The Vegetarian Question….
Are some people just not “designed” or able to be vegetarian? And by vegetarian, I mean eat no meat, poultry or fish. As someone who grew up eating meat, chicken, fish and vegetables, I have always incorporated some form of “animal” protein in my lunches and/or dinners. However, over the last few years, I have been rather unsuccessfully trying to become vegetarian….Why? I have to really ask myself this question – and be honest about my reasons. Is it for ethical reasons – that animals may not be raised very humanely on farms? Is it because I just don’t like the taste as much? Or how I feel (emotionally and physically) after eating meat/poultry/fish? Or is it because lately, there has been so much attention in the media about vegetarian and vegan diets?
To be honest, my attempts at becoming vegetarian are probably a combination of the last two reasons above. I’m not a huge fan of red meat because it does make me feel somewhat uncomfortable; I just don’t feel quite “right” eating red meat…but I don’t feel the same way about poultry or seafood. I actually quite like the taste of both as long as I eat them in moderation. With the recent media and blog attention on vegetarian, vegan and raw diets, I wonder if many people, like me, have tried going completely vegetarian because they feel it is healthier, and then given up after a few days/weeks/months, and then felt “guilty” at not being able to be a vegetarian. After all, so many stars, bloggers, athletes are advocating vegetarian lifestyles….. They can all seem to do it so why can’t I? Before trying to answer that, you have to ask yourself why are you trying to make this change. What are your reasons…and then see why it may not be appropriate for you. Everyone is different. And everyone has different dietary needs, tastes, likes/dislikes and lets face it….different digestive capabilities.
I know from my experience with trying a purely vegetarian diet, my body just does not do well with just vegetarian protein sources. Yes – I do feel like I’m eating lighter – but after a few days of eating beans, tofu, grains, and a limited amount of yogurt/cheese (due to a lactose intolerance) for my protein, I find myself tired, sluggish and craving a non-veg protein. My body just does not seem to get enough protein from vegetarian sources. And adding MORE tofu and beans is NOT an option – for digestive reasons 🙂 Enough said there…!
So should I/do I feel “bad” for my failed attempts at vegetarianism? No – not at all…and especially not after the last few days of intense abdominal pain from eating too many beans and tofu products…
A vegetarian lifestyle may be healthy for some/many individuals, but I believe that it is not for everyone. At the end of the day, we have to listen to our own body and respect what it tells us, and give it what it needs. A non-vegetarian lifestyle is perfectly healthy provided that it is a balanced diet (that goes for vegetarian diets too – the must be balanced to be healthy…and not consist of just fries, cookies and cake, to provide an extreme example). Meat, poultry and seafood can be a healthy part of a diet as long as they are not the sole components, and the individual is also eating a balanced combination of vegetable, grains and healthy fats.
So should we feel guilty if we have tried a vegetarian diet and been unable to maintain it? Not at all. Maybe trying to strictly adhere to the label of being a “vegetarian” is the cause of this angst. Perhaps if we take away the pressure to label ourselves as either vegetarian or non-vegetarian, it wouldn’t seem so distressing. At the end of the day, what is wrong with just listening to our body and providing it with the nourishment and the fuel that it needs. For some individuals, this nourishment might come from purely vegetable sources, but for others, it may require non-vegetable sources. And that’s fine.
I have learnt that my body does not like an excess of anything – whether that is meat, beans, tofu or certain vegetables…and there is no point in forcing it to eat an excess of one form of protein over another because of the idea that it is a healthier option. I like my beans, tofu, and vegetables, but I also like fish, chicken and turkey…and I will continue to eat it all in moderation 🙂 And my body likes it that way.