Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“The Vegetarian Times,” Cassi Starn

“The Vegetarian Times”
Cassi Starn

Becoming a vegetarian has caused me to alter my lifestyle through food choices, conversations with friends, and has helped me to become a healthier eater overall. About three years ago, deciding to give up eating animals seemed to be a very miniscule one at first, until I learned very quickly that it was in fact, not. I cannot say that I regret this decision, even with the strain from the lack of understanding by my family members it has caused and the fact that I am unable to eat the easy meals from fast food restaurants, because this change has become worth it to me through the ample amount of accomplishment I feel every time I turn down a greasy piece of fried meat. I can now see myself as making a difference and taking a stand against something that I do not believe in.

Gaining the courage to tell my family that I would not be eating the same meals they would be at dinner was very difficult for me because I did not know how they would respond. I was right to worry because I found there was more resistance to accept than an offer of support. Only my best friend Jennifer allowed herself from the start to recognize how happy this decision was making me and gave me her full support by only going to restaurants like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Mellow Mushroom, which all had options for me eat that would accommodate my new lifestyle. Even when I spent the night at her house, she was determined to make foods like a pepperoni-free pizza, or cheesy pasta so that I would enjoy my stay.

After a while others began to come to terms with my being a vegetarian, such as my mother who will now make sure that when I eat dinner with them I always have something enjoyable on my plate. But still there are others, such as my dad, who states very often at the dinner table that he does not approve. I have found that the secret to not letting it bother me is to just ignore the statements altogether instead of adding to the fire and continuing the argument. With people who refuse to see any other ideas but their own as being right, there is no chance of changing their mind. In those situations, I quit trying to defend myself and dismiss the confrontational subject by moving on to a whole new topic that has nothing to do with the previous issue. But, even including the fact that I am surrounded by inconsiderate people who try to get me to change my ways, I still believe that the choice I made a while ago is absolutely worth all the trouble.

When I did feel the need to defend my positions, I tried my best to keep my cool and though I would love to turn more people into vegetarians like me, I do my best to not be too stubborn in the dispute, because I know how frustrating it can be when others are so persistent in their arguments with me, that I would never do it intentionally to anyone else.

I was not always this much of an animal lover and did at one point in my life eat meat on a daily basis. Looking back on a conversation I had in 9th grade with one of my close friends at lunch, I remember her telling me that she had just become a vegetarian and she was much happier and healthier now than ever before. I was very hard headed back then and said the same thing that I now get told by others who I have these similar conversations with, that there was no way I could manage that lifestyle because I loved meat too much to give it up. Now I understand I was wrong before and that I was much stronger than I once believed. That is why I know that anyone can take up this lifestyle because if I can do it, so can everyone else.

Grocery shopping was never an exciting process for me at first. I did not enjoy it because the excitement of having any choice in the world had been taken away. I would always stick to the usual, ordinary, meat free aisles, until one day I walked past a freezer section and noticed a ton of food for vegans and vegetarians. I finally had a chance to eat the same things I did before, just with different, shame free ingredients. Through a sufficient amount of taste testing and trial and error, I realized that just because something isn’t real, doesn’t mean that it isn’t any good. Though sometimes an acquired taste for a specific type of meal was necessary, I enjoyed most of the foods I tried for the first time, such as Tofurkey, chik potpie, soy hot dogs, and veggie ribs and burgers, which not only have creative names, but taste good enough to replace that of a McDonalds greasy meat burger with guilt on the side covered in mayonnaise. Looking back, I think that learning so late about the existence of the vegetarian meats turned out to be best for my situation. Through all that time of having no contact with any meat at all, I had nothing from memory to compare it to, so now if a chicken breast was placed in front of me, I would have no problem pushing it as far away as possible.

Every once in a while I would run into a disappointing flavor that would cause me to decide mid-bite that I would not waste my time, money, or taste buds on selecting that again. But, I do not let those random few discourage me, because there are so many other possibilities out there that are worth the time and effort to find, especially if there is an added bonus of not having taken part in the torture of an animal. The number one food that applies to is Tofu. My suggestion for first time triers is to not have this as the gateway meal to a vegetarian lifestyle, because it is a type of food that, if not prepared the correct way, will cause an unpleasant experience. In my opinion it is due to the sponge-like, tasteless qualities that make it so difficult to enjoy and might keep the beginner from continuing on this new adventure.

For as many years as I can remember, my mother has been obsessed with buying magazines. One day, I found that this worked to my advantage, when her much awaited list of offered subscriptions, arrived in the mail. On one of the pages she spotted a magazine that was specifically designed for the consumption of vegetarians. I was surprised and could not wait to get my first issue. It took about a month and a half to arrive and that was when I had my first of many issues of Vegetarian Times, begging me to flip through each and every page. Inside I found stories by people like me, who were very passionate about maintaining a vegetarian diet for reasons such as health, to support a friend or family member, or for the same reason as me, because of their love, and borderline obsession with animals. Many recipes were also included, and though I have yet to try any, they all looked to be quite appetizing.

I was aware that being healthy must not take the backburner and I should be careful to find out and apply to my diet the necessary adjustments in order to keep my body fit. The first thing I did was to consult with my doctor, who approved fully and told me of ways to keep healthy. She said that it was good I still had some contact with meat and calcium, since I still ate fish, eggs, and drank milk, but that I should take natural supplements to give me more of those substances since I was not consuming enough from the little bit I was having and suggested Calcium and Fish Oil pills. Right away I purchased what I needed and added them to my daily routine in the morning. Now, I am just as healthy, if not more than when I first started. I feel better about myself than I ever have before, because I know that I am working toward a goal and I love how I have found something that I can be so passionate about without having to worry that my health will take a loss for it.

Every once in a while I will pass by a piece of meat that for a moment I find myself craving, but I overcome it easily by thinking of the reasons why I started in the first place. My trick is that every time I see a tempting piece of meat I automatically picture in my mind the innocent animal of which it came from. The knowledge that it was once a part of the inside of a living, breathing creature is downright disturbing and morbid to me. I can only think of the horrifying slaughter that was performed to fill the stomachs of many people who could just as easily bite down on a piece of celery or go to the area where imitation food is sold that tastes just as good as the real stuff, but without animals being harmed in the making of it.

I have realized that nothing in life comes easy. Becoming a vegetarian is not an exception and it is important to know that to choose this new lifestyle is to be in it for the long haul. There will be many times when strength and ability to say no will be tested. I plan on being strong and keeping my mind on the main reasons that I have started this process in the beginning. Through this development, I feel as if in a way I am making a difference by not supporting the slaughter of an animal for my own benefit. I feel so much more satisfied and know that everyone else has the capability to make the same decision as I did many years ago and would recommend this new lifestyle for anyone with a feeling of compassion for those innocent animals around the world.

I didn’t realize how demanding my decision to become a vegetarian would be. I did not know that my meat-free lifelong commitment would be so trying, rough, frustrating, or so fulfilling, meaningful, and be the reason for my overall strength in the end. Altering the way I eat, think, and act in everyday situations such as in family gatherings and dining out for a birthday party has given me a new consciousness of those previously listed and often thought about results. I feel as if I am very lucky to have discovered such strength in a healthy vegetarian lifestyle and have gained compassion for the animals around me and become so attached to and feel like I have been given and added meaning to my life. I think that everyone should at least attempt giving up meat and trying the alternatives because they might be surprised at just how easy being a vegetarian can be.

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