What I've Learned After a Month of (Mostly) Vegetarianism

Disclaimer: I’m very occasionally pescetarian when the dining hall options actually sound really bad. There is no shame in making mistakes! At least I’m trying.

I’ve been vegetarian for about a month now. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard, especially living in Los Angeles, where all the cool kids are vegan. I’ve always wanted to go vegetarian for many reasons. I just never made that first step towards that lifestyle until recently. This is my reflection on the past month and on vegetarianism in general.

Why Did I Do It?

As far as I’ve noticed, there are two main thought processes people go through that eventually point them toward adopting a plant-based diet. There is the animal rights route: the videos of slaughterhouses, overweight chickens and crying cows. Then, there’s the sustainability route: the articles about how wasteful the meat industry is and how it harms the environment. Both of these lead vegetarians and vegans to decide they can’t support the industry. (For more information, I recommend Food, Inc.)

I’ve always planned to go vegetarian in college, but I kept making excuses. I recently officially stopped shopping fast fashion because of its unsustainability and poor ethics, and it felt hypocritical to cut out some parts of my life and not others. So, I figured I should go all the way and cut out meat, too. I won’t go into it in too much depth, but the meat industry is a huge waste of water and resources, as well as a major contributor to pollution and global warming. Once I made the first steps towards a more ethical lifestyle through fashion, changing my diet was simply the natural next move.

I never even liked meat that much in the first place, so it’s not like I really miss meat on the daily basis. I’ll admit there are certain dishes, especially Asian ones, that I can’t find vegetarian options for. But I can sacrifice a few dishes to save a cow or two, can’t I?

It’s Not That Hard

When I first thought about going vegetarian, I thought of salads and sadness. In reality, it’s not that hard. It might be more difficult to make this change at home if your family isn’t vegetarian because then you might have to cook a separate meal. It’s much easier away at college when all I have to do is look for a leaf symbol next to a menu item. UCLA has vegetarian alternatives to almost every meat dish at dining halls and around campus. Most of these alternatives are proteins too, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on getting enough protein. I also recommend making sure that you're getting your protein, iron and vitamin levels checked out just to make sure this diet is okay on your body.

Another benefit of going vegetarian is that I’m forced to stop being scared of certain foods. When I ate meat, that was almost always the main dish. By cutting this out, I eat way more vegetables than I used to because there aren’t any other options. Vegetarianism isn’t just leaves. I still rarely get salads. I’m an incredibly picky eater, but I’ve managed to make myself eat foods I would ordinarily avoid, and I don’t hate them!

What Next?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of hypocrisy in vegetarianism. Like I said, it’s almost a trendy thing to do nowadays. It's amazing that more and more people are transitioning, but many people seem to think that eating a veggie burger is all we need to do. However, that is not true—the food industry is still unethical. Most farmers are immigrants and have been historically disenfranchised and ignored. These farmers are the foundation of our society, but they are exploited beyond belief. There is no true ethical consumption in today’s capitalist society, and almost everything we buy is at the expense of someone else.

This isn’t to say that vegetarianism is a waste of time, though. It’s still important to try. Sometimes, being more conscious of what we consume is all we can do. Every little step does make a difference. We just need to try and make bigger steps. If you have money to spare, consider donating to Farmworker Justice or the Campaign For Migrant Worker Justice.