The naked truth about vegetarians and what not eating meat is all about.
By Rebecca Phaneuf-Thibault
Someone once said “you are what you eat”. In our fast paced, fast food, weight loss craved, trendy diet bombarded society I feel like that saying takes a whole new meaning. If you buy into the in-at-the-moment weight-loss diet, if you just want to be healthy, if you’re the fast food type, if you’re the “I only drink Starbucks” one, it all says something to the people around you about who you are. So let me introduce myself:
“Hi, I’m Rebecca, vegetarian, nice to met you!” Just by saying that you automatically have an idea of what kind of person I am, or at least that’s what you think!
One thing I’ve realized since converting to vegetarianism, a few month back, is that people aren’t well informed about the phenomenon at all. They refer mostly to stereotypical judgments and myths when confronted about the subject. Misinformation usually leads to misjudgments, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to put a little more information out there on the actual reasons people convert to vegetarianism and the benefits gained from such a choice.
Seven months ago, I met a group of students through friends of mine with whom I immediately clicked. These kids didn’t incorporate meat, fish, dairy, or eggs into their eating habits. Spending a lot of time with them, I started being more and more exposed to this “new” diet that I had never thought I would one day consider taking up. My idea of vegetarianism at that point was a blurry one, I didn’t actually have a strong opinion on it, but it did have a slightly negative connotation in my mind. I associated it with scrawny-looking-activist-hippies that were going to be disgusted if I ate meat in front of them and judge me as a bad person if I did.
However, after actually meeting and spending time with more vegetarians, I realized it was a life choice like any other, that it doesn’t define you as a person. Also, that in general vegetarians are opened, engaged, interesting people and they won’t judge you if you decide not to adopt their lifestyle.
Before meeting vegetarians, I had always considered myself a healthy person. Eating fruits and veggies, drinking water, keeping away as much as possible from sugars and fats, basically following what my mom had been telling me since I’ve been old enough to remember. But these vegetarians, introduced me to so many different delicious foods that I never would have thought of on my own that left me more satisfied and energized than anything else I was eating on a regular basis!
Slowly I started making those same recipes on my own, buying soy products instead of dairy ones, reducing my meat intake, getting my protein from alternative (non-meat) sources, etc. I felt immediate benefits! My face cleared up of any sort of blemishes, my body toned, I felt more energized, my sleeping patterns were more regular, my nails became harder, my hair shinier, my eyes brighter, I experienced less headaches and almost no PMS related pains. You heard me! NO CRAMPS! I couldn’t believe how much the foods I chose to eat had a dramatic impact on my life!
Moreover, I’m not the only one who’s experienced the joys of vegetarianism, Ella Hamburger, a 19-year- old student at NYU that has now been a vegetarian for four years said, “I feel so much healthier this way! My periods are more regular, I lost weight when I first converted and maintained it afterwards! I eat a wider variety of foods than when I used to eat meat and, since I started living on my own, the cost factor is definitely a plus! Eating vegetarian is much cheaper!”
Experiencing all these benefits triggered my curiosity and that’s when I started getting more informed on vegetarianism.
What I learned was enough to convince me to go even further down the road I was already slowly assessing. It’s only post-reading and research that I really started considering myself as a vegetarian.
It’s usually once you start getting more informed that you consider switching to such a diet, rare are the ones that even as kids adopt vegetarianism. Jillian Ward a third semester liberal arts student has been a vegetarian since the age of 14 “ I first started to be a vegetarian because I felt bad for the animals and the way they were treated but now it’s mostly because I see it as a way of doing my share for the environment. Like using your bike or public transport instead of the car to get around, it’s easy and makes a big difference,” she said.
The one and only thing I’d tell someone that’s interested in a plant-based diet is to GET INFORMED! I can’t stress it enough! A vegetarian diet can be really healthy but you have to learn to do it properly! Angelique Bogdanos, a third semester student in journalism at Concordia said that when she first started being a vegetarian, she didn’t pay enough attention to making sure she was getting all her nutriments and was having a lot of trouble keeping her energy level up, which is a common problem when you improvise yourself as a vegetarian. Her mom got concerned and bought her books so she could learn more about nutrition, “it was incredible all I learned and how much being knowledgeable about what I eat improved my quality of life.”
There are many ways to get informed. The web, nutrition books, cookbooks, nutritionists, and your doctor are all valuable sources that could really make a difference between a successful conversion to vegetarianism and a failed attempt!
Aside from the health benefits that come with such a diet, I also gain a better environmental conscience. Eating vegetarian is a great way to do your share to save the earth! Did you know that 1 300 000 000 human beings could be fed with the soybeans and grains fed to the livestock in the United-States? According to the United Nations, the meat industry is one of the largest causes for environmental degradation worldwide by contributing to deforestation, air and water pollution, overuse of oil and water, and loss of biodiversity. In 2006 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that the meat industry caused 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This was revised in 2009 by two World Bank scientists who them estimate a minimum of 51%!
Some other benefits of a vegetarian diet lie in disease prevention. Vegetarians have lower cholesterol, lower risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and risk of hypertension.
Now, I’m not telling you all of this to pressure you into waking up tomorrow morning and throw all the meat out of your house, live off beans, veggies, and tofu, and have you blame it all on me… Although you could…
My objective is to expose as many people as possible to the vegetarian phenomenon and its benefits that we all, as human beings, could benefit from.
Hi, my name’s Rebecca, and I’m a vegetarian. Do you still picture the same thing?