“Well, you know, she is a vegetarian,” my mother tells the nurse. It’s 2 a.m. and she’s dragged me to urgent care after a number of hot and dizzy spells. After the doctor determines my body is most likely under a large amount of stress — like literally every other college student on the face of the Earth — we’re sent on our way. However, in the car my mom continues to reiterate that I’m probably not getting enough protein, how my diet is going to continue impacting my life, etc.
This happened about a week ago — I’ve been a vegetarian for three years.
I think it’s safe to say my family still isn’t too used to my vegetarianism. My brothers love to joke about how I’m undeniably going to revert back to my carnivorous ways and my parents still don’t quite know how to cater to my diet (like how I end up eating a scary amount of cheese pizza when I return home). Despite all of this, I couldn’t be happier about cutting meat out of my life.
I decided to become a vegetarian for environmental and animal rights reasons. Yes, I’m the person who tears up watching livestock get thrown around in videos and cringes every time I see blood-soaked meat in the grocery store. I’ve always loved animals and been extremely empathetic ever since I was a small child. Honestly, my family should have seen it coming. After learning about the mistreatment of farm animals, the large amount of food, energy and other resources being used to sustain the meat industry as well as its destructive environmental impact, I chose to call it quits. I know that my vegetarian diet alone won’t be enough to save the planet, but it feels good knowing that I’m doing what I can. I’ve also watched vegetarian and vegan diets become somewhat of a trend in the past year, and it makes me hopeful. Even if most of the people who give it a go don’t maintain the diet, more and more people are being introduced to the lifestyle and for some, it’s bound to stick.
The first thing people ask me when they discover I’m a vegetarian is, “Do you feel healthier?” and it’s always a bit difficult to answer. Seeing that I didn’t choose the diet for health reasons, I don’t focus too much on whether or not I feel more energetic or healthy. By default, I do end up eating healthier foods to make sure that I get the proper amount of nutrients, but if I see a bag of chips or a cupcake — I’m eating it. If my diet in general did get healthier by becoming a vegetarian, it probably did so only slightly. Weight is also an area in which I didn’t notice much of a difference. I’ve always been thin and if becoming a vegetarian made me any skinnier, once again, it was only slightly.
I will say, however, that vegetarianism made my immune system stronger. After becoming a vegetarian, I don’t remember getting sick hardly ever, and when I did have a few symptoms, they didn’t last more that two or three days. This difference was very easy to spot and is what leads me to believe that any health problems I’m having now can’t be attributed to my vegetarian diet. If anything, cutting meat out of my life has been assisting me. When I see another story on the news about people getting sick after eating mercury and lead-ridden fish or a recall of meat destroying the stomachs of those who devoured it, I don’t have to worry about being one of them.
Making the switch wasn’t as difficult as many think it is and it taught me a lot about myself in terms of self-control. Sometimes I catch the scent of bacon frying or see someone eating sushi or barbecue and feel a little nostalgic (the first Fourth of July with my family as a vegetarian was brutal) but it’s never enough to make me seriously consider eating meat again. Through my vegetarianism, I’ve discovered many amazing foods and restaurants that cater to my lifestyle.
Becoming a vegetarian was one of the best decisions I made during my college years. If cutting meat out of your life cold turkey is too much for you, take it slow. The next time you’re at your favorite burger and sandwich joint, give the veggie burger a try. You just might like it.