4 Mar 2010 8:45 PM
According to the comic I have been not-vegetarian since at least June 2008.
I have been meaning to blog about it since then, but haven't really got around to it. Lets see how far I get this time.
My parents were vegetarian (and macrobiotic) when I was a baby and I grew up as a vegetarian. I spent most of my life lacto-ovo but went through periods of time where I ate fish and/or chicken and briefly did eat meat if it was processed beyond all recognition.
In my 20s I became vegan for nearly two years.
In 2008 I stopped being vegetarian and I now regularly eat meat.
When I was veg(etari)an sometimes people would tell me that they couldn't consider becoming a veg(etaria)n. I believed that these people had just not eaten enough delicious veg(etaria)n food.
I have now become a person who could not ever consider becoming a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. This does make me feel guilty, but the reality is that I feel so much better now that I am not vegetarian.
I do not know enough about food or other people to say anything about anyone else, but I am convinced that being a vegetarian is not a very healthy idea for me.
I have had abdominal pain for almost my entire life (I still have it, omnivorism hasn't been some magical cure or anything). In my teens I noticed that eating large amounts of any kinds of nuts was a sure-fire way of getting a terrible stomach ache. So I quit eating nuts.
In the months before quitting vegetarianism (I had gone back to vegetarianism from veganism) I had become fairly sure that eating a large amount of any legumes was giving me stomach pain.
So I was pretty much out of a non-painful protein source because living off cheese didn't sound fun to me because, honestly, dairy food is pretty gross. I can stomach cheese and butter but anything milkier than that just tastes really bad to me. I swear that milk changed flavour in the time that I was vegan. I used to love it.
I used to get very unhappy if I went out for dinner, or over to someone's house, or on a camp or an aeroplane etc where the vegetarian meal consisted of pasta and vegetables with some sort of sauce. Because if I ate something like that for even one meal I would get terribly cranky and it was quite horrible.
I had to make certain that I ate a decent amount of protein at every meal or else bad things would happen to my emotional state. Also if I ate meals late.
Remember, also, that nuts and seeds were out as a snack due to crippling stomach pains they caused.
So I would eat eggs (if I ate eggs) or baked beans for breakfast, and I would have lentils or beans or tofu or quinoa at lunch and dinner...
But even one meal which was "glorified sugar water" would throw me. Discussions with some of my vegetarian and vegan friends have convinced me that this level of protein requirement isn't actually what everyone experiences. That made me feel a lot better about quitting vegetarianism. It seems like it really was a lot more difficult for me than it might be for other people.
And things got much worse when I started exercising regularly and my food requirements went up. I couldn't keep up any kind of exercise regime as regular exercise increased my food requirements in a way which I couldn't actually keep up with so I would get cranky.
One of the best things about not being vegetarian is that I now get to eat delicious vegetarian and vegan food occasionally without having to be cranky about how little protein it has! Eating a low protein meal every now and then no longer leads to tantrums!
My grandmother has similar stomach issues to me and after many many decades of experimentation she has established that eating mostly meat and vegetables is the only thing which helps. I am coming to the conclusion that this is true for me as well as eating a lot of grains (particularly wheat), legumes and dairy products make my tummy very cranky indeed.
Steak and potatoes? all good.
Also I have a lot more energy now! I want to say that I never realised how low on energy I was, but it's not actually true. I got fired from a job once for falling asleep on the floor at work. I always thought that I was low on energy because I didn't do enough exercise.
But if I did a lot of exercise I would get too cranky to continue doing exercise. I blamed myself for that, but these days there doesn't seem to be a cap on the amount of exercise I can do without getting cranky.
I did not become a vegetarian to save the animals. I didn't like being lumped in with the animal activists when I was veg(etari)an. I really really hated it when people would apologise or become defensive of their non-veg(etari)anism around me.
I am extra-ordinarily bad at stepping out of my comfort zone and I think that I was mostly vegetarian because I always had been.
But I still feel guilty about not being veg(etari)an and this is used against me by people who are veg(etari)an. I have become one of those defensive omnivores.
I was in a vegetarian pizza shop a few months back, getting some pizza (see note above about delicious vegetarian food). Also, Mr Natural pizza does gluten free (and therefore wheat-free) bases which is good for my current low-fructose diet.
So anyway my housemate's friend's girlfriend's vegan social group were at the pizza place (and we had gone down to say hello to my housemate's friend) and while I was waiting for my pizza a skinny sunken-eyed youth tried to chat me up. When he discovered that I was no longer vegetarian it became obvious to me that he divided the world up neatly into three groups of people
- People who Don't Care (ie Bad people)
- People who don't know any better
Unfortunately for him I didn't fit into any of these categories so he did his best to re-convert me to veganism lest his psyche shatter.
Then I came home and complained about it on twitter (I believe I said something about people having different things that they might care about and having different priorities doesn't make someone a bad person) and I had another friend condecendingly comment that she was sure that I did what I could, like buying free-range eggs. Sigh.
I'll readily admit that my health is my top priority. I am absolutely not willing to go back to not getting enough protein from only sources which make me unwell. No thank you.
But apart from that I am not convinced that a blanket avoidance of animal products is the most moral position to take. From a sustainability perspective I am not really convinced as a lot of the time the veg(etari)an substitutes for things are much worse for the environment. I read a blog post recently where someone was thinking about down vs polyester doonas. Sure in an ideal vegan utopia there may be a choice other than zomg the poor wittle biiiirdies and zomg the oil but a lot of the time none of the choices are very good.
I am pretty sure that I would rather eat a small amount of kangaroo than a large amount of soy, for example.
But it's really complicated and sometimes I think it would be simpler to pretend that avoiding all animal products meant that I was Doing The Right Thing and have a strict set of rules to follow which made me into a Good Person.
I could spend every meal worring about animal welfare, sustainability, the economy, human rights, environment...
But I am not knowledgable or clever enough to know all of the right answers.
I think for now I'll just worry about what makes me the least unwell.