I've found myself involved in a lot of conversations about vegetarianism recently. And when I find myself talking about something a lot, I know it's because deep down I want to create a change. I've been on a journey to be more conscious about how I eat for a long time. I watch a lot of YouTube videos on the plant based diets and I've seen some amazing documentaries. My head knows what it wants that but my heart loves chicken.
Also, in truth, I'm not an animal lover, although I respect people that are. I don't believe that all creatures are equal. It's not a superiority thing, of all the animals I've encountered humans are by far the stupidest but they're my stupid animals. To put it terribly bluntly I have a cat. we're not bezzie mates but I care for her. If she's late home I worry; I rush her to the vets if she's poorly. She is part of my family. If some unfathomable set of circumstances arose that meant that I had to choose between sacrificing my pet or some human child that I had no connection whatsoever with, the moggy would have to go. That's not to say that I have no warmth towards animals, I just don't personally think it is morally wrong to eat them. Eating them, fine but farming them in a way that tortures our planet, transporting and slaughtering them by means that is devoid of even a shred of respect or dignity and munching away whilst fellow humans, the humans I claim to love so dearly, waste away - that's not on.
So giving up meat seems like a sensibly choice and yet a meatless state I cannot reach. Why is it that I have found it so hard? I think there are three reasons:
I'm lazy. I have found peace with my laziness. Sometimes it can actually be a good thing. My desire to do things the quick and easy way means that I can often see the simplest solutions to things. Give me a task that I can see no good reason for doing and nine times out of ten I won't do it and you know what, it rarely matters.
I'm all about instant gratification. They say the sign of adulthood is accepting delayed gratification. In which case adulthood eludes me because I want it all and I want it now. That's why I still carry those last few lbs of baby weight and it's probably why I can't drive or speak a foreign language. Whenever someone tells me they love a challenge I look at them oddly. Who loves sweat and tears? You just love the stuff a challenge gets you.
I'm a people pleaser. My best friend growing up was a vegetarian. This was the eighties when announcing you were a vegetarian elicited a similar reaction to saying you were a swinger - slight confusion and a lot of curiosity. My friend spent a lot of time politely refusing meals and taking her own packed lunch to parties. For the vegetarian raising parents out there I think this served her well, it taught her from a very early age to stand by her values and feel confident asking for things. I have a problem with saying no and the thought of having to do so still makes me feel a bit shaky.
Of course missions are about pushing past the fear so I decided to take a week and accept that I could make a different choice. Here's what I learned:
1. Own your stuff. I decided not to tell anyone about my plans because there seemed no point making an announcement for seven days of change, interestingly I immediately experienced discrimination for my meatless state. I was at work and offered a ham sandwich, when I refused my colleague sneered, 'You're not one of those vegetarians are you?' I said no but I immediately felt embarrassed, this is the thing I think I was worried about, that people would think I believe I'm this special snowflake but then again I do believe I'm a special snowflake, so if I were to continue this lifestyle I would own my stuff
2. Learn to love the basics. I went hungry that day because I couldn't find a meat free option that went with bread, so I had bread. It was fine, I forgot I actually really like bread and butter. I had a lot of similar experiences throughout the week - a perfectly ripe avocado with sea salt; steaming rice with fresh coriander. I think I remembered the joy of food when I wasn't automatically reaching for sausages.
3. Get educated. Habits can be a beautiful thing but with food it can leave you stuck - what do you have with carbonara if you don't have ham? Well lots of things but our brains love a quick and dirty association and it takes some effort to unpick that. I really enjoyed researching new recipes and making the food I had at home work in a new way. I think it even gave my brain a bit of a boost!
4. Making a new choice keeps you present. I actually lost some weight this week and not because I think a vegetarian diet is that much healthier - cake has no meat remember. It's because thinking about my meals made me pause before consuming, I did less grazing (read: standing in front of the fridge, picking at chorizo slices) and I was more drawn to fresh, lighter options.
5. A trip doesn't have to be a fall. I think this is the case with any dietary change. On Saturday I met up with a friend and we had a Chinese, I didn't want to make a fuss and also crispy chilli beef right? So I had meat, it was delish but from that point the floodgates were open it was full steam ahead on the bacon express the next morning and at lunchtime I was going to go for the hat trick and have myself a burger when I caught myself. One slip up does not a meat feast make and I had to accept that when you fall of the wagon it's no time to lie in the dust licking your wounds, you've got to haul yourself back on again.
So where am I now. I think if I don't give up meat, I'll definitely eat much less and even if I don't I absolutely accept the choice is in my hands.