Becoming Veggie

IMG_4602I’ve written before of my lifelong curiosity about vegetarianism. It started when I read E.B. White’s childhood classic Charlotte’s Web. Suddenly, every pig became Wilbur. Every piece of bacon was Wilbur. Why would I want to eat Wilbur? Of course, I was a child, and ate what was put in front of me. That bacon looked nothing like Wilbur, so I could eventually dissociate it from him (even if later I couldn’t bring myself to eat the full-formed roast pig served at my friend’s Filipino wedding, or seafood that still had eyes and legs, etc.)

Over time, my awareness about American factory farming grew – dramatically so in recent years. Most of the pigs I was eating led lives so drastically unlike the farmland pleasantries described in Charlotte’s Web, that Wilbur’s life seemed downright cushy and his fate almost less depressing. My affinity towards animal protection and rights in general was growing every day. Before long, I was avoiding veal, lamb, foie gras, and lobster. I swore off circuses, Sea World, and fur (not that I’ve ever owned fur anyway.) I eliminated my hair/makeup/personal hygiene stash and replaced them with cruelty-free products, and even took a baby step against the sketchy dairy industry by consuming almond milk instead of cow’s milk. The natural next step was to at least reduce my dependence on meat. Continue reading

American Bloat

While I was in France, I ate whatever I wanted. French food is heavy on all the currently “taboo” food groups in this country (depending on who you’re talking to these days), to include dairy, grains, meat, fats, and everything in between. And I have to tell ya – my digestive system never felt better while I was over there!

I returned to the U.S., and while I surely love American food in all its glory, I am back to being bloated, irregular, and less energized. It’s not because I eat bread… or because cheese is wrecking my digestive system…or because I enjoy red meat. I ate all those things in Europe. I know this is no secret, but it really is the fact that food in this country is SO overly processed. Even the packaged foods in Europe had smaller lists of ingredients, most of which I could actually pronounce. Everything is fresh and mostly local there. I ate raw eggs and beef for crying out loud (and lived to tell the tale.)

I’m not one to judge the U.S. based on what other countries are doing. I’ve never thought it’s a fair comparison – we are so much bigger and more diverse than most European countries. However, I do wish we could take at least SOMEWHAT of a hint from their dietary practices. Natural ingredients. A reduced reliance on corn. Cleaner, more humane livestock care. And perhaps the elimination of preservatives, dyes, and other miscellaneous ingredients that are banned everywhere else in the developed world except here! Of course, Americans could take a little personal responsibility and work on portion control, too…

I hate to be that Northern Virginia snobby white girl, and I probably won’t have this opportunity on a military base in Okinawa, but I may have to start shopping organic (it’s a start!)

Proof that I don’t solely eat Mac n’ Cheese and cupcakes for #dinner. #salmon #broccoli #healthy #nutrition #latergram #thishappensmoreoftenthanyouwouldthink (at Somewhere In Georgia)

The Vegan Plunge

It seems that every day I see a new Facebook status update surprising me with friends taking the plunge and going vegan. I am further surprised, after a little digging, to find how many people I know are vegan already, or close to it. It appears to be a rising trend – or maybe it was popular already, and I just didn’t notice.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of avoiding animal products. This started after reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, when I pored over each page desperate to ensure that no one would eat Wilber. I’ve never liked the fact that I eat animals. I know it’s a natural part of the food chain, but I love animals. I’m one of those annoying people who borderline likes animals more than people. Why would I want to kill them and eat them?

Because they taste so damn good, that’s why. Not only that, but I’ve always been one of those “lucky” individuals who struggles to keep weight on. Without my hearty, often meat-based dinners, you would probably be able to count my every rib (you can still see more of them than I’d like.) Since weight loss is a big motivator for many who decide to go vegan, that is actually one strike against it for me.

That being said, I read the blogs my friends write, and I’m fascinated by their assertions that they not only look but feel better/more energized than they ever have in their entire lives. I’m not sure how this is the case, because many vegans/vegetarians I see in the media (and knew in high school) seemed frail and sickly to me – almost ascetic in their effort to deny themselves the most commonplace foods.

Of course it’s true that animal products have a lot of bad stuff in them, especially the way they are produced these days… but they also have a lot of really good stuff that we need to survive and be strong. I can often feel my body crave the iron and protein I get out of red meat… and of course, I don’t have the willpower to deny myself the savory bliss of a thick, juicy steak. Not to mention that I am obsessed with cheese -which I consider one of my primary food groups – and unfortunately appears to be one of the first things to go in vegan diets.

I’m sure it’s true that other foods have similar nutrients, but it just doesn’t seem the same, and would require a lot more control and monitoring to make sure I get enough of what I need. I imagine it kind of like taking vitamins. They suffice and get the job done, but it’s still better to actually eat your fruits and veggies, and get your nutrients straight from the God-given, Earth-grown source.

Still – I like the idea of cleansing my body, and being good to it. One of my vegan acquaintances has a blog that does very well in spinning it that way. I guess what I am trying to say is, given my desire to treat my body well – in addition to my antipathy to the mass slaughter of cute animals for my dietary satisfaction – I am curious about it, and will maintain an open mind as I follow my friends’ blogs and observe their progress. Maybe I will even try a vegan recipe or two. Who knows – I may really like the alternatives!