Vegetarianism has been gaining speed over the past few decades and it’s easy to see why. The appeal of not harming animals and eating a conscious, clean diet is an attractive offer with the problems in the world today. While that was an added bonus (and a good thing to tell people), I really decided to go vegetarian because I didn’t like meat. Before becoming vegetarian, I only ate chicken and sometimes bacon, but never steak, turkey, or ham. I still to this day dislike all seafood, so being pescatarian was never an option. But as the chicken was getting old and I was growing sick of it, I resorted to the option that so many people have been turning to, being vegetarian.
My main concern with being a vegetarian was that I wouldn’t get enough nutrients. My iron levels are already low and my metabolism is rather fast, so I knew that I would be eating a lot of beans and tofu to get the iron and protein I would need. I went to a nutritionist who gave me other alternatives and suggested that I take nutritional supplements to ensure that I was staying healthy. This strategy worked for a little bit over a year and to be honest my life didn’t change that much since I wasn’t really eating meat anyways.
The problem came when I started swimming again the next fall. I became a vegetarian during a season when I was injured, so it wasn’t a problem the previous year and I never considered that it would ruin my plan. My practices were two hours a day, 6 days a week, and I was burning over 1,000 calories a practice. Even eating four large meals a day, the meals I was eating weren’t as substantial as they would be if there was meat in them. I started to feel tired and weak as I was burning off a lot more than I could possibly eat, and I saw my times get progressively slower. That’s when I knew that my vegetarianism was done (at least for the season). I couldn’t get my best times or feel as strong as I could as long as I wasn’t getting the right amount of protein. So, I made the decision to switch back to eating meat (still mostly chicken).
Changing back, I found that I actually enjoyed meat and missed it more than I thought. While I still liked chicken, I started branching out and eating burgers, pork, and steak. At the end of swim season, when considering what I wanted to do, I stayed a meat eater, but less than I was during swim season. Right now, I do eat meat, but if there’s a vegetarian option I usually choose it. At UConn, the dining hall typically has a main meal with a vegetarian alternative (usually tofu). I often pick that option, but it’s nice to like the other option if there’s no vegetarian dish. One of my friends at UConn is a full vegetarian, and while “for the most part [she] can find stuff to eat, [she] wishes there were a few more options” but “even if [she] doesn’t like what’s being served there’s always grilled cheese and there’s always a veggie burger going on and there’s always pizza and salad”. UConn has options for those who are vegetarian, with enough protein to sustain them. And who knows, maybe I’ll try it again!
Interview: Kayleigh Collins