This week’s listmaker: Becky Honeywell. Becky works in development and communications at the Indianapolis office of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
I’ve been a vegetarian for over 16 years now, and I’m glad I am. I’m proud of it, actually. There was a time when I was almost afraid to tell most people because they thought I was strange, or just going through a phase. I was labeled a “tree hugger,” a “peace, love, and granola” girl. Which wasn’t true. Well–sort of not true. I am kind of a peace, love, and granola girl, but it has nothing to do with whether or not I eat meat.
The reason I became a vegetarian is not that deep or profound. The truth is, I had just ended a long-distance relationship that had gone on for way too long. I was emotionally drained and about 15 pounds overweight. And trust me, I was eating lots of cheeseburgers. And fries. And beer. And I felt terrible.
So…I decided to quit. I traded in my cheeseburgers for grilled chicken. I bought a pair of running shoes. I began training for a half marathon. And every day I got up to run, I imagined running right over that old boyfriend. I began to care about what I put in my body as the pounds – and heartbreak – started to disappear. I felt so much better. I started to read about the food I was eating, about how our food gets to market. I was sickened and outraged. So I gave meat up completely and never looked back. I still eat eggs (sparingly) and cheese. I’m what they call a lacto-ovo vegetarian: I still consume dairy. I’ve been thinking about that too, but that’s another story for another time.
Honestly, it’s great to be a vegetarian. And if you’re curious, here are some of my favorite things about not eating anything that once had a face:
1. You get the best meals when you’re flying, and even when you attend those countless fundraising chicken dinners. (I’m in fundraising, so I attend more than most.) I promise: request a vegetarian meal and yours will be fresher, tastier, and infinitely more satisfying. People sitting next to you–on the plane or your fancy 10-top–will be jealous.
2. It’s an instant conversation starter. People notice you’re not eating meat in the same way they notice if you’re not having a glass of wine when there’s a bottle on the table. They want to know how you could possibly go without eating meat for any length of time and they declare they could never do it. I explain that it really is easy, especially when you’re aware of where your food comes from. And there’s a plethora of food options for every meal. Finding them is easy. Try this website: www.vegetariantimes.com. Or buy a cookbook. My husband’s favorite is Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Kind of like that cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking, without the meat.
3. I give people the perception I ‘m the picture of good health – dedicated and disciplined. And eating a vegetarian diet is healthy. Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lesser risk of heart problems. It’s even been proven that you’ll live longer. Vegetarians live about seven years longer, and vegans (who eat no animal products) about 15 years longer than meat eaters, according to a study from Loma Linda University. And everyone’s concern about not getting enough protein? You can, you do, and it’s just a matter of planning. And you have to plan a meal no matter what you’re eating right? Oh, that perception of health I mentioned? The truth is, I still love a good glass (or two) of wine, cookies and cupcakes are two of my favorite things, and I’ve been know to eat an entire (vegetable) pizza in one sitting. I’m a vegetarian. I’m not stupid!
4. I’m helping save the planet. Industrial agriculture pollutes our water and our air. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) dump huge amounts of manure into our local rivers and streams. These industrial farms utilize huge amounts of fossil fuels, pesticides, and chemicals–all of which find their way back the air we breathe and the food we eat. Eating a vegetarian diet is kinder and gentler on the planet.
5. Last but not in any way least, I’m not eating my animal friends. I love cows and pigs and chickens, but I have no desire to eat them. Saving a turkey every Thanksgiving makes me happy. The truth is, I understand the circle of life; I’m very aware of the food chain. But over 80 percent of the meat you buy at most grocery stores is a product of industrial farming Besides polluting our enviroment, industrial farms and CAFOs cause unconscionable pain and suffering to our farm animals. If you’re interested in reading a balanced, honest, sometimes even funny account of one man’s discovery of what he called “the worst case of animal abuse in our country’s history,” read Jonathon Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals. I can honestly say it changed my life.
I encourage you to think about where your food comes from. If you care about the environment, if you care about animals, and/or if you care about what you put in your body, you might want to check out vegetarianism, or maybe just eating less meat. Or meat that comes from farms where animals get to roam, eat grass, and live natural lives.
Really, it’s such a hoot when you tell people you’re a vegetarian and they ask, “So…you don’t eat chicken, either?”
No. I don’t eat chicken, either.
Cow photo by Bene16 (Self-published work by Bene16) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.