On Being a Vegetarian (Again)

basket-with-applesAs I briefly mentioned in a recent Ten Thoughts Tuesday post, I am returning to my old vegetarian ways. Well, my ovo-lacto vegetarian ways. On Thanksgiving, I made a pre-cooked turkey breast. Nothing extraordinary happened but the experience of handling meat and bones in that way was almost too much for me. I have a very hard time with the fact that it was once living. *shiver*

I really don’t think eating meat is wrong, but it’s just so real. Meat comes from something that had a mother and a face! LOL (I read that a long time ago and it always makes me cringe and laugh at the same time.) I also really dislike that some animals are raised JUST to kill later. That really bothers me. :( Wrong? No, I don’t think so…but bothersome.

A Gradual Change

I was not a vegetarian until several years ago. Before that, I ate most meats and just kind of ignored what bothered me about it. When I started my journey to healthy eating (and weightloss) with Sparkpeople, though, I found that I had more of an open mind about trying new foods and healthier options (think: tofu and veggie burgers.) Ultimately, removing meat from my diet was a pretty natural thing to do.

I did not get rid of all meats right away. I dropped red meat first; I replaced ground beef with ground turkey, and started having veggie burgers in place of hamburgers. I also easily stopped having seafood. I only ever had shrimp anyway, and it was no big deal that I wasn’t having it anymore.

Next, I tried tofu and soy protein and found ways of cooking them that were to my liking. I was also drinking a whey protein drink 1-2 times a day to keep my energy levels up and support the amount of exercising I was doing.

Finally, I got rid of chicken and poultry. I really only missed it when we ate out. I love chinese food, and having just rice and vegetables instead of dishes like Mongolian Chicken was HARD. lol

Holidays were challenging. After all, most of them revolve around a meal with a meaty main dish! I got creative and found that side dishes provided more than enough to fill me. My husband and son still ate meat fairly often, but I only cooked it occasionally.

Overall, I think my success in switching over completely was largely due to the fact that I took it so slow. I allowed myself time to adjust to my new menu. There was nothing temporary about the changes I made.

Pregnancy

When I entered my pregnancy with Samuel, I had already been meatless for a few years. It was really strange to crave meat in the first trimester. I felt it was wise to give in to the craving because I was supporting the growth of a CHILD, and maybe I needed it. ;) But I remember when I clearly no longer needed it. I was just into the second trimester and was eating a hamburger from a restaurant called O’Charley’s. I was suddenly disgusted by it and couldn’t even finish my meal! I was done. No more meat. Until he born, that is.

Wow. Breastfeeding.

It is incredible to me, looking back, that I was able to grow a person for months without any meat, but as soon as I became a lactating mother again, it was ABSOLUTELY necessary that I have it!! I allowed myself to have poultry, but the idea of red meat was not cool, so I passed.

My body had such a strong need for calories, fat, protein, etc. that I actually gained weight while breastfeeding. Over the course of 25 months of nursing, I gained over 10 lbs (which I am now working on losing). I could NOT be a vegetarian while breastfeeding (some women can, by the way), which bothered me for a long time, but then I accepted it and just focused on just enjoying my little one.

Once I weaned him, I noticed changes to my appetite and energy levels right away. I wasn’t starving all the time anymore, nor was I in constant need of high-protein foods. It has felt lovely to be normal again (wow, bring on the mommy guilt! ;) )

Today

I am now having to re-learn the healthy habits I had once mastered. I am not talking about just meat-free here. I’m really referring to the MANY lifestyle changes that I had to make back in 2006, only one of which was becoming a vegetarian. I am already down to having poultry just once a week, but am slowly working on the other changes as well. I know I need to up my water, and of course the exercising needs to start…

I am excited about the things to come in 2014!! 

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14 thoughts on “On Being a Vegetarian (Again)

  1. Being an ovo-lacto-vegetarian is something I tried doing a few years back. Didn’t work out very well though because I was still living at my parents’ and my dad is something of a carnivore. It’s great that you were able to listen to your body despite the decision you took to become vegetarian. How do you manage meals in your day to day life? Are you always finding yourself needing to make two meals? I’ve been thinking of trying a vegetarian life – or, at the very least, a life without red meat and poultry (because I’d have trouble letting go of seafood and fish), but I don’t think I’d have the energy to make two meals all the time.

    • As far as the two meals, for me personally, I really don’t ever find myself having to put much if any extra effort in. Sometimes, my husband actually enjoys the meals as is, without meat, and if not, all I have to do is add something into the oven or on the stove while I’m already cooking. The sides always all stay the same for the whole meal since they’re veggies, fruits, and/or carbs, not generally meat, and if I want to make something and mix in the meat for him, it’s just as easy to cook them separate and leave the meat out of my food. :)

    • I agree with Tessa, I don’t find it hard (or usually necessary) to make more than one meal. There are so many delicious and easy vegetarian recipes, that most nights my carnivorous son and husband are fine with having meatless meals. Many italian and mexican meals have no meat and are just as filling and satisfying. :) I love beans, rice and pasta/veggies, so meat-free isn’t hard at all.
      When I do make a meal with chicken or turkey, I just make myself something different as the main part, but our sides are the same.
      I think it’s great to tailor diets to our personal preferences, and if you want to keep fish and seafood in there, do it! What does your partner like to eat?

