The Accidental Vegetarian?

I am reluctant to give myself the label vegetarian. I feel like doing so will only set me up for hypocrisy. However, it’s looking more and more like vegetarianism is in my future. It began this summer, when in my hot yoga frenzy I decided to cut back my meat consumption and eat more cleanly. Inspired by films like Forks Over KnivesFat Sick and Nearly Dead, and Food Inc., I knew something in my diet was off, so Alex and I agreed we would eat less meat and make sure all the meat we ate was sourced, (grass-fed, free-range, etc.).

What I did not expect is that it would not be so easy to alternate between eating meat and not eating meat. While the beginning of summer was virtually meat-free, my weeks of travel were not, leaving me sick when I returned to my first hot yoga class, (yes, I know there may have been other factors at play, but I feel diet was a big piece of it). After feeling run over in my post-vacation meat-eating hangover, I decided to return to limited meat consumption.

To my surprise, I found myself not even wanting to buy meat at the grocery store, even when tempted by high-quality choices at Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Market. Instead, just the thought of it was suddenly repulsive. I did not begin this whole experiment feeling the least bit disgusted by meat. It was more about health and the way eating meat makes me physically feel. However, the final straw was this weekend, when Alex and I ate at the Rutherford Grill in Wine Country and I could not even eat a quarter of his sourced cheeseburger. It lost all appeal.

So, here I am, a former meat-eater standing at a crossroads. I still don’t want to call myself a vegetarian because I think it’s possible I’ll still eat meat sometimes. However, the thought of eating any mammal now grosses me out and I’m finding it relatively easy to choose food that is satisfying without meat. Just strange, because I never set out to be a vegetarian, I just set out to eat less meat. For now, I guess I’ll leave myself without labels, but we’ll see where I end up.

If you’ve stopped eating meat, what was your motivation? Do you feel healthier? Happier?

I’m discovering vegetarian options to be surprisingly delicious and more energizing than meat alternatives, (Sol Food Puerto Rican in San Rafael).

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11 thoughts on “The Accidental Vegetarian?

  1. Kitt Crescendo says:

    Tasty!

  2. Melinda says:

    I’ll try to keep this response short, but I’m definitely a weird case. I became vegetarian deliberately about 3 years ago, although it didn’t happen all at once (there was some “cheating” at the beginning). Since becoming pregnant, I have the occasional (I’d say once a week or less) craving for meat, which I satisfy largely with ethically-sourced burgers and chicken.

    After going vegetarian, I felt better. Lighter, healthier, more energy. And the options (at least in this area, and yes, I know we are lucky) were just as satisfying and delicious. That’s not to say there weren’t struggles, but mostly, these centered on memory. The aroma of sizzling meats on the grill during the summer, bacon on the side of my honey’s plate in a diner, and embarrassingly, even greasy hot dogs in the ballpark made me want to give in. But I didn’t and the craving would pass and I would still get something yummy to eat.

    Furthermore, I can definitely support your observation that it goes along with other lifestyle changes, forming a positive chain reaction. Mine started with food, but then expanded to yoga, biking, less overly-indulgent drinking (haha it’s progress I swear!) and so on. After putting so much energy into improving one aspect of your health, it starts to seem self-defeating to go ahead and counteract that with something negative.

    Now that I’m revisiting the occasional piece of meat with my meal, I realized that it’s a lot like alcohol. As in, you can overdo it. If I eat a whole Barney’s burger, for example, I felt terrible afterward. Heavy, headache-y, slow, lazy. But I’m trying to respect my body’s need for protein as well (I really think it’s the iron). So I eat half a burger and I feel pretty good afterward. As good as if I didn’t eat any burgers at all? Maybe not, but something primal also feels more satisfied. Could I be a pregnant vegetarian? Absolutely and I’m sure my baby would be just fine either way, but for now, I’m working on hitting a balance, listening to my body, and keeping my energy levels high for other important things (like nursery decorating, hanging out with friends, and walking my dog).

