Lessons From a Newbie Vegetarian

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Two weeks ago I wrote about my experience as a vegetarian for one week and said that I had a post about the lessons I learned on the way. Well, it’s a little bit late- but better late than never, right?!

As of today, I’ve cut meat out of my diet drastically. It was never part of my plan, to be honest, but right now I’m much happier this way! I eat fish once or twice a week & I’ve had chicken twice since January 15th. I tried beef last week and that didn’t go so well with my stomach, so for right now I’m not including it in my eating habits.

In my three weeks of vegetarianism and semi-vegetarianism I’ve learned a TON of things that I thought I’d share for people who are thinking about trying it out but aren’t sure if it’s their thing. I’d like to just say that I didn’t think it would be my thing, either (AT ALL) but I’m all about trying new lifestyles and habits, and I surprise myself all the time with what I do end up loving!

Lesson Number One


Via the web

Since going vegetarian, I’ve tried to order all-vegetarian meals when I go out for dinner or when I’m out and want to grab a bite to eat. I had NO idea how difficult this part would be until I was in my week of no meat whatsoever. I went to a restaurant with some friends that is famous for their ribs (I mean, I realize as a vegetarian this isn’t the best choice, but vegetarians have meat-eating friends who like going to nice restaurants, right?) I couldn’t believe when I opened my menu that I had only TWO choices.

My first choice was a pasta dish, and I wasn’t even in the mood for pasta. My second was a vegetable sandwich but it was pre-dressed in balsamic vinegar, which is basically my least favorite thing to eat on this entire planet. Obviously I ate the pasta but I don’t think I’ve disliked a plate of food more when I went out to eat. Had I been eating like all of my friends, it would have been the LAST thing on the menu I would have chosen. 

I’ve run into this problem many times since that first occasion. I went to a Tim Horton’s last week for a quick bite to eat while I waited in line for a concert and was surprised to see that I had no options whatsoever. I was stuck in line in a tiny cramped room and didn’t want to order egg salad. I realize that Tim Horton’s isn’t a place that’s known for having a wide selection of meals, but imagine if they offered even ONE extra vegetarian option, they’d be offering an entire category of people something worth stopping in for. I ended up ordering a chicken wrap hoping it would be loaded with tomato and salad and whatnot, but it was literally about 8 strips of chicken and one thin strip of lettuce. My satisfaction was WAY BELOW average, and this is coming from someone who goes to Tim Horton’s about 4 times a week for various other items on their menu.

Vegetarians, have you ever run into this problem while you’re at a restaurant with friends? I think that whether the place you’re at is better known for a meat dish or not, they should still offer a few non-meat selections. Just because I’m a vegetarian does NOT mean all my friends are too!

Lesson Number Two


Fresh salad made by me & my sister-in-law

Since I’m still completely new at this, I have no idea how to go about telling all my friends and family that I don’t really eat meat anymore- especially red meat. At the end of my very first week of full vegetarianism, I went to a family function and only realized the DAY OF (since I was a newbie and all) that I probably wouldn’t be able to eat anything they were going to be serving. I’m not very close to these particular people and I didn’t want to call them up hours before heading over to let them know that a) I probably couldn’t eat their food or b) offend them and bring my own… So I just sucked it up and ate a small piece of chicken and made up for it by not eating meat for a few days after that.

All this to say, it is REALLY difficult as a vegetarian to feel like you’re not inconveniencing someone. I mean, who wants to be the person who goes to a friends’ house and tells them they can’t eat most of what they made for you? It’s kind of awkward and embarrassing, or maybe that’s just me. I mean, I don’t see why I should compromise my personal eating habits just to make someone else happy, but then again I don’t want to be that person who’s heating my own personal food in a friends’ microwave. 

I’m an incredibly introverted person when it comes to speaking my mind about things like this. If it was a really good friend I’m sure they’d understand, and I know that if someone came to my house and told ME they couldn’t eat my food I wouldn’t be offended- but is that just because I understand their point of view?

How do you go out in public with an entirely different eating habit from everyone else with offending anyone? I still haven’t grasped what is considered *polite* in the vegetarian world to tell people when you can’t eat what they’ve made for you. Any tips or tricks out there?

Lesson Number Three


Vegetarian Chili, made by me & my SIL! (and still cooking in a crock pot) 

Ever since becoming a more goal oriented person, I’ve never been very vocal about them to friends and family. I mean, I write about them all the time but it always felt weirder to talk about it in real life. This year I really wanted to change that, so I’m making a conscious effort to BE VOCAL about my goals.

I think this was one of the most important things for becoming a vegetarian, but I’m obviously still learning from this one. Most of my close family and friends know that I’m a vegetarian & my Project 365 on Facebook has allowed anyone who looks at the pictures to know about it too. I feel like this has helped me keep up my new lifestyle a LOT- I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who ask me how it’s going, how I feel, how long I’ve been doing it, and basically just encouraging me along the way. 

