Sunday, September 18, 2011

A moderate trapped in a judgemental world...

When it comes to politics I consider myself a moderate.  Contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean I waver on my opinions.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have an opinion and i'm not afraid to tell you about them.  I am a redhead after all!  My stand on certain issues fall most often to the left, but I do have a few right sided views as well.  The main reason I consider myself a moderate, however, is because I don't think that one side or the other is necessarily completely right or has all the answers.  Also, if someone has a valid explanation as to why their view is different from mine I can respect it, even if I don't agree.  When it comes to my religious beliefs I now consider myself a United Methodist.  Their beliefs are that although Christians have different opinions on specific beliefs, the main thing is that you believe in God and that you follow a good life.  Again, many people see the religion as having no opinion on specific issues, and therefore is a moderate religion.  Again, here I am stuck in the middle again!

So, why do I bring this up in my blog about being a vegetarian?  It seems I have found myself stuck in the middle of an issue yet again.  When I first announced that I was no longer going to eat meat I got a lot of slack from meat eaters.  The usual, asking what in the world I eat if not meat, judgements assuming that I suddenly hate all those who eat meat, etc.  The most annoying is the ones who seem to feel the need to poke fun and make jokes about it.  The most annoying was when people accused Tim (my boyfriend) of deciding to become a vegetarian because I had just announced that I was.  Which is very amusing!  He has been a vegetarian off and on for years now and has been talking about going back to it for months.  I also didn't even tell him that I was no longer eating meat until almost 2 weeks into it.  He is also much more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.  But of course many people have this view that a guy "needs" to revolve their life around the woman in their life and do everything they say.  Which makes me want to vomit!  I don't want a male clone of myself and would be annoyed if a guy tried to.

Since I was getting such a hard time from much of the meat eating world I decided to reach out to vegetarians, my peeps.  So I started browsing some vegetarian and vegan forums.  They would completely understand the struggles i'm having, and give me some good tips and recipes I could use, right?  Apparently that wasn't entirely true.  Many of the people on these forums were the stereotypical vegetarians that have turned many meat eaters against the whole idea of vegetarianism.  Killing animals for food or anything else is completely unacceptable to them, and anyone who doesn't believe or follow this will be judged and chastized.  They were even cutting down people that follow a vegetarian diet except eat seafood on occasion.  How dare they smear the vegetarian name like that!!  "Those" people just want to be in the "cool group" of the vegetarians without actually having to commit fully, to them anyway.  Then, I got judged and chastized for not believing that all meat eaters are going to hell.  How dare I not be judgemental!  Oh, and if you don't think eating animals for food is completely wrong yet you don't eat any meat for other reasons then you aren't ALLOWED to be called a vegetarian!

So here I am, stuck in the middle.  A moderate yet again!  What is funny is that moderates, the ones who judge no one and try to understand your point of view, are the ones that are chastized the most.  So should I not think that Americans should eat a more plant based diet to better our country's health?  Should I bash vegetarians for being "tree hugger" types?  I don't want to do either!  Of course it is up to me to be comfortable with my decisions, not others.  I know this 100%, but everyone still would like some support and validation in their life.  Ironically the most support i've gotten have been from many of the hard core meat eaters in my life.  Meat eaters that are educated on nutrition know that there are health benefits to becoming a vegetarian.  It's just not for them.  These are the people that are most supportive.  I have been able to weed through the crazy hard-core freaks on the forums and find a few supporters.  Imagine being supported for NOT judging others.  What a novel idea!!

I am 4 weeks into my no meat diet now, and still no desire to have any meat.  I figured I would have found my niche in this new lifestyle by now, or at least be closer to it.  Having a unique perspective it looks like it's going to take me a little while longer.  I can say that becoming a vegetarian has made me feel like i'm doing something I can really be proud of.  When I sit down for a meal I feel good about the nutrition I am putting in my body.  I feel good that I am not sacrificing the life of any animal to enjoy my meals.  And most importantly I am standing up for something I believe in, and still striving to make a difference in people's lives.  I've said from day 1 that if I inspire just one person to clean up their diet and take care of themselves then I will feel like i've made a difference.  I know it won't happen overnight, but I feel confident that it will happen.  :-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vegetarian assumptions (You know what assuming does!)

