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Lani Beaudette

Real Talk: A Vegetarian Lifestyle

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WVU chapter.

Any way of eating that deviates from the standard western diet is bound to be met with criticism and eye rolls.  After all, who would ever choose to live without eating meat? Who would ever choose to deprive themselves of such a common source of protein and iron, among other vital nutrients? 

I would; and according to vegetariantimes.com, so would 7.3 million other Americans.

I decided to become a vegetarian in May of 2019.  Because I come from a rural town in southern West Virginia, people thought I had absolutely lost my mind. I was met with confusion from nearly everyone and taunting from the less open-minded among them. I’ve had bacon waved in front of my face, I’ve been called a grass-eater and I’ve been told that choosing not to eat meat is an act of pure, unashamed privilege.

So, why did I choose this?

Well, I have a few reasons. First and foremost, I chose to remove meat from my diet to lessen my impact on the environment. Livestock agriculture takes up massive amounts of land that could be used for crops, as well as much more water than crops would require. According to scienceabc.com, one cow is capable of producing 120 kilograms of methane on a yearly basis. Combined with the profit-obsessed habits of the commercial agriculture industry, this is a recipe for environmental disaster.

Secondly, I chose this lifestyle for my health. Though I was never particularly overweight, I had long since lost the six-pack of abs and hulking muscles that I had as a competitive gymnast. I had begun to feel sluggish nearly every day and had stomach pain after nearly every meal. I missed feeling energized like I did when I was younger, and I was searching for a quick solution. I stumbled across vegetarianism, and as much as I worshiped chicken nuggets, I decided to give it a try.

So, if you’ve read this far and you’re interested in the reality of being a vegetarian, I’m sharing exactly what you can expect from this diet. The pros and cons, the good and the bad — no BS.

You WILL become healthier overall

Provided that you are still meeting all of your nutrient requirements (which is still very possible on a vegetarian diet), you will be improving your health. You may notice that without calorie-dense meat, you have more energy and vitality. According to time.com, you may even live longer, as a vegetarian diet lowers your risk of some of America’s top killers, like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. 

You WILL NOT necessarily lose weight

To be fair, I did lose some weight at the beginning of my vegetarian journey. This is less due to the actual abstinence of meat, and more due to the fact that I stopped eating so much fast food.  However, many fast-food chains and other restaurants have become more accommodating of vegetarians and vegans. Several new plant-based burgers and burritos are popping up all over America, and though they are free of animal products, they are not necessarily healthier. 

If your goal is to lose weight with the vegetarian lifestyle, then you will still have to eat more consciously. One does not just become a vegetarian and magically drop twenty pounds. Believe me, it is very easy to replace meat with bread, pasta, potatoes and other starchy, calorie-dense foods. 

You WILL have to make sure you are getting all of your nutrients

Everyone asks vegetarians and vegans the same question: “Where do you get your protein?” 

Let me be the first to tell you that getting enough protein is the least of your worries. Protein can be found in a wide variety of dairy and plant foods, such as beans, nuts, eggs, milk and leafy green vegetables. Health.com has a fantastic list of vegan protein sources that you can check out!

What is less commonly discussed is the need for iron, Vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are a bit more difficult to find in a vegetarian diet, especially if you are a picky eater. Iron can be found in spinach, legumes and fortified cereals. Vitamin B12 can be found in eggs, fortified milks, cereals and yeast.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in seeds and some nuts. If you don’t have access to or don’t like some of these foods, I recommend taking a dietary supplement, such as a multivitamin, to ensure that all these nutritional needs are being met.

You WILL NOT have to spend a lot of money

There is a common misconception that having the choice to be vegetarian or vegan is a privilege because of financial ability. What many people don’t realize is that it costs quite a lot of money to raise livestock, especially when they are fed quality, non-GMO food. Next time you go to a restaurant, compare the price of the house salad to the price of the sirloin steak. You’ll see exactly what I mean.

You WILL be criticized

If you are different in any way, whether that difference is a choice or not, you are going to be met with criticism. This is a harsh reality of life, and diet is certainly no exception. Vegetarians and vegans are often the victims of hurtful and outright false stereotypes.  

Consider the people that you surround yourself with. Are they open-minded and accepting of different values and ideals, or are they quick to pass judgment on anyone that isn’t exactly like them? Are they going to make fun of you for your choices at every meal? Are they going to choose restaurants that they know have no options for you? These are all important questions to ask yourself if you are considering the vegetarian diet. This switch really opened my eyes in terms of evaluating my relationships beyond my dietary choices. Did I really want to be friends with people who couldn’t stand the idea of something different? Perhaps these are the questions to ask yourself regardless of your diet.

You WILL NOT regret it

Deciding to become a vegetarian has enriched my life in so many ways. I feel confident that I am making a positive impact on the world and the environment. I feel confident that I am protesting the money-hungry, abusive commercial industries. I feel confident that the foods that I choose to eat are nourishing my body and my life without sacrificing the life of another. I feel that I stand for something, and I feel that my actions back up my words.

No matter what you stand for, I encourage you to be confident in your beliefs and your choices. Let the world know that you stand for a cause and that you will defend your cause against their ignorance. Be unashamed and unabashed.

Edited by Kenzie Dye

My name is Sidney and I'm a Psychology major at WVU! I'm very passionate about feminism, the environment, mental health, and the arts!
Her Campus at West Virginia University