt meat-free. Honestly, what kept me from returning to vegetarianism before was my doubt. I didn’t think I could do it again. The year of being meat-free before was a fluke. I couldn’t do it again. Also, I was scared to hear what my friends would say. They might mock me they way I had been mocked before.
January 3, 2017, I decided I would stop with the pity party and just do it. No matter what happened, I would stay strong. I knew from before what to expect in the “withdrawal” stage (meat really does a number on you). I pushed through, endured the odd looks from others, and kept my commitment to myself.
Now, I don’t just tell this long winded story just to get it off my chest, though it definitely helps. I told this to show you that you can do it too. Maybe you’ve been considering this for a while, but you’re worried how people will react. Maybe you’ve tried and fallen. I’m here to tell you, I’ve struggled. I’ve fallen. But I got back up again. You can too.
I’m here to tell you, I’ve struggled. I’ve fallen. But I got back up again. You can too.
You are so much stronger than you think. Sure, people may make hurtful comments, but you are stronger. Every time your fall, you will stand taller. When your best friends become your worst critics, you will rise above it. When your doubt creeps in, you’ll hit it over the head and tell it to shut up because you have the power to take control of your life.
That is what vegetarianism taught me.