A New Years Resolution
My decision to go vegetarian was facilitated by a naive understanding of the potential benefits. I’d witnessed countless friends turn vegetarian and exclaim the astounding results:
“I feel better every day. I have super powers.”
They’d laugh joyously atop their moral high-ground. It seemed like a pleasant enough affair, thus with minimal research and maximum enthusiasm i dove head first in to the land of oat milk and honey.
I proclaimed my love for all things vegetable, told my loved ones that meat was strictly off the table and started building my superiority complex. I constructed a castle made from Quorn nuggets held together with hummus as cement and declared myself the king of vegetables.
This was the new me. Making it a New Years Resolution set it in stone. Aside from the obvious satire i was genuinely excited to see what benefits i would see in the coming months.
If you live in today’s world and you have a working set of ears and eyes then you’ll be expressly aware of the commanding shift in attitudes towards the vegetarian diet. Everywhere you look it’s new evidence of the potential benefits this diet can have for you with a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer among the commonly cited. Documentaries such as The Game Changers, What The Health and Cowspiracy as well as advocates such as Lewis Hamilton, Mike Tyson and Daisy Ridley all tout the enormous benefits of veganism/vegetarianism.
Not only does it have massive benefits for your health but your impact upon the environment is also reduced as a direct result of swapping animal products for plant-based products. For example, the water used to produce a litre of Oat milk is dwarfed in comparison to cows milk:
Many sources point to the inarguable conclusion that adopting a plant based-diet is better in every single way.
And so, with broccoli in my oven, an apple in my mouth and quinoa coming out my ears; i pushed on. I started doing research on what dietary supplements to consume and found that Iron, B12 and Zinc may prove useful. I ensured that i was getting a balanced diet with the consumption of a wide variety of grains, greens, proteins, carbs and fats. I was motivated, i was strong.
And so I waited, and waited…. and waited…. but instead of experiencing even subtle benefits i started experiencing noticeable downsides to both my mental and physical capacities. Before i delve in to what i’ve found personally, i do want to state that correlation does not equal causation, thus there’s no way of positively declaring that a vegetarian diet caused these side effects.
- Around 15/20 days in i started to notice a certain lethargy. I was more tired than i’d ever been, i’d wake up shattered with 8 hours sleep and getting through the entire day was a struggle — still is. I assumed this was because of a lack of iron but i’d been supplementing daily, so i couldn’t directly blame this. Although i felt lighter, there was an unmistakible lack of energy that permeated throughout my day.
- Jaw clenching at night. I can’t even begin to explain why this has become a thing but since starting a vegetarian diet, i’ve begun clenching my jaw more at night and in the morning. I can’t seem to find any advice or articles online that explain this phenomenon but it continues to exist regardless.
- Lack of choice. This is inherently obvious, as a result of going vegetarian, you have less options when it comes to making food, ordering food or eating out. I can’t complain too much as it’s in black and white when you accept vegetarianism in your life but i was a little butthurt when mates were wolfing down some crispy duck and i had to bathe in a puddle of my own envious drool.
I’d like to think of myself as formidable. My willpower, even when tested, is strong and often stands tough against even the greatest challenges. Although i was feeling like shit (and i put this down to my diet), I decided i wasn’t going to quit now, i was 45 days in after all. Fortunately, this was the moment when an undercover sausage penetrated my veil of vegetables and broke my streak.
I was attending a small, socially distanced, birthday dinner for some mates of mine. These chums of mine are hardcore veggies, warriors of the watercress. As such, they had prepared a vegetarian feast, from Mediterranean salads to homemade onion rings to plant-based sausages.
At least we thought they were. We devoured the sausages and revelled in our plant-based pride. We went to sleep that night feeling like kings, like vegetarians.
When we awoke the following morning and were blasted with the impotent rays of a Scottish sun in February; an evil, immoral and sinful mistake was illuminated. We had in-fact consumed normal sausages rather than plant-based sausages. Shock horror. How had this happened? Here’s how:
A subtle difference in packaging that we’d failed to realise in our inebriated gayness.
Was the world going to burn down? Was i going to start growing horns, a tail and change my name to Lucifer? Could life go on?
Turns out life goes on pretty much as normal. No cracks forming in the foundation of my soul, no quarter life crisis. If anything, i breathed a sigh of relief, i was free. There was no longer any reason for me to be incredibly anal about the taint of meat in my vegetarian diet.
Up until that point i’d made sure to avoid any consumption of meat. Not so much that i couldn’t have my food prepared on meat-tainted areas of production but enough that i’d have to avoid Parmesan due to calf rennet.
Thank fuck that’s over. Quite frankly, having to avoid even the slightest consumption of meat is a pain in the arse. I understand the core philosophy of vegetarianism; a healthier life, a healthier planet and less animals killed in the name of a Big Mac. I even believe that it brought me benefits as i noticed it helped me keep control of my weight better and i felt lighter and less physically sluggish throughout the day (although i’m still tired).
The benefits are indisputable. But we all need to stop being so fucking anal about veganism and vegetarianism. Labelling any consumption of meat or animal products as intrinsically awful is objectively untrue and anecdotally disproved. For example, some individuals adopt the carnivore diet, eating primarily red meat and exclaim that they’ve never felt better in their life. We’re all different and there’s no way of knowing that what works for one, will work for everyone. One size doesn’t fit all.
Vegetarianism/Veganism has a lot of well deserved clout as a movement. Large research papers indicate that a reduction in meat consumption can be good for your physical health, the environment and your moral sensibilities.
That being said, i reckon the movement would benefit from some understanding and empathy. Social media movements such as ‘Meatless Mondays’ are a prime example of how we can positively influence, rather than forcefully push.
For me, i’m still going to drink Oat milk, make vegetarian meals at home and consider my food choices mindfully but i’m not going beat myself up about the occasional pastrami bagel or covert sausage. Maybe for some, being anal about vegetarianism works. Maybe they have the moral high ground. Maybe they are healthier. Maybe 45 days isn’t enough to experience the full benefits of vegetarianism. Maybe correlation isn’t causation.
Whatever happens, i’m happy with my choices, i can rest easy at night knowing i’m at least doing something in the way of progress. I’m content with mistaking the occasional sausage.
I hope readers can sense the obvious satire but i’d love to hear what your thoughts on vegetarianism/veganism are. Let me know in the comments.