You’d be surprised the gripe I get for being a vegetarian. When I first announced to my parents of my decision to go no-meat at age thirteen, my father was “genuinely concerned” because he knew someone who ended up in the hospital for it. (Don’t ask me how.) I’ve been hounded for reasons political, physiological, psychological, and radical. Even twelve years later I have people go as far as to say it is against the commandments of God to not eat meat (as they shove a third piece of pie in their mouths at the Church picnic, “See, it’s right here in the Bible!”). When I became pregnant, I admit I even second-guessed myself. Could I still get enough protein and iron to sustain the growth of another human life inside me?
The answer panned out beautifully. I had a textbook healthy pregnancy, gaining a grand total of 21 pounds by term, and giving birth all naturally to an 8 lbs. 13 oz. gorgeous baby boy. The nurses called me “the A+ patient.” In a matter of a week, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and pushing the jogging stroller three miles every morning. And I remained perfectly vegetarian the whole time.
The fact of the matter is I did begin vegetarianism because I hit puberty and thought I was too fat to be the supermodel I foolishly hoped to become. But the years of sticking to it and educating myself on the latest nutrition science have paid off so much more than my shallow mind initially thought. Vegetarianism introduced me to yoga, which has revolutionized my views of wellbeing. Eating as many fruits and vegetables as I want not only prevents me from ever feeling hungry. It also keeps me vitalized, even if I feel like scarfing a pint of Ben&Jerry’s after a seven mile run. I call it “breaking even.”
It’s good genes, you say? My father is borderline diabetic, my mother is obese, and my family has a history of colon cancer. If you’re not crazy about my personal feelings, ask someone else. My girlfriends in college were envious of my cellulite-free thighs. My clients thought I had a basketball under my shirt when I was pregnant. My neighbors drop their jaws at how fast I thinned out postnatal. And I never feel like I deprive myself of anything. That’s a lot coming from a girl who grew up in Wisconsin and could polish off whole slabs of ribs at age eight. I figure I consumed enough meat back then to last me a lifetime.
However I don’t believe vegetarianism is for everyone. My husband, for instance, doesn’t experience the same boost of energy and satiety I do when eating light and often. He can’t stand how carbs bog him down and craves a heavier load of protein. Men do, I suppose. But then there’s my mother, a born and raised Johnsonville Brat-lover who would rather walk from Hobbiton to Rivendell then give up her kielbasa. My point is that one’s personal preference for food is as important a reason to eat certain things as the healthy motives behind it. If you don’t enjoy what you eat, you won’t sustain any results from dieting.
So while I can certainly vouch for vegetarianism myself, I implore you to find your own balance of nutrition. Do not buy into fad diets. Do not motivate by negativity. Educate yourself with science, not celebrity endorsements. And remember that nothing will make you happier or healthier than your own personal commitment to being happy and healthy!