Is being vegetarian worth it? As a vegetarian, I wonder this all the time. I have to recommit to vegetarianism constantly. The real question is, “What is it worth?” It depends on what the “it” is that you are giving up. Becoming vegetarian can be freeing. It can give you a peace of mind and healthier body, but you’ll have to give something up. The “it” for you might simply be willpower. For your friend, it may be giving up her favorite meal. And for others, it may be giving up themselves to insults from critics. It may surprise you how many people will give you odd looks as soon as you switch over. They might look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Is it worth it? That’s up to you.
What I’ve Given Up
I’ve had my own struggles to get to the place where I’m at. I had people tell me I shouldn’t be vegetarian. I’ve had people try to convince me that all the facts on animal cruelty are actually made up. What was worse than people telling me I was wrong was the way people looked at me differently. Maybe I’m conceited, but I think my friends generally see me as an intelligent human being. When I tell them I’m vegetarian, though, they don’t look at me that way anymore. They give me a look that says, “She must be really insecure to follow this hippie movement. How could she fall for that so easily?” My response is, I didn’t fall for anything. This is my own choice, and I’m glad I made it.
For me, my sacrifice to become vegetarian was facing the odd looks and offhand comments. I never really struggled with giving up meat. For the first few weeks, all I wanted was my favorite burger, but it dissipated when I thought of all that I’m receiving instead.
In 2012, I was vegetarian for about a year. I struggled through the first month, and after that, I was golden. Others may have given my weird looks, but I didn’t worry too much about it. I felt great. I had a peace of mind that my food choices were helping the environment, animals, and hopefully inspiring others to choose the same path. Not only that, I had so much energy. I started exercising more, and with both eating and exercising combined, I started balancing out to a healthier weight. Seriously, I felt awesome.
About a year in, I decided I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I had been researching for a few years and had finally decided to do it. I knew that food was going to be an issue with the number of calories I would be burning every day. I knew that vegetarians had successfully hiked the trail before, but I lacked confidence that I could.
I started eating meat again. Long story short, I didn’t hike the Appalachian Trail. Instead, I ended up in Salt Lake City on a church mission for a year and a half and eating way too much meat. That’s when the nausea set in. I started to have constant nausea because of what I was eating. I would eat because I knew I had to, but I always felt horrible afterward. I would think back to when I felt healthy as a vegetarian, and I knew going back to it would solve this, but I couldn’t take the leap. I worried about what I would have to give up. I would have to explain to everyone again why I couldn’t eat their supreme pizza. I would have to endure ridicule for my choices and goading to just eat meat just this once. Worst of all, I would have to endure their looks of, “What is wrong with her?” Honestly, I was embarrassed to tell people I’m vegetarian. I would hold it off as long as I could, telling people I’m not hungry just so I don’t have to eat the meat.
Yes, there are sacrifices. I’ve been through them myself, alone. But I also know for me it is worth it.
I decided to take the leap again, and yes, I had to endure some comments, but the best thing happened. My nausea left. I started to feel lighter again. I gained an energy back that I had been without for a long time. I stopped eating out because the only thing I could eat were french fries (not true, but I thought it was), and as a result, I started feeling healthier. I replaced unhealthy, instant lunches and dinners (that always seemed to contain meat) with plant-based meals. Being vegetarian pushed me to the point that I had to make my own food, and at that point, I might as well eat healthy, right?
Eventually, people forget that I’m vegetarian and see me as me. They don’t define me by that anymore, and I love it. I can be a healthy, calm me without worrying about others’ opinions. I think the time with the most ridicule is in the transition. It comes from friends that have only known the meat-eating you. They don’t understand why you would try this or think it’s just a phase you’re going through. After a month or so, it calmed down for me. My friends even began to stand up for me. If someone offered me meat, I would politely decline, but was a little embarrassed to say I don’t eat meat. My friends would jump in and explain for me, defending my choice even, complimenting my willpower and strength.
Sacrifices will have to be made, but the thing is, they won’t last forever. Eventually, any of the sacrifices can be turned into positives or are overshadowed by the amazing way you feel. If you keep an open mind and don’t worry too much about what others think, it won’t be a problem for you.
Being vegetarian is definitely not for everyone, but it could be for you. For me, it was a healthier way to live, both physically and mentally. For others, that might not be as big of a deal to them.
Take a moment to ponder these questions below. Answering them honestly, maybe in a journal or to a close friend, can help you make a decision to become vegetarian or not. Really, the choice is yours. I’m not going to toot my own horn and say my decision is the best and yours sucks if you don’t choose mine. Seriously, it’s your life, your choice.
Do I feel healthy?
Will this help me improve my health?
Will this help me improve my respect for animals?
Do I want the benefits of being vegetarian?
What am I willing to sacrifice?
How will it affect me when people view me differently?
Do the benefits outweigh the sacrifices?
After you’ve taken the time to ponder these questions, make a decision. Whatever you choose, be mindful of what you put into your body. This can go a long way, not only physically, but spiritually and mentally as well. If you don’t want to take the step to be vegetarian right now (or ever even), there are other things that may help. An easier way to gain peace of mind when it comes to animal rights is to buy only cage-free or open pasture meats. Stores like whole foods even have a rating system on their meats, one being no cages or crowding and five being animal-centered and animals living their whole life on the same farm. Paying attention to where your meat comes from, and just being mindful of that, is sometimes enough for others.
Be mindful of your body and its needs. Those needs will differ slightly from the person next door, but they are still your needs. For me, vegetarianism has changed my life and started me down a path of a healthier life. I personally love it, and I know it can help you too. Let me know in the comments what you think. Do you think a vegetarian lifestyle is worth it?