Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why veggie, why?

I've wanted to talk for a while now about why I chose to go vegetarian, or "flexitarian."  Since I'm in the middle of a Whole 30, I'm constantly reminded of how Paleo enthusiasts advocate for meat eating.  Why do I continue to remain a {mostly} herbivore?

Disclaimer :: This post is in no way meant to put down those who eat meat (D still does!) nor convince others not to eat meat (although I'd love you forever if you said I convinced you!).  These words are meant to merely explain why I chose this lifestyle.


Back when D and I lived in Athens, I began getting interested in vegetarianism.  I have some friends who are vegetarian, and the idea interested me.  My first order of business was read and research.  In 2009 (!!), I read The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.  The authors, Peter Singer and Jim Mason, do a wonderful job of breaking things down.  It's evident that they did their research.  The descriptions and imagery of slaughter houses and living conditions of animals was appalling.  That stuck with me.  While this book changed my perspective and outlook on eating meat, I still wasn't ready give up sausage bacon meat.  D and I did start doing an annual "No Meat January," but it was more of a health initiative.  Nonetheless, those words always hung in the back of my mind whenever I would eat meat.

After moving to Raleigh in 2011, I was continually aware of what I was eating.  I stopped eating most chicken (unless I bought it from Whole Foods) but couldn't deny my love for bacon and sausage.  The guilt, those slaughterhouses and killing of animals that never got to live a real life, always lingered in my mind.  I kept reading and doing research until I finally made my decision.


In January 2012, I decided to take on a flexitarian lifestyle.  I've heard this term thrown around before.  I don't follow a strict no-meat or fish-only diet.  My vegetarian rule is to "not eat any animal raised for slaughter."  More specifically, I eat fish and venison (hunted in the wild by D's dad).  After my research, this was what worked for me.  This was the choice I could live with and not feel guilty.    

Personally, I couldn't come to terms with pigs, cows, and chickens being killed for me.  These animals are all smarter than most people think.  They have a sense of family (I use that term loosely) and definitely have feelings (just in a different way than humans do).  Morally, eating animals feels wrong to me.  To be honest, I still struggle with buying dairy products as most are made from cows living in the same terrible conditions I read about (the research regarding baby calves to maintain mother cow's milk production is heart wrenching).


Since I love food and travel, my only "free-for-all" times are beer dinners and traveling.  Why beer dinners?  Chefs take special time in preparing dishes that pair perfectly with specific beers.  I want to have that full experience (not to mention most vegetarian substitutions are not paired appropriately or consist of my nemesis, bell peppers).  Why traveling?  I still deserve to be able to try traditional, well-known, or renowned dishes within the areas I travel to.  To never be able to try a Philly cheesesteak?  An NYC hotdog (although I haven't!)?  In-N-Out burgers?  Blasphemy.  Do I go on a crazy meat binge when I travel?  Nope, but I don't deny myself or feel guilty if meat creeps into the mix.

No matter what the benefits of the Paleo diet, I don't think that guilt would leave me (at least not for longer than a brief trip).

So tell me, are you vegetarian?  Pescatarian?  Flexitarian?
Why or why not?  

And while I don't think I can express as wonderfully as Katie and Meghan did about being a runner and the tragedy in Boston yesterday, I'm so grateful that Alex and her family are ok.  Christin couldn't have said it better, and I'm even more motivated to run a marathon because of Alex.


Meghan said...

I think it's great that you've found something that works for your beliefs and your schedule. Your explanation makes perfect sense to me!

Head to Toe Chic said...

I definitely agree with you! I can't eat meat because I always think about the animals. I'm a pescaratian which can definitely be hard because restaurants love to put meat in everything! I remember watching Food Inc and telling myself I wouldn't eat meat anymore. That was a crazy documentary.

Laura said...

In high school, I was pescatarian (not for animal issues but mostly sustainability ones). Nowadays, I get most of my protein from nuts and other foods besides meat. I like your term of flexetarian, and I think I could embrace that.

applesandglue said...

I totally respect your choice to be a flexeterian (a term I had never heard of before!). I was a vegetarian for about 2 and a half years in high school/college but it didn't work out... I'm not a great vegetarian... I like raw veggies but that's about it. Don't get me started on tofu or lentil beans... :p

Joanna said...

Kudos for having the will power to give anything up. I feel like I have this odd relationship with food and I feel so much guilt when I eat something or when I don't eat something (particularly more veggies). My guilt manifests into eating and eating...blah. It's an endless battle. My goal is to find what works for me like you did, but I feel stuck.

Christine said...

I am a very similar flexitarian. After reading Eating Animals I felt that I had to stop supporting the large factory systems. If I could afford the local meat I would - but living on a budget has made it easier to just become a vegetarian. I do enjoy a few meat meals occasionally but otherwise avoid it. As someone with Ulcertative Colitis and Crohns disease, I have found that the majority of my symptoms have reduced as I've cut out meat

Allie said...

One day back in 2011 I watched an Oprah episode that featured Michael Pollan. I cried when I saw the images of chickens who couldn't even stand up. That is when I started researching. While I haven't given up meat entirely (turkey bacon and burgers are my two I'd have a hard time with) I started taking out other things. I no longer eat lunch meat, pork, cows milk, or processed meats. I buy meat that is naturally raised, and during the summer I'll buy from local farmers. I don't eat much meat, maybe 5 meals a week- mostly dinners. I still would like to cut other things out slowly. I love the idea of a meatless month. I really liked your explanation, I totally get it!

Ro said...

I still don't comprehend why "Paleo" contains SO MUCH meat. For it being promoted as a healthy life style, I can't comprehend why their meals are meat+meat+meat+veggies. Wouldn't meat+veggies+veggies+veggies be better? As someone who eats meat, I still find faults with the full on Paleo... but to each his/her own. Find what works for you and be healthy :)

Megan | Freckled Italian said...

I love it when people find something that works for them! And I also like your thought that you will eat an animal that hasn't been raised for the sole purpose of being someone's dinner. I've never thought of it that way.

@Ro, I am Paleo and would argue that meat+veggies+veggies+veggies is the way it should be. I think it's trendy or something right now to be likE LOOK AT THIS BURGER WRAPPED IN BACON WITH EGG YOLKS ON TOP HOW HEALTHY AM I??

So if you're seeing meals that are meat and more meat with little to no veggies, you can probably assume that they're taking advantage of the fun and unusual/shocking parts (eg. bacon being healthy) of the lifestyle.

Claire Kiefer said...

I've never really thought about breaking down my vegetarianism on my blog . . . probably because my reasons aren't as sophisticated as yours, haha. When I was a kid, most meat grossed me out. I couldn't help but think "THAT IS FLESH!" I slowly gave up meat (red meat in 7th grade, then chicken, and then by the time I was 14 I was a strict vegetarian).

I never have any desire to eat any kind of meat, though I do have a desire for the broccoli cheese soup at Panera that I know has chicken broth in it! I can't do it, though. Chicken broth isn't really any different to me than hunks of chicken.

KellVille said...

I am on the exact same page as you with this!! It's nice to hear it from someone that feels the same way :) It's funny b/c I still don't dislike meat now, but the less I eat it...the more strange it tastes to me.


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