  2. I really enjoyed this! I’ve struggled with LOVING unhealthy foods but wanting to be as healthy as possible since I actually began to take the time to watch some documentaries, learn about food and what I put into my body, listen to my mother (a naturalist and health consultant), and started noticing I don’t feel as young/energized/healthy as I get older. It’s amazing the things you can learn about the food in today’s society. It’s truly addictive–for example, there’s a chart I was viewing that shows when you eat processed or unhealthy foods (let’s say McDonald’s, Applebee’s or even some microwaveable/pre-packaged meals) the calorie, sugar, fat, cholesterol, etc. intake for your body goes off the chart and people often take in more calories, sugar, fat (that aren’t even authentic) in one meal than they should in an entire day. However, the nutrition for your body on the chart barely moves, which then triggers your body to tell you to keep eating because you’re not getting any nutrition. In turn, that causes people to continually crave and eat unhealthy food, and WAY more of it than anyone ever needs.

    I’ve mostly stopped eating pork and red meat (except on rare occasions with bison or deer), and it’s actually gotten to the point where the thought of eating them disgusts me. Eggs (very rarely), sliced turkey or fish are about the only meat I do eat. I was eating chicken as well until I got food poisoning from it a couple months ago–haven’t been able to eat it since!

    I do like to stick with the ideal that eating organic, free-range, preferably local meat on occasion is okay. I feel like when I restrict or cut myself off completely it begins to take a negative toll on me. BUT from the studies and research I’ve done, it seems obvious to me that cutting animal product completely out of your diet is the best and healthiest thing a person can do. So, what’s your body’s general first reaction when you’ve gotten to the point of no meat? Do you think it’s possible or okay to cut meat completely out of your diet aside from rare occasions maybe 3-4 times a year?

    Sorry for the overly long comment. I’ve just been very interested in talking to someone on the other side of the situation, who thinks along the same lines of being/eating healthy but haven’t come across anyone, until now!

    • Thanks for taking the time to write such a great comment!
      Isn’t it something how junk food works? It’s true – you eat way more of it and yet the satisfaction level (being full and energized) just isn’t there. :( I feel SO much better when I am eating healthy, drinking water, and (for me) being meat-free. Of course, all those things encourage me to be exercising as well because I have energy and FEEL good!
      I forgot to mention that I stopped having pork when I dropped red meat too. It was hard to quit bacon ;) but ham wasn’t.
      My body’s reaction to removing meat has always been positive (except when the exact opposite was true while breastfeeding!) which is why I’m drawn back to doing it. I love how one healthy decision leads to another.
      I am definitely think listening to your body is the most important thing. If you feel the best when having meat occasionally, or none at all ever, that’s what you should do. Some people might find that they aren’t getting enough of certain nutrients (iron, B12, etc) and need to adjust their diet and/or their supplements accordingly.
      For me, being meat-free works really well. I never had a problem with any of my bloodwork while pregnant so my midwives were fully supportive of my being a vegetarian until I delivered.
      Personal preference, ethical reasons, physical needs, and many more things contribute to how we eat, so you HAVE to do what works for you!! :)

  3. I toy with going vegetarian again sometimes too. Before my first pregnancy, I was primarily a pescetarian (basically ovo-lacto vegetarian plus fish). Then during that first trimester I craved bacon and steaks. Since then, I eat meat regularly but lately my daughter asks where bacon and hamburgers come from and looks aghast when I tell her the animal. And I almost feel ashamed telling her, but its the truth. I started thinking that if I feel slightly ashamed admitting what animal we are eating, maybe it is a sign I need to pull back again and just eat fish. The problem is,my husband will likely never go vegetarian and I don’t like the idea of making multiple meals each night. Good luck to you and thanks for the inspiration to give it a try again.

    • It’s interesting how children react to that news. I remember my daughter was completely unphased (unfazed?) because she was used to seeing animals eat other animals (lions chasing zebras, bears eating fish, etc) but *I* was bothered! :P
      My husband will never be a vegetarian either (never ever! lol) nor will our son, Joshua, BUT they both actually really like most of the meatless dinners I make! Bean burritos, cheese manicotti, and vegetarian chili are well-received. :D We all have different things for breakfast and lunch anyway, so dinner is the only time I sometimes have to make two different main dishes (our sides would be the same thing), but it’s not as hard as it sounds. I might have cheese ravioli while they have meaty spaghetti (and then we all have a vegetable and bread). I am all about keeping it simple, so I don’t do anything complicated. ;)

  4. I’ve learned you don’t mess with what people eat. Very personal.

    However, if we pick up something with a label on it–it seriously had better have ONLY simple ingredients that we have at home (or could have at home). Labels are bad. (Over exaggeration.) Whole foods. Whole foods. Whole foods. (Did I say whole foods?) And watch for food sensitivities that may shock you! (For me, it was chicken and eggs. Really?)

    Stay healthy and eat lots of nutrient dense foods!

  5. Good for you! I have been a vegetarian for 21 years now and I am proud of my achievement. My motivation is not about my health though, its my love for animals. I think a lot of people take an all or nothing approach, but really even if you eat one less hamburger it still helps. Cheers.

  6. Pingback: The Twelve Pins of Pinterest (#12) and the End of the Challenge | Atlantamomofthree

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