It’s been two months to the day since I stopped eating meat (with the exception of a bite of chicken salad because I swore the container said potato salad). Honestly, my life has changed very little, but the subtle changes have been phenomenally interesting (to me at least).
When I’m at home, life goes on as normal. It’s been so long since I’ve bought meat to keep at my house that I really don’t change how I shop or prepare meals.
However, when I’m not at home, everything has changed.
I learned that the broccoli cheese soup at Panera is made from chicken broth. So I ordered the black bean soup instead.
I learned that when attending a party, I should trust my instinct to take a dish that I know I’ll want to eat. Chips and dip are great, but when you’re hanging out all day, it’s not quite satisfying, especially when you add in a couple beers.
I learned that I had bent to people’s expectations about adding meat to dishes that really don’t need it to be amazing. I went to an Italian restaurant and had some great angel hair and artichoke pasta, and I was so glad that I said “neither” when the waitress asked if I wanted it with chicken or shrimp. Normally, I would have picked one just because.
I learned I don’t really miss it. When I was at that party, I wanted a burger because I was hungry. But when I took a second to think about whether or not it was worth it, the answer was obvious. I didn’t actually want to eat meat. The smell of grilling was great, but when I looked at the actual meat, I genuinely wasn’t that interested.
I learned that a lot of people think I will eat fish as a vegetarian.
I learned that a lot of people (usually not the fish people) think I won’t eat eggs or dairy. To be fair, I have started buying eggs from someone I know because I’m more comfortable knowing that her hens aren’t given weird hormones or kept in itty-bitty cages. Plus, they taste better than store-bought eggs.
I learned that a lot of people ask “why?” I find that it’s actually kind of fun to talk about. I really don’t care if everyone else eats a steak every day, but I appreciate the curiosity I’ve encountered. It’s also helped me articulate my reasons better and find common threads. For example, when I recently voiced that I feel tired and weighed down after eating meat, someone who eats meat regularly spoke up and said she feels the same way. Maybe by discussing what we eat and how it makes our bodies feel, we (collectively as humans) can pay more attention to what gives us energy and what slows us down. That’s going to be different for everyone, but by listening to my body, I can do things to feel the best I can.
I learned that a lot of people follow “Why?” with “I could never do that,” which confuses me. I think what they really mean is, “I don’t want to do that” or “That’s just not for me.” And that’s okay; I don’t mind.
Until I stopped eating meat, I didn’t understand how a limited diet related to things like choosing local or organic foods, but now I really get it. It’s not about being a health nut; it’s about asking questions and understanding how the answers impact myself and other people. I’m not perfect—did I mention the weekend I ate ice cream for breakfast out of a coffee mug with a serving spoon so that I didn’t have to do dishes?—but I’ve come to realize that changing one’s food is a
bout making choices, setting limits and seeing how those limits open you up to a million new choices.