Five years ago, I stopped eating meat and fish. In other words, I became a vegetarian. At the beginning, nobody believed this would last, not even myself! But today I’m convinced it’s one of the best decisions of my entire life.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact day I decided to go vegetarian, but I think it was one or two weeks before Christmas in 2006.
My initial reason to ditch the meat was quite selfish. I have a very sensitive stomach, and someday I noticed that I often felt nauseous and got stomach cramps after eating meat or fish. I also found out, that I feel much better after eating plain rice, veggie stir-fries, salads, or cooked vegetables. So I started a little experiment. I decided to try a vegetarian diet, only for a short while, to see how my body would respond.
Originally, I had planned to consume no meat or fish, until I started to crave it. Apparently, the cravings never came. From the very beginning, I haven’t missed eating meat at all! Quite the opposite, my stomach issues disappeared completely, and I felt absolutely fantastic.
The first few weeks were still quite difficult, though, as my family and friends weren’t very supportive. Our family’s Christmas dinners and lunches were quite awkward, to say the least. No one really understood why I refused to have sausages, pork roast, smoked fish, etc. And my friends found it so funny to shove their greasy burgers into my face. Yuck! While I was truly enjoying my new life as a vegetarian from the very beginning, the people around me needed much more time to accept this change.
The Side Effects
As I wanted to do this ‘vegetarian thing’ the right way, I did a lot of research, mostly online. That’s when I found a large and active vegan forum. In short, these passionate vegans had quite an impact on my believes. I became an ethical vegetarian. And I even tried to be vegan for a while, but I found it to be too difficult and too restrictive, so went back to consuming eggs and dairy.
Just like most of my friends, I grew up eating lots of processed junk food, and next to no vegetables. As I had changed my diet mostly for health reasons, I researched how to be a healthy vegetarian/vegan. For the first time, I focused on getting all the nutrients I need, trying to get in lots of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. I found some awesome recipes online, and started to cook most of my meals from scratch.
Can you already see where this is going? Not only did my new vegetarian/vegan diet cure my stomach problems, I also lost 20 lbs within 5 months! The weight was literally melting off, none of my clothes fit me anymore, and I was absolutely shocked. Losing weight was not among the reasons why I went meat-free, but as I was quite heavy back then, I totally didn’t mind.
I have to admit, though, that this sudden and drastic transition from junk food omnivore to health conscious vegetarian was quite hard on my digestive system, if you know what I mean. So I would rather recommend slowly phasing out some not-so-healthy foods, and gradually replacing them with healthier options.
Five Years Later
The past five years have probably been the healthiest and happiest of my entire life. I’ve finally learned how to reach and maintain a healthy weight without dieting and deprivation. Most people I know believe that a vegetarian diet is boring and restrictive, but I totally disagree! I’ve learned to love lots of new foods that I had never tried before, like lentils, chick peas, tofu, quinoa, and many more. Whenever I’m asked, “If you don’t eat meat or fish, what CAN you eat?”, I usually answer, “A lot! Just look at my colorful, delicious, and filling lunch/dinner/snack!”.
To be honest, I haven’t been ‘perfect’ at all in the past five years. Sometimes my husband talks me into trying some meat or fish that he lovingly and skillfully prepared. Usually I say “no”, but occasionally I might give in and have a bite. And that’s all. I admit that the seasoning is great, but I’d still prefer a meat-free version of that dish. I’ve also had some meat-based soup or gravy, either accidentally or because there were no other options. Or because I didn’t want to offend my MIL on our first encounter.
For me personally, being a vegetarian is not about being perfect all the time. It’s about making choices that make me feel good, physically and mentally.
What healthy decision has changed your life?