The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I have been vegetarian for almost 16 years now, starting when I was about four years old. I wish I could say it was a really big and important decision in my life, but it wasn’t. I disliked the taste of meat, and my mom was not in the business of making me eat things I did not like.. I didn’t really understand that I was considered “vegetarian” until I was in grade school, when somebody told me that I was. Since then, I have gotten a variety of opinions on my diet, as well as numerous questions, some being more unusual than others. These questions in particular are some of the most common, and some of the strangest, that I have received.
“Where Do You Get Your Protein?”
For the record, please refrain from asking your friendly vegetarian or vegan this question; I promise you we have heard it before. The answer to this question is really simple: I get my protein from food, the same way that you do. There are so many foods that human beings can get protein from, including but not limited to, beans, nuts, dark leafy greens, eggs, plant-based protein, soy, and so many other things. I incorporate a variety of these things into my diet on a regular basis, as well as all the other nutrients that I need to function in day-to-day life. Usually this question is asked in a very accusatory manner, but I think that it would be even stranger to get your protein just from meat.
“Are You Unhealthy?”/”You Must Be So Healthy!”
I am always surprised that I get both of these questions on the regular. To start, I definitely do not think I am unhealthy, at least not because I am vegetarian. I get bloodwork done approximately every two ton five years, and my nutrition levels are always where I need to be. I don’t get more sick than everyone else. I do take an iron supplement, but so do my mother and father, my sister and my grandmother, all of whom eat meat, because iron deficiency is hereditary in my family. So I think I am pretty healthy without meat, but if you feel like you need meat to be healthy, that’s OK too.
I do not think I am healthy just because I don’t eat meat. Usually, when people say that I am healthy, they are really saying one of two things—either that I am a thin woman, and they assume vegetarianism can be used to lose weight, or they assume that I only eat vegetables, like a rabbit. The first assumption is extremely problematic, as anyone can be vegetarian, including every body type. It also assumes that there is a healthy body type, which there most definitely is not, and, although my body type is healthy for me, is not the only healthy body type. My body is, undoubtedly, nobody else’s business. The second assumption is pretty easy to answer; I am not a rabbit. I love french fries, mac and cheese, cookies and a variety of other things that are not considered health foods, but are also vegetarian. I definitely also enjoy some fruits and veggies in most of my meals, but it is certainly not the majority of my diet. The moral of the story is that being vegetarian does not automatically make you healthy or unhealthy. It works the same as any other diet, it matters what and how much you still eat.
“Do You Think That Everyone Should Not Eat Meat?”
Absolutely not, because it is literally not possible. I have had so many friends ask me to help them go vegetarian, whether it be for their diet or to try something new or to give something up for lent. Every single time my answer is simple; you should consult your doctor first. Inevitably, some people are more inclined to suffer from iron or B12 deficiencies than others. People with gastrointestinal distress will not always do well on a vegetarian diet. It is not recommended for people suffering from diabetes, certain cancers, celiac disease and a slew of other diseases and disorders. On top of that, certain cultures and religions have meat ingrained into their dishes, and taking it out can make people feel isolated from that. Being vegetarian is not for everyone, just like no diet is for everyone, and that is also none of my business
“I Could Never Be Vegetarian.”/”I Love [Insert Meat/Dish Here] Too Much.”
I do not know why people say this to me, because I honestly do not care. And this is inevitably what it comes down to; it’s your diet, and I don’t (nor should I) have any say over it. And the same goes for me. Everyone’s diet is different, and it is their business. As long as you are able to, you are the only one who gets to make decisions on what you eat. It is infuriating that people will get defensive when I say I am vegetarian, because they think that I am going to impose my diet onto them and make them feel guilty. I have found that those are the same people who turn around and comment on other people’s diet because of their weight, their appearance, their health, their lifestyle, their religion and a variety of other things. If you are going to ask someone any of these questions unprompted, I urge you, don’t. Remember that my diet is my business, just like yours is yours.