I love feeling like I’m not in it alone and I can get tips from people around me. My sister-in-law has helped me enormously by cooking with me and my friends have been really supportive about it too. If I was doing this thing alone I’m not sure I would have necessarily kept going- it’s nice to know that your efforts don’t go unnoticed! 

Lesson Number Four

As the days go by, I’ve realized how important it is to do this type of thing for ME- no one else. I’ve had so many people ask me if I’m dating someone or question the motives I have behind going vegetarian and eating healthier… The answer is quite simple. I’m doing it for myself. I want to feel better, eat better and not feel guilty when I go to sleep about the kinds of food I eat. I’m not doing it because of a number on the scale or because I don’t like the way I look. 

I’m growing up and realizing that I just want to do things for myself to be happy. I want to be happy for ME, not because I’m dating someone or because I’m necessarily looking to. If those things come along because I’m taking better care of myself? Great! But the more I cut things out of my diet, the more I realize it’s important to continue to make myself happy. 

That’s also why if I’m craving something in particular (like chicken soup, for example) then I eat it. I’m not going to deny myself something for no reason at all, I just don’t want to overdo it. I’m learning to eat for my own personal happiness, and right now that includes a diet with a LOT less meat. 

—–

I was never expecting to learn things from becoming a vegetarian, but I think that with any lifestyle change these things just naturally happen. I’m by NO means a pro at cutting something out of my diet, it’s still something I’m working to improve in my OWN life. But honestly? I 100% recommend that you give it a try. If you don’t want to try cutting meat out of your diet, try something else! But don’t forget that you make your own rules and you create your own happiness in the situation. Do it for YOU and see if you notice any changes in yourself along the way! 

If you’re a vegetarian, what are important lessons you’ve learned along the way? If you’re not, have you ever cut something big out of your diet? Why? 

 

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5 responses »

  1. I think it’s amazing what you’ve learned through your trial phase of vegetarianism… I also don’t think you need to apologize to other people about something that obviously is your choice and makes you feel good. I understand that sometimes restaurants and hosts don’t consider vegetarians (or let alone vegans!) when they prepare their menus/meals, and though it might be uncomfortable sometimes to let people know that you made a conscious decision to exclude meat from your diet (right now at least), it’s nothing to be apologetic about… in fact, more people should be understanding, because I think there are a lot of vegetarians out there these days.

    While I am not a vegetarian (due to an iron deficiency, I was actually advised by my doctor to include meat in my diet!), I am perfectly happy with eating vegetarian options. I don’t “need’ meat, although I do enjoy a good piece of meat every now and then. I try to cook vegetarian at least two nights a week and then we also have fish regularly.

  2. I haven’t had too many problems eating at restaurants over the last few years. Most places have a vegetarian item or a two or three on their menu and if they don’t I will just order something without meat! Last weekend Eric and I went for brunch and I ordered the southwest burrito without ham and it was no problem!

    As for telling people, I just kind of said “I don’t eat meat anymore” and I just didn’t eat it. My reasons for stopping eating meat were more moral/ethical though so literally the idea of sucking it up and having some meat makes me feel kind of sick. I can’t even imagine eating any meat now and it’s been almost two years since I last had any poultry, beef or pork! I still eat seafood though.

    Good luck! Just stick to your guns with things like this. People will learn to accept it eventually, and if they don’t (like some of my family) oh well, too bad for them!

  3. I was vegetarian for seven years, and so much of this is familiar! I ended up following a rule of my own, which was that I chose not to eat meat at home or at a restaurant. But if I was a guest in someone’s home and they served meat, I would eat it so-as not to impose my philosophies on them. That worked… until I spent time in Italy, and the “eat meat if served to you as a guest” meant I was eating it every day!

  4. This is a great post! I was actually a vegetarian eons ago and I’ve wanted to go back. I think it just ushers in a healthier way of eating. But it’s the cheeseburger. The cheeseburger is my downfall. lol I can be a vegetarian if I can just have a big juicy burger once a month.

  5. I can relate to all of your experiences! It can be hard eating out as a vegetarian, but remember you can always order something on the menu and just request that the meat be left off. Ethnic restaurants are usually easier to find veggie options in (Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Greek, etc.) It’s the “American” places that revolve almost completely around meat dishes. Although this can be a tough thing to adjust to it just means you won’t be eating out as often as your meat-eating friends, which can I just point out is probably better for your health anyways.

    Don’t ever feel like you are inconveniencing others by choosing a cruelty-free diet. Once you’ve told your friends and family about your decision, they will learn to accept it. You have nothing to feel guilty about!

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