Here is an article about one of the most common questions vegetarians get:  How do you get enough protein?

I can't even count the number of times I had to explain that i'm not trying to "convert" people to become vegetarian this week!  I began this blog to convince people to educate themselves on healthy eating and make healthier choices.  I can also assure you that i'm not preaching that eating meat is bad, or that vegetarians are superior, because they aren't by any means.  However, vegetarians are educated on nutrition and where their food comes from.  And that's what I hope to accomplish; to encourage people to educate themselves on nutrition and make more conscious choices.  :-)

Whether you eat meat or not, the fact is that you get the majority (and the most vital) of your nutrients from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  Sure, you get protein and iron from meat.  However, from beans, whole grains like quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), and rich vegetables like spinach, you get protein, iron, calcium, vitamins D and K, and countless micronutrients that are vital in preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and diabetes.  So keep eating that meat you love, no problem!  But choose lean healthy versions, and include MANY more of these healthy veggies and grains in your diet!  Our nation is in an epidemic.  And I can promise you out of the many patients I have had contact with that were towards the end of their life, not ONE single person has said "I'm so glad I ate all the yummy crap I could!".  They ALL say "I wish I had taken better care of my health when I had the chance." 

Out of all the people that have made derogatory or negative assumptions about decision to no longer eat meat, not one of these people could say cutting meat out of your diet was the unhealthy way to go.  Why?  Because everyone knows it's not!  For some reason people get defensive and judgemental when you mention your diet choice, like it is something personal.  My favorite is "Good luck with your choice", which vegetarians interpret as "I think your a fucking idiot, even though I know absolutely nothing about nutrition, but I don't want to look like an ass so i'll just try to seem supportive".  Harsh, I know.  But so are some of the attitudes that are thrown at vegetarians and vegans.  Meat eaters and vegetarians alike can live in the same world and respect each other's choices, if they would just stop pointing fingers at the other.

So, about my week...Things got kind of turned around unexpectedly.  My BFF lost her mom in the beginning of the week.  She had been battling dementia for a long time and lost her battle this week.  We have been best friends for almost 20 years now.  Her family is like a second family to me, and vice versa, so it was heartbreaking to see her mom go and to see my friend have to go thru that.  This meant, of course, that my birthday cookout was cancelled.  So, my new meatless item of the week was changed from my planned meatless Italian sausage as planned.  For lunch Friday I tried Tofurky meatless deli slices.  I loaded it up with light mayo, colby jack cheese, and hummus.  Unfortunately I wasn't too crazy about it.  :-(  But, I didn't expect to fall in love with every meatless dish or meat substitute that I tried!  It wasn't horrible, but wasn't great either.  I also tried the Boca American style veggie burger, and I thought it was pretty darn good!  That's saying a lot since i'm quite picky when it comes to veggie burgers. :-)

Since my birthday cookout was cancelled/postponed, I headed to World Fest with my family that day.  I knew I would be able to find multiple things to eat there since most cultures aren't really meat based, and I was pretty excited to try some new things.  I had a roasted corn on the cob (always one of my favorites!), goat cheese and crabmeat spring rolls (yummy!), some grilled plantains, and gelato!  They also had a stand with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches I would have loved to have tried with ingredients you don't normally find on a traditional grilled cheese, but my stomach is only so big! :-D

So i'm going in to week 3 of no meat, and still no regrets and no meat cravings.  It is exciting to come up with new and different meals instead of the same boring things I would typically eat before.  Before I would come home, grab something usual for dinner, and down the same, boring food as the week before.  Now I can actually look forward to something new every night.  I'm still reading books and blogs on vegetarian cooking and lifestyles.  I want to learn as much as possible, and get new ideas on how to keep my diet from getting boring and eat as healthy as possible.  So, so far so good!