Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why I'm Not Eating Meat

Alternate title: You Don't Know Me

I've been a vegetarian for (officially) three and a half weeks, or more specifically 24 days (unofficially and unintentionally for five and a half). Lacto-ovo to be specific. It's a personal decision that I will get to momentarily but I'd just like to take a minute, just sit right there (I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called "Bel-Aire") while I gripe a just little. I don't want to be one of those big-time complainers, so I'll try hard to dress this irritation in a comical drape because I fully understand that none of this is even remotely important in the grandest of schemes.

A lot of people think they know why and--interestingly, they all have a different idea. The following are not reasons why I have chosen the way of meat-free living:

Meat is unhealthy: On the contrary, it's common knowledge that meat is the easiest (and arguably the most delicious) method of obtaining the protein that you need to maintain a balanced diet. Conversely, there are many ways to prepare a vegetable that will deem it completely unusable by the human body. I mean, we've all been to the state fair, have we not?
In fact, I can attest to the fact that it's very difficult to maintain the same kinds of protein levels that you get when you're ingesting turkey sandwiches on a regular basis. Suddenly everyone lets me know when they go without eating meat--like I secretly expect everyone to make the same choices as me--and they always append the statement with, "and I feel so good!" To which, mentally of course, I respond with, "Are you kidding me? I can't hardly think straight and I'm not sure, could be that my glasses need a good cleaning, but I'm probably going blind." But, hey, if skipping bacon gives you happy feelings, feel free to explore those feelings.

Meat is murder: I think that animal-based protein substances are completely legitimate food sources. I would think that if God cared what we had for lunch, he'd probably say to eat the damn chicken, that's what it's there for.

Meat is icky: At my job you see a whole lot of ick in the realm of meat (when you slice it for a living, you see and smell all sorts of things), it's true. But I'll admit to you that my most disgusting food moment involved a box of rotten lemons. Everything is icky given the right time and environmental conditions.

Lent: Nope.

When I lived in South Dakota, Jamie and/ or I went to the Farmer's Market pretty much every week. We stuck to things like potatoes and honey and flowers and a few of the farmers I got to know, if not by name then at least by face. There's something that makes you feel one with the universe when munching on a kolorabi that came from someone that you had a short relationship with. Anyway, that really prompted a personal food revolution in me that got me excited about eating local and clean sorts of foods. You know, always fresh over frozen (and frozen over canned). Eating whole grains and leafy greens and seeing the change in the way that my body reacts to the foods that it's being treated with. Eating locally is really hard when you live in a small community, though. You'd think it'd be easier considering the vast amounts of farm land but I'm pretty sure that McDonalds has dibs on most everything that comes out of the ground. But spring time is just around the corner and with that, hometown farmers dying to share their peas and potatoes with me.

It was the weekly walk to the farmer's market (with the combination of vast doses of Anne Lammott) that made me very aware of my body. I'd feel my legs moving beneath me, carrying my torso and brains to this place where I'd be faced with beautiful things and the opportunity to take those beautiful things home with me to eat so that I could do it all again next week. It's simple, but man it was exciting to me.

Fast forward to about six weeks ago when my brand new co-worker (now, official Facebook friend) Lorenzo asked if I was a vegetarian (I naturally gravitate towards veggie-heavy sandwiches) and I responded with, "Well, not on purpose." Being very into personal challenges at the moment, I decided that I'd see if going veggie would be as easy as I always thought it would. I used the Lenten season as my official start-stop time (though this can, in no way be described as a religious-based fast) because I knew that I'd need a set stop date or else I'd end my experiment after a few whole day or crumble once the PMS set in (which, I lived through with only minor bumps and scratches and maybe half of a Shamrock Shake. Also, one time in Wichita, Arryn and I stopped at Spangles. Don't judge me.).

I do feel good, though. Most days. Getting protein in other places has been a serious challenge and there is an obvious difference in my mood, energy and vision. But instead of going the easy route and just eating the damn chicken, I have been doing research. This is where I discovered all sorts of new foods and sources of protein. My most recent favorite being Quinoa.

Why am I a vegetarian? It started out as a personal challenge and has morphed into an awareness of the effect that my food has on my body. I have no political, spiritual, personal, ethical, or moral qualms about eating meat. I've still got a lot of it in my freezer. A lot of my best friends are omnivores.

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