Today is my first anniversary of being a vegetarian and I am so excited about it. I thought that it might be a good idea for me to write how exactly I became a vegetarian, what motivated me, what did I change, etc. I’ve actually been writing this post for about 8 months because I thought of the idea ages ago and just had to start writing. I know that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone so I won’t be offended if you aren’t interested in this post, but I really wanted to share this because I am very excited about it.
On this day back in 2015, I ate my last meat-filled meal. I had jae yook bokum from Seoul Express, a Korean restaurant in Adelaide, served to me on a cow shaped plate.
I remember eating it and mainly eating the meat and carrot because I wasn’t fond of the rest of the food on the plate. Three months prior to this day, Frankie and I had been eating plant-based meals when I went to his house. This was the result of me never wanting to handle uncooked meat. I would be severely grossed out by it and therefore would never want to cook it. We’d both been interested in vegetarian food and I knew I wanted to transition but I kept making excuses for myself. I always said that I’d never be able to do that at home because Mum wouldn’t want to cook vegetarian and my meat-loving Step Dad sure wouldn’t want to eat only vegetarian food. At that point, I also wasn’t a confident cook so I was very nervous about having to make my own meals at home so I just made the food at Frankie’s house and thought nothing of it. So, I was already on my way to becoming a vegetarian, I just had the wrong mindset.
That night when I got home, my friend posted on to Facebook that Earthlings had been reuploaded to YouTube and you could watch the whole documentary for free. Earthlings talks about factory farming, animal shelters, the dairy industry, animal testing for cosmetics, etc. I’d known about it since high school when a friend watched it and she said that she just cried the whole time. I was horrified by it but I knew that I always wanted to see it. I get extremely emotional when I watch television shows and movies. Things that wouldn’t make a regular viewer cry, would make me cry. However, I knew I was doing myself a disservice by not watching it. I’ve embedded it into the video so if you’re interested in watching it, you can watch it here.
After my friend had posted the link to Earthlings on to Facebook, I thought, ‘it’s now or never, just do it.’ And so I watched the documentary. I don’t think that I have EVER cried so much for such a long time. I cried from about two minutes into the documentary until the last two minutes. I will warn those who are thinking about watching this film, there are extremely graphic images in this documentary but I would encourage you to try to push past it because it is important for you to be aware of what is happening. I will admit, I didn’t see a lot of it because I was crying but I listened to the whole thing and I saw enough to be very scarred by the documentary and I am very thankful to have been made aware of this.
This wasn’t the first documentary that I’d seen on farming. I’d seen Food Inc. years ago with my family and I’d recommend watching that one too if you want to learn more about farming in the US. Don’t assume that because it is in the US, it’s different to how farming happens in Australia, because that’s not the case. Farming is quite bad here despite what our farmers would have you believe. Another documentary that I’d recommend is Cowspiracy, which talks about the dairy industry in detail.
The biggest thing I learnt from watching those documentaries is the same thing that I say to people when they ask me why I chose to become a vegetarian.
“I could never kill an animal, so why should I pay someone else to do it for me so that I can benefit from it?”
I used to say things like, “pigs are my most favourite animal, it’s too bad that I also love eating them too.” It disgusts me now to just remember myself thinking that way. I wouldn’t eat a dog, and I love dogs too, so why is it okay for me to eat a pig but not a dog? They’re both animals. Just because one is domesticated, it means it’s free from being considered food? That’s just the way we are all taught to think so that we don’t feel guilty for consuming animals.
The next thing that I was motivated to do was follow a lot of vegan and vegetarian food instagram accounts so I’d constantly see gorgeous food and be motivated to make it and want to eat it. There’s nothing more satisfying than guilt-free food. A few instagram accounts that I’d recommend are:
One thing that I’d encourage anyone to do is to get a blood test to see how your body is going. It is extremely important for those of us who don’t consume meat and things to get regular check ups because if you’re not eating properly, it is a slippery slope into having some severe health problems. Even if you are eating meat, you should be getting regular check ups because you need to know what your body needs. All humans, vegan or otherwise need B12 and you might very well be deficient even before transitioning to a vegetarian or plant-based diet. I found out that I was severely deficient in B12 about 2 months after becoming a vegetarian. It was really the only thing that was wrong with me. I have to have a high strength B12 pill around once a day for the rest of my life really because my body doesn’t absorb enough from food, even if I eat a lot of B12 rich foods (dairy, eggs and meat). I’m totally fine with taking the supplement every day if it means that I don’t need to eat meat. I’ve actually just had to switch to the B12 injection because the supplements haven’t been properly absorbed. Since I’m still battling with being B12 deficient, I’ve been really lethargic, dizzy and confused, which has made study really hard for me but as soon as I get on the right track, I’ll be alright. So it’s important to understand the nutrients that your body needs and to make sure that you have enough kilojoules to keep your body working properly. Another thing that my doctor recommended me is that I take iron tablets while I’m on my period because you lose iron when you’re on your period each month. I wasn’t deficient in iron but I was a little low and so I take those two tablets to stay healthy while I eat my preferred diet.
A tip for vegetarians and those looking to become one, being a vegetarian isn’t as simple as just cutting out meat. There is a surprising amount of food that contains animals that you don’t tend to think about when you go to eat something that you believe doesn’t contain meat. A big one is Gelatine. I am a big sweets consumer and it is very important for me to read the ingredients on all of the lollies that I consider buying because it may contain gelatine.
Gelatine is made from peptides and proteins from pigs, cows, chicken, horses and fish. So you might think eating a seemingly harmless marshmallow might be fine to eat but you’re actually not eating vegetarian if you consume those products with gelatine. It is also common to find gelatine in cake icing.
Another kicker is Rennet. This is found in a lot of cheeses and can be very annoying when you’re planning to make gougères and you can’t use the cheese at the cheese-monger. There is an upside to this though. Many brands are now choosing to use vegetable rennet (also called microbial rennet), which means we can now eat those cheeses!
Another big one is sauces. Many sauces contain other things that contain animal products. There was a BBQ sauce that I was looking at at the supermarket and I was almost going to buy it but I checked the ingredients and in the ingredients it said Worcestershire sauce. For those who don’t know, Worcestershire sauce has anchovy in it. So it pays to read the labels on products that you wish to purchase.
All of this would be irrelevant if you chose to eat vegan instead. Most items that are vegan have a label on them anyway or they’re fresh produce.
Since becoming a vegetarian, a few of my friends have shown interest in the diet and I always get pretty excited but make sure I don’t make them feel pressured to stick to it if the time just isn’t right for them. There’s a lot of reasons why people aren’t able to transition to their preferred diet but as long as you’re thinking about it, you’re already on the right track. Never get discouraged if you slip up, we’re all human. And say this diet isn’t for you, at the end of the day, it is at least important to be aware of where the food you eat comes from and it’s up to you if you want to do something about it. Do your research on the food you consume and you will be healthier and happier for it.
I want to finish this post with a quote from Russell Brand that I think gives everyone something to think about:
“How we treat the vulnerable defines us as a species”
I hope that you’re having a wonderful day!
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Au revoir xxx