2010 was a good year for me. This was the year that I decided to drastically change my diet and become a vegetarian. (I was even vegan for a few weeks, but couldn't commit to it because I really like cheese.) Back when I started thinking about making the change, it was mostly because of my eyes. When my corneas started peeling off in 2007, I freaked out a little bit. OK, a lot. My corneas peeled off! Can you blame me? It's taken me this long to realize that the corneal erosions really messed with my head. Part of that was the pain, but most of it was the helpless feeling of having no control of the randomness of the erosions. I think vegetarianism appealed to me because it was something I could control. I read about the effects diet could have on dry eyes, and I wanted to do something positive and proactive.
The other reason I gave up meat? I was tired of feeling like crap all the time. My body responded differently to food ever since my gall bladder was removed several years ago. I was having lots of digestive issues, and stomach pains, and I was having trouble sleeping. I would have bad dreams. I know that I can't blame all that on eating meat, but I thought that maybe changing my diet would help. I even went so far to think that if I thought it would help, maybe it actually would help. That's a little new-age-y psycho-babble-nonsense for me, but I actually did think that. True confession time.
Now, a year later, I can say I am so glad that I made the change. I am sleeping better. I am not having digestive problems. My eyes feel great, and my doctor says my corneas are healthy. Giving up eating meat was really not as difficult as I thought it would be, but I think I was really ready to do it. Linking "eating meat" to "feeling terrible" helped me not miss it so much. Eating out was the trickiest part, but planning really helped. Also, I read a great book called Living Among Meat Eaters that was great about putting me in the right mindset.
I did have some chicken and turkey the week of Thanksgiving, but I only ate a little bit to taste a new recipe that Stu had made for the family. It was good, and I did not notice any negative changes in my body. I've been thinking about adding chicken back into my diet for a few weeks, because frankly it's just really hard to avoid it. Even the "healhty" choices at several restaurants are salads with chicken on top, and they don't give you a discount if you order it without the meat. It was starting to get to me. So, I've decided that this year, I'm mostly a vegetarian. I'll sometimes eat fish, and sometimes eat poultry. No pork. No beef. (someone said "nothing with four legs" - yep, that's it!) I still prefer a vegetarian meal, though.
Advice time - if you are thinking about trying on the vegetarian life, my advice is to go for it. It's easier if you decide to do it for a limited time - a month to start, or Monday-Friday. Like any diet change, it's hardest at first, and it's hardest when you are hungry. If I know we are going to be traveling or out of the house for the day, I bring food with me that I can eat. Pre-planning for restaurants is key - look at the menu before you go and decide what you will order. Fast food is the worst, but of all the choices, Taco Bell is my new favorite. You can order anything with "no meat" or substitute beans for the meat, and their beans are always vegetarian. (Del Taco's claim to be, but my body tells me that they sometimes use lard.) Salads or soups are good, but lots of soups are made with beef stock or chicken stock, so be careful. Panera and Chipotle are great (vegetarian choices clearly marked). Bring food to share if you are eating with other people, and if you are having company for dinner, please don't make scary vegan food. Spaghetti or a taco bar is "normal", and everyone likes pizza. My other piece of advice is to go to the library and get a handful of vegetarian cookbooks and put them around the house. You'll be inspired to try some new stuff. The last thing I would encourage you to do is to be prepaired for the questions and the teasing from the die-hard steak lovers. They will think you have lost your mind and will worry that you (a) don't eat enough protein and (b) will get cancer from eating too much soy. Just remember that they care about you and email me if you need a pep talk.
Books about vegetarianism I recommend:
Living among Meat Eaters : The Vegetarians' Survival Handbook by Carol J. Adams
Eat to Live : The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman
Blogs & Websites:
FatFreeVeganKitchen - great recipes
VeganDad - guy food
PostPunkKitchen - the authors of Veganomicon
Skwigg - "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." She's fun too.
CheapHealthyGood - great ideas and regularly updated
VeganYumYum - fun pictures
VeganLunchBox - again, like the pictures
Vegetarian Times - great resource