I made the decision to go vegetarian on March 17th of 2017 and I think it was absolutely one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.
The decision didn’t come from some great, life-changing event, I was just sitting at my desk one day when I made my mind up. I wasn’t watching any animal rights documentary or even reading up on vegetarian meals, I was literally just sitting there thinking. I had always felt a bit guilty about saying ‘I love animals’ and then would happily tuck into a KFC, so it made sense to me to change.
One year on, I thought I’d share my experience so far and my aims going forward from here.
First off, let me just clarify that I’m vegetarian, not vegan (not yet, anyway). This means that I do not eat the meat of an animal, however I still consume animal products such as cheese, eggs and honey. This is different from a vegan diet where all animal meats, by-products of the meat industry or animal produce are not consumed. I’d also like to point out that this post does not come from a place of any judgement whatsoever, it’s all happy and smiles over here!
Let’s start with the good bits
I have more energy
I no longer feel as lethargic as I used to and my headaches are much less frequent. I think I can put this down to the fact that I’m eating a lot less precooked, processed food and most of my meals are now made fresh, meaning I’m not getting as many preservatives, sugars, additives etc. It might also be because when I was still eating meat I rarely stuck to the correct portion sizes of meat vs veg, so my plate was more or less 50/50, which was always way to high and probably depriving me of the nutrients I should have been getting.
I eat better meals
Most of the time, anyway. My meals are now a lot tastier and much more colourful. Having a colourful meal seems like a bit of a weird thing to be excited about, but my meals generally look a lot more appealing. Whether that’s because I’m using a lot more vegetables, pastas and rice, I’m not sure, but they do look a lot more insta-friendly when there isn’t a big chuck of meat on the plate.
It’s made me more conscious of my choices in other areas
A year ago I was incredibly lazy when it came to my choices. I never considered the ethical side of a decision or what the impact of my purchases would have been. I was a huge advocate of fast-fashion and massive clothes hauls from Primark. I regularly bought water in plastic bottles that, when finished, would just be chucked in the recycling or regular bin if the latter wasn’t available. I bought whatever make up, product, electronic item I wanted without looking into the company or it’s values.
All that has changed now. I use re-usable bottles for water. I don’t spend hundred of pounds every time I go into shops like Primark for clothes that would inevitably be thrown away or given to charity a few months later. I research companies that I’m buying from to see what they’re ethics and owners are like. Small and considerate decisions like that have helped me be more conscious of my every day lifestyle.
Craig and I cook together more
Since I’m the only one of us that changed diet to vegetarian, a decision that I would never force on him anyway, we’ve had to coordinate our meals a little better. Before I would just make dinner and we would both eat the same thing and it was super easy, whereas now, we have to coordinate food a little better. We’ll generally eat the same meal except mine will have some kind of meat substitute like tofu or mushrooms etc. To start with it was a difficult transition because we were eating at different times and meals were separate but a little time later and it works perfectly now.
Now it’s the bad bits
Vegetarian ≠ Vegan
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between vegetarian and vegan. So many times I’ve had to explain that although I’m choosing not to eat meat I still consume some animal products. This is something I’m struggling with right now because I know the kinds of things that goes on in dairy farming and other animal farming industries, so I’m trying to cut that down to a minimum now and find suitable replacements for things like cheese and eggs. Milk was an easy one to replace because there are so many lovely alternatives already, so that’s a bonus.
You can read more information on the definition of Vegetarian on the VegSoc website for clarification if the above wasn’t clear.
There are a lot of judgemental people
Something I learned fairly early on is there is SO. MUCH. JUDGEMENT surrounding a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I’ll break this down quickly, I’ve been judged for :
- Being vegetarian because I can no longer share the exact meal that I would have done previously with family
- Being vegetarian because I’m not doing enough for the animal rights movement because I still consume some animal products
- Not being vegan because that is considered the be-all-end-all for people who care about animals
- Using cruelty free products because I’m not vegan so therefore why should I bother doing that
- Not using using cruelty free products and therefore are directly contributing to the things that goes on in animal testing labs
I mean, seriously, a lot of time the judgement is a little surreal. So many times I’ve had to defend myself or someone else in their decisions and state that even though they’re not completely plant-based and cruelty free, they are still making some differences towards the animal industry. It all still counts as a benefit, and this ‘all or nothing’ attitude (read: judgement) is very detrimental. More often than not, it’s likely to put someone off from listening to the benefits behind going meat-free, vegan or cruelty free because you’re being an insufferable dick about it.
Vegan ≠ Cruelty Free
I made the decision that along with being vegetarian that I would stop buying products, make up/hair care etc, if they were tested on animals. This is in no way related to being vegetarian, it’s just something I decided to do along with it. There have been so many occasions where I’ve had to explain to someone that just because something has been certified cruelty free or has the leaping bunny symbol doesn’t make it automatically vegan. However, I see all the time that someone will get a lot of shit for being vegetarian/vegan yet using a non-cf brand or vice versa. They are not the same thing. Cruelty Free is no animal testing, vegan is no animal products. Yes, a lot of cruelty free brands will also be vegan, but it’s not always the case.
Overall, it’s actually really good
Despite the judgement and the misconceptions, I’ve not noticed a single thing that I’ve given up that I’ve missed a great deal. Occasionally I’ll get a whiff of Craig’s food if we’re out somewhere and think that it smells good, but I’ve never consciously thought that I’m missing out on anything I can’t have now. I was never a big meat eater anyway, so all in all it suits me really well.
Over the next year or two I plan on going from vegetarian to completely plant-based, cutting out all animal produce in the process. I’ll admit it’s a slow transition, but it’s one I’m looking forward to making. I might even try and convince Craig to try it for a while and see what he thinks.
If you’re considering going vegetarian, vegan or cruelty free, then definitely read into it at first to see what it involves and, if you can, give it a go. Some diets won’t work for everyone, which can sometimes be a pain, especially if you’re wanting to make a lifestyle change. So if you can’t switch your diet up completely, try making smaller changes. Cut down on single-use plastic, try substituting meat a few days of the week, donate to local animal rights groups. There are loads of things you can do to contribute!
Now I’m off to enjoy my dinner, veggie and tofu fajitas, one of my favourites.
Hope you all had a lovely Easter break!