“Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox.”
― Russell Brand,
This past week I recently celebrated my vegetarian anniversary along with a wonderful dear pal who also, coincidently, became vegetarian last January as well! It was a grand adventure, we walked to the nearest grocery store and strolled up and down the fresh produce aisles and planned our meal together. We had selected various inspirational movies from the library for a theatrical conclusion to our celebration, among which stood Hidalgo, the Newsies, Unbroken, Good Will Hunting, etc. The pair of us settled down to a delightful dorm-prepared meal of red and orange bell peppers with hummus, steamed sweet potatoes with cinnamon, and vegetarian winter-veggies soup. We enjoyed this with glasses of water and green tea, and then concluded our delightful meal with a Lindt Extra Dark Chocolate truffle.
This morning during my run, I was searching my brain cavities for a good blog post idea. Something that really defined the week. Around when the pain began to really dig in from the run, I settled down to the idea that I should write about my reflections on this last year of being vegetarian-my first year of being vegetarian-because truly I am not the same person.
First, I want to update you on something exciting that I always (used to) get confused on. Vegetarianism, veganism, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, etc…none of those terms are capitalized in a sentence. It would be like if I capitalized Dog or Hershey Dark Chocolate Bar of Desire and Entrapment in a sentence. Ok, you probably knew all of that. Moving along.
I realized that the way my pal and I celebrated our anniversary is very parallel to what my year of being vegetarian was like. First off, walking to the grocery store. This act made it so that going to the grocery store was a special event, something that we prepared for (extra gloves) and takes a while (hence extra gloves). It’s something we went out of our way for, and we chose not to go the easy way (by driving or teleporting). This is what meal preparation can be. It can sometimes take a little more effort to plan a meal, and the really good vegetarian meals are planned when you get excited for them and when you prepare for them. When one chooses to take the easy way out (nothing by PB&J’s for every meal), then not only will you be slightly malnourished but also you don’t get to appreciate the full jollity of being creative with meals and obtaining all nutrition sources with vegetables. When you walk to the grocery store, the extra calories you burn make you extra hungry making the meal you will consume extra delicious because you’ve got so much extra room. Extra. Yay! It’s incredibly rewarding.
Secondly, strolling up and down the produce aisles. My pal and I took in the sights and smells and colors and variety…there is no variety in a can of tuna. I promise you. Every can will look the same, have pretty much the same quality of food inside. This is completely not true with fresh produce. Each item is slightly different, especially when it’s organic (which I highly recommend, it’s not actually that much more expensive as a whole). You get the power to select your meal, and to touch it, and smell it, and see it, and know where it came from and what it contains. It’s a very meditative process, and very mindful exercise. And indeed, being vegetarian for me, and especially being vegan, has made me a much more mindful and meditative individual. I appreciate food infinitely much more so now than a year ago.
Third, inspirational movies. I must admit that we didn’t actually get the chance to watch one of our selections, namely because we have this unique ability to orchestrate these amazing, deep, and humanity-concerned conversations on the many things about which we share impeccable amounts of passion. And thereby spending 5 hours slowly eating and fast-ly talking. But the idea of watching an inspiration movie was present. My year of being vegetarian has been almost nothing but inspirational. I have met so many amazing people and made so many amazing connections just because of vegetarianism and the fact that people who are vegetarians are truly passionate about the topic. And when we share passions, amazing conversations and friendships almost inevitably ensue. I have seen as many documentaries as I can stomach, listened to podcasts, read books, read blog posts…I have been exposed to so many inspirational people and ideas. People really, really want to save the world. People really want to see animals treated well and our environment cleaned up after. I don’t know about you, but there are some points in my life where I have completely lost faith in humanity. After someone beats up a dog, or treats someone like crap by stabbing them in the back, by tossing bags of trash out on the roads…you get the point. But these vegetarians that I follow, these individuals who really, genuinely want to protect our beautiful gift of nature…they restore my faith in humanity every time. I am so inspired by them. Furthermore, they lead me to believe that I have the chance to make a difference, when so many people like to tell me I’m just “one more person recycling”. We need people in our lives to tell us that we are more than just.
Fourth, the meal itself. The peppers and hummus and sweet potato and cinnamon. These types of foods, the types of food that are make up the bulk of a vegetarian diet, energize me in so many more ways than meat or dairy ever has. Ever. I rarely feel lethargic or sleepy after a meal now, eating a meal motivates me to productivity and gives me energy immediately after. Isn’t that what a meal should do? Energize? When I ate meat, this was not my experience after a meal. So that’s proof for me enough that my body has been applauding for the year.
Then, the sipping of green tea and the slow, mindful eating of dark chocolate. I touched on this in point one I believe, but vegetarianism has turned me into a mindful eater. I, for the most part, no longer “scarf” down food because it’s a meal time, I no longer grab whatever is convenient for me to eat. Now, I select what I really want to eat. I select what would make my body feel good and energized. I think about what I’m eating, and I savor it. If I am not hungry? I don’t eat. Because if I eat when I’m not hungry, then I’m never going to be hungry, and being hungry is the most satisfying time to eat something. So I would have lost out on the joy of eating when I’m hungry. Part of this new “being selective” comes from yes, having to be a little more conscious of meal balancing. Meat contains a large quantity of protein from the muscle fibers and dairy contains easily accessible quantities of calcium and other nutrients. I do have to eat more broccoli and kale to reach the same levels of Vitamin K. But that has shaped me into a more conscious person, so I welcome the “challenge” (it’s really not that hard to get all nutrients, I promise) because I know that I am now a more mindful individual as a whole.
Lastly and finally, the sharing of the celebration. Vegetarianism is a movement, it’s something to be a part of, to share with others and to build each other up in something we all mutually believe in. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like you are making a difference, perhaps that’s the single greatest take-away I have gotten from my one year of being vegetarian.
On that long note, Happy Vegeversery to me, and to whomever that would also apply. Raise your cup of organic Guatemalan coffee with me to many, many more years to come.
Peace and Blessings,
“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.”
― Franz Kafka