    And a final observation, a lot of those things I would crave when I was first starting out as a vegetarian – bacon, hot dogs, etc. – I’ve tried again recently. It might be just me, but they don’t taste as good as I remember. For this reason, among many others, I’m pretty sure I’m going back to full-veg after pregnancy.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Melinda, that is all so interesting! I definitely relate to looking forward to certain things, like a cheeseburger, and then finding them a little disappointing after not eating meat for awhile. I remember you beginning to be a vegetarian back when we still worked together, that’s awesome you’ve mostly kept it up! I understand your decision to eat meat while pregnant, I think it’s important to listen to your body and what sounds good/feels good. That’s part of the reason I’m reluctant to fully embrace the title because I am sure there will be times when I want meat again. It’s just weird not to want it at all right now! I have a friend who actually told me the first thing she wanted after her home birth was bacon… So, I think it might be a very natural desire 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience, it makes me feel less alone in my strange journey away from foods I always loved!

  3. Several years ago I was diagnosed with some food allergies..one of them being beef. (The others were milk, wheat, and whey) Well, when you take those foods away, that leaves very little to eat other than fruits and vegetables and chicken. This is when I “grew up” and started liking adult food and flavors. Spicy food – The hotter, the better! Avocados! Pineapple! Spinach! Sweet Potatoes! I am now able to eat small amounts of all of these but beef is the one thing I stay away from. It hurts my stomach something awful. I will take a bite of steak if my boyfriend orders it and that is plenty. We only eat ground turkey around here – turkey meatballs, turkey burgers, turkey tacos…my kids don’t like beef because of it. Honestly, if you feel better not eating something…don’t!! I have to make choices all the time with dairy and wheat products – sometimes it is worth it – but it has to be something mighty delicious. For example, I would never eat Ego waffles but if Jay makes me homemade blueberry waffles for breakfast…I am all over that!

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Wow! That is a lot to need to cut back/out! I know what you’re saying about listening to your body, I think that’s what I will use as my guide instead of trying to label myself entirely vegetarian. I’d have a hard time giving up homemade waffles too 🙂 And, how interesting that your kids don’t like beef because they don’t eat it… I feel like that is what is beginning to happen to me, so strange. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      • allaccesspass says:

        My kids “missed out” on alot of dishes when they were little and are now picky eaters. It was tough because I was always eating salad or soup or something and I had to give them something more….so I made foods THEY liked. Advice: When you have kids someday…don’t make them special meals!!

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Advice stored/taken 🙂 I’m always impressed by people whose children like exotic foods, like thai or spicy anything. I was definitely not one of those kids, but I also was never really introduced to those foods at a young age.

  4. Tanya says:

    A) how did you like Sol food?!? I still need to go!

    B) I totally know what you mean about not desiring meat anymore. I sort of fell into being a pescatarian because I realized I barely ate meat anyway so I made it official. It’s been almost a year and I still have the occasional in n out craving, but it passes quickly. I honestly am not aware of how it has physically effected me..I can’t feel it on a conscious level, at least, but I’m happy that I made the switch :).

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Sol Food was amazing, GO! 🙂 The veggie plate was tasty and left me feeling healthy instead of that gross, just ate out feeling. And, you’ve been one of my role models in not eating mammals! Weird how much easier it is than it seems! 🙂

  5. I was an “accidental vegetarian” for about 6 months my senior year of college — mostly as a result of being too cheap to buy meat, and not knowing how to buy a lot without most of it going bad.

    I still have vegetarian tendencies (meatless at least half the week), though I do eat a fair amount of chicken. When I started a weight-loss slash get-healthy kick after college, I began focusing on including more fiber in my diet…As it turns out, fiber-rich foods, such as beans and ‘trendy’ grains like quinoa also tend to have a lot of protein in them, making them great meat substitutes. Plus, they’re cheaper 🙂

    My boyfriend *is* extremely carnivorous, though, and I enjoy cooking for him or sharing a good steak or burger with him from time to time.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I relate to all of the above! I actually never bought meat to cook in college– I was too afraid I’d somehow mess it up and end up sick! And, I get wanting to share meals with your man. It has just been an odd side effect that I’ve stopped wanting it for the time being! Love your meatless Monday recipe ideas btw 🙂

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