On my first day of college, I decided to commit to going vegetarian.
It had been something I wanted to do for quite a bit of time. I ate virtually no meat throughout the summer, but there were days I unfortunately had no choice.
Once I got to school, I had complete control over my eating. If I want to eat something, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. This is not a style of living that I had ever been used to. Food was a big focus at home, because my family is not made of naturally thin people. So, my stressful relationship with food began in about 8th grade, when I started to become conscious of my body and how it looked.
Eating well (and unwell) has stressed me out ever since. I would feel so guilty for eating bad things, I would binge eat, I would feel bad when I didn’t exercise, as well as other struggles.
(I am proud to have declared myself ED Free as of April 18th 2017)
Being determinant of what I eat and why has really improved my mindset about food. Since becoming a vegetarian I have a much clearer understanding and awareness of what food is made of, what goes into making it, and how it affects my body.
However, this is not the only reason I decided to make a change. It also comes from my desire to increase my commitment to an ethical and sustainable lifestyle. Supporting meat production is not something that falls into this category.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you might already know this, but in my last 2 years of high school I attended an early college program focused on sustainability and renewable technologies. Here, among many other topics, we did a unit on food waste, and it was really one of the most eye opening things I have ever learned.
There were two major points I took away from it:
- There is enough food on the planet to feed everyone. The quantity of food isn’t the problem, it’s the distribution. We throw out so much food every day, while others have none. This is the problem.
- Meat & dairy production are the most taxing foods on the planet to produce. The land and resources we put into producing meat are so much greater compared to that of grains or other plants, for such smaller return on investment.
This graph is taken from the book Cooler Smarter, which is a great read on how to asses your personal carbon footprint. This is the graph that always sticks with me when I think about my food choices.
It shows the “emission intensity” per pound of food by type. This means it’s showing how much the food affects the environment by creating greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Each of these has different levels of impact on the environment, so they working to balance them to create this chart. For example, it’s shown here that a pound of red meat causes 18 times the emissions of a pound of pasta.
Lastly, I don’t like the way animals are treated and harvested to be eaten. It’s unsanitary for them, they live in uncomfortable spaces, and I don’t like how artificial some food practices can get, especially with animals. I don’t need to eat meat. It’s something I can remove from my life in order to create a positive impact. So, I did.
Those are my reasons! If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way! However, I want to answer some for you below.
Since I’ve started, I’ve gotten a few questions I thought were interesting, so I thought I would add some perspective on the topic! Of course, not everyone is the same in their mindset of being vegetarian but based on my reasons, it’s not too hard to come up with answers.
“What do you even eat?” / “Do you feel deprived?”
For me, personally, this one isn’t that hard because even before I went vegetarian I never ate that much meat to begin with. Red meat was rare for me, and so was fish.
I ate mostly chicken, in the form of grilled on salads, wings, and on pizza. As someone who is also conscious of their weight, the last 2 are things I try not to eat a lot of anyway. So in that way, doing this helps me avoid foods like that and the calories they bring for me.
I still eat lots of things I love! This includes pizza, salad (with new toppings), soups, rice, yogurt and granola, veggie tacos, meat substitutes, cereal, fruit, pancakes, etc. So many foods! Honestly, I don’t feel deprived at all. I eat veggie burgers now more than I ever ate regular burgers. It’s not something that I struggle to commit to given my eating habits.
“Would you ever eat meat?”
This one really intrigued me, and here is my answer: yes, I would. Under what conditions though? Here they are:
I don’t eat meat because I don’t need to. Bottom line. Me eating it would add to the carbon in the atmosphere. But, here’s my thought.
There is so much world to see. I hope to one day travel the world and help the people around it improve their lives in whatever way they may need. I want to experience the rich cultures and lives of others. Included in this is food.
If someone offers me a food containing meat as an expression of their lifestyle or their culture or something they made for me, I wouldn’t turn it down. I am not hurting anything there. Yes, I care about the wellbeing of animals, however there are people in certain places that raise animals to survive. I may not need to eat meat, but they might, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Do you think everyone should go vegetarian?”
No. I think everyone should try to reduce their carbon footprint. But some people can’t for a variety of reasons, and that’s okay!
However, I do think everyone should take an honest look at their impact and see if they can improve in any way. Any little bit helps, and you don’t have to cut out meat completely to make a difference.
Buy food with less packaging, or from local farmers, or go one less day a week eating meat. Whatever you can do matters.
This is my personal way to enhance my commitment to the planet. It’s up to everyone else to decide theirs!
“Do you miss it?”
Do I sometimes wish I could eat chicken wings? Sure. Do I miss it? I’d have to say no. Even if I do at moments, I remind myself of my intentions.
Overall, it’s really not that hard. People have survived such incredible things. I have gone through many hard things. I will likely have to go through more. Comparably, not eating meat isn’t hard.
I hope this taught you something new! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!