I have found that the idea of not eating meat really freaks people out. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people tell me, “oh, I could never give up meat.” My favorite is “I just love bacon too much to stop.” It’s kind of an addiction. And I was on that boat for a long time too, don’t get me wrong. I was raised to eat meat and to try new foods and taught that it was all good and healthy and fine.
But in 2012 when I went through a yoga teacher training, and I learned that for many people, being vegetarian actually stems from the idea of non-harm, not wanting to ingest the pain of an animal that has been killed. The idea had me interested, but it wasn’t really enough to get me to quit meat cold turkey (pun intended – can’t help myself).
I explored some literature on the subject, recommended to me by a fellow yogini. I found the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer. The premise was of this father who had been an on-again-off-again vegetarian and wanted to know the truth about the food industry so as to know how to best raise his newborn child. When I learned about the horrors of factory farming, I vowed to stop eating meat for good. Not only do factory farming practices hurt the environment, they are often inhumane working environments for humans, encouraging violence towards animals and uncomfortable living conditions for the animals themselves. Don’t get me started on the slaughterhouse.
It was a personal decision, and I respect that not everyone can or should give up meat entirely but reading about where our food really comes from made me aware of how crazy our farming practices are, and for health along with ethical reasons, I knew I would never be able to look at my mom’s braised lamb the same way.
By exploring the idea of vegetarianism, and educating myself on farming practices, I was questioning the norms of our fast-food-driven culture. I think it can be important to take a deeper look into our own system to see whether we actually agree with the actions we make and the behaviors we follow. It’s scary to learn what’s really going on behind the scenes but once you learn it’s impossible not to ignore.
The transition wasn’t completely easy – especially due to the stigma associated with vegetarianism. My mom begged me to eat a ham sandwich almost every day the first week, and I was pretty convinced that she secretly started cooking my meals with bacon grease to sneak in some extra B12 and protein that every meat-eater will assure you that you’re lacking.
Once I began living on my own and could cook meals for myself, I found some incredible recipes and honestly grew comfortable with my meatless diet. It’s perfectly possible, and still awesome to live without it! A lot of people expect that it’s problematic to be a vegetarian when eating out, but I have rarely, if ever, had any issues, as every restaurant that I have ever been to has either had vegetarian options or was willing to accommodate my needs.
It’s all about doing what’s right for your body – I feel more energetic when I eat lots of vegetables and I have a cleaner conscience knowing that I no longer support factory farming of animals. If you’re not ready to commit to a new lifestyle, it’s easy to at least cut back on meat consumption by trying the classic “Meatless Monday,” which offers a great opportunity to cook a healthy dinner and enjoy all the amazing benefits that the veggie life has to offer.