I had no idea what to call this post, ‘my vegan story’ seemed a little cheesy (only without the cheese-hahaha), ‘going vegetarian’ seemed too factual and well ‘national vegetarian week’ seemed too boring. I do not wish this post to be one of those pushy ‘go veggie’ kind of posts, more just a post of me sharing my experience with being vegetarian.
Firstly, as I also share my experiences with an eating disorder, I want to say, I do not want anybody to think what I say is what is right, we all have different experiences and you should always do what is best for you.
I have always been a little, hmm shall we say, headstrong? Even as a child, actually, more so as a child. If I wanted to do something, I would, not taking no for answer or embarrassingly taking no in a very bad way. From a young age, I have been quite connected with myself, you know that saying ‘trust your instincts’? I feel as though for most my life my instincts have been quite loud.
When somebody asks what my favourite childhood memory is, I feel as though I should answer with visiting Disney land for the first time but instead I answer with visiting my grandfather’s farm. Putting my wellies on, scrambling into the back of my uncles Land rover and heading out to feed the sheep. My grandmother weighing and bagging up the carrots for sale before taking my siblings and I out to bottle feed the lambs. Not to forget, there was always one lamb, that for whatever reason, kept inside, wrapped in blankets and under a heated lamp, occasionally making a gentle noise whilst we ate our lunch. Some of my fondest memories are at the farm, feeling such a protective and almost mothering connection to the animals.
I know some of you might argue, that if the whole world was vegetarian people would not have those memories and sheep would be extinct but please remember this is not a pushy ‘do this’ post, just me sharing my experiences. For more information on those types of questions please see this post by Viva.
I also remember the not so good memories of visiting the farm. The distressed sound of the battery caged hens, so loud and fearful, my siblings and I would often dare each other to run through grab an egg and come back. I did not know then how awful these conditions were, nor did I think about a life where chicken was not a food, instead a living, breathing being, just like myself.
When I was around eight years old, I had a very vivid dream. To cut the dream short, I was eating a packet of lamb flavoured crisps whilst being chased by a very angry sheep, of course the lambs, mother. Funny now and to some silly to, but non-the less, a dream that changed my life. From then on, lamb was off the menu.
Shortly after I began to look at cows and pigs in a different light, I began to question, what was the difference? What was the difference between the lambs, the cows, the pigs and even dogs to? Just to mention here, fish was never a question for me as I have never eaten it but of course the same applies.
Coming from a meat eating family, going vegetarian came across out of the ordinary and I guess, was seen as a childhood phase. My mother, allowed me to give up lamb but continued to preach the benefits of meat, cooking our usual meat based family meals. However, me being the headstrong child I was, I would often pick out the meat. Whilst not yet vegetarian, often eating chicken and sometimes sausages to, trying to make myself believe it was natural and pushing my instinct feeling to be vegetarian away.
I began to really hate the taste and texture of meat, asking myself ‘is this worth an animal suffering for?’ If anything, this made me more of a ‘fussy eater’, picky in what I chose to eat and my taste buds becoming very bland. A long with an eating disorder developing this became hard to manage and so my intuitive and instincts became harder to listen to. Picking more and more meat out of my meals, my mother began to cook me vegetarian options and even started to pack my bag with nuts and raisins.
At the age of sixteen, paired with that teen urge to find myself, my childhood desire to become vegetarian appeared again, only stronger than before. When I first decided to be vegetarian ‘for good this time’, as I remember saying to myself, it was difficult. I was surrounded by meat eaters, not open to the idea of vegetarianism and I was still very confused in my beliefs. I also put a huge amount of pressure on myself, the pressure admittedly eating disorder influenced, unlike my decision to be vegetarian. The pressure to be ‘the best vegetarian’ instead of my now belief in ‘we can only do our best’.
I remember one night, admittedly drunk, forgetting my ‘vegetarian for good this time’, as I dived into a friend’s box of chicken nuggets, one bite and in tears. The time I picked off all the pepperoni from a pizza and the time I ate prawn crackers made from real prawns. Each mishap making me feel an horrendous amount of guilt, no food or ‘mishap’ should ever make you feel this way. I wish I had known then that those feelings of guilt were the eating disorder disguised as my desire to be vegetarian. I wish I had believed in ‘we can only do our best’, a message I hope you to will believe in.
A few weeks, turned into a few months and soon became years. Overtime, I learnt more about the benefits of vegetarianism, not only for the animals but the environment to. Mistakes made and eating disorder guilt aside, I began to feel a new-found connection to the world around me.
I do not want this post to be your turning point into vegetarianism, because I fully believe in listening to yourself and doing what is right for you, whatever that might be. I also know how daunting and aggressive labels can seem, so I simply ask you to be more open minded towards vegetarianism. To perhaps changing one meal, allowing yourself to get creative with vegetarian recipes, eating more plant-based options or even buying more environmentally friendly sources.
Know that small changes can make a difference and that we can only ever do our best.
This post is much longer than I thought it would be, I wanted to write about recovering from an eating disorder whilst being vegetarian and about transitioning from vegetarian to vegan but I feel that is enough typing for now. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in, or perhaps a veggie themed Q&A?
I hope you have enjoyed reading,