Vegetarianism provides challenges, rewards


Melissa Ding and Jamie Wang

Graphic by Jamie Wang

Madison Nguyen, Features Editor

My path to vegetarianism has had plenty of twists and turns over the past four years. When I first attempted vegetarianism in seventh grade, my resolve lasted eleven days. The summer before ninth grade, it lasted three weeks. Though I’ve failed many times, at my current streak of one year and a little over four months, I’ve yet to cave into my desire for fried chicken.

When I first started, my true intentions were really just to challengemyself to do something I never pictured myself doing. I was an avid eater of fried chicken and a strong hater of tofu; in addition, a lot of traditional Vietnamese dishes contained some sort of meat product. Meat really was the center of my diet, especially when I needed some protein after water polo and swim practices. Nevertheless, restricting my dietary regime was, in a way, something I had always considered doing, but never really had the guts to do. One day, out-of-the-blue, I first began to completely cut out all meats except for seafood.

Since that moment, there have been many ups and downs. Towards the beginning, as the only non-meat eater in my family, I was constantly surrounded by the aroma of chicken, beef and other meats that I desperately wanted to try. My mom spent weeks attempting to convince me to start eating meat again so she wouldn’t have to cook food with meat and food without meat. Coming home at the end of each school day, I would open the refrigerator door only to find nothing, close it, then open it up again, somehow hoping for something to magically pop up. I then resorted toeating chips and other junk food to satisfy my hunger because of my lack of cooking knowledge and my general laziness. It really was an endless cycle of searching for any kind of vegetarian option and only finding junk food. To ignite some motivation in myself, I bought countless non- meat cook books, hoping to find healthier food options and learn how to cook. However, to this day, I have yet to even try to make one of these recipes or simply open the books. Instead, I began going to the grocery store more often and instead of bringing a list and sticking to it, I went in blindly. Roaming the aisles and produce section, my cart was filled with foods that I wanted to try, snacks I could still indulge in and my personal favorite, the meat-free Gardein chick’n nuggets.

As the weeks and months have gone by, not only have I somehow become unaffected by the smell of meat, but my vegetarianism has alowed me to go out of my comfort zone and try new foods. Never would I have thought that someday, I would actually enjoy eating tofu, veggiewraps or even any kind of vegetable, to be honest. I’ve incorporated so many different kinds of foods into my diet and have found alternatives to every dish that is usually made with meat. It’s definitely become more ofa slippery slope for me, as well. I began with giving up non-seafood meat, and it wasn’t until just recently that I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just give up all kinds of meat?”. It no longer has a huge effect on the way I live or the way I feel. Yes, I definitely feel like I eat much healthier and I feel lighter after I do; however, that really is the only aspect of my life that has changed. At first, I thought that doing this would bring some kind of huge change to my life that would open my eyes and cause me to be a completely different person. It hasn’t, but it’s simply taught me the importance of determination, ambition and believing in yourself.

As I approached the one-year vegetarian mark, I realized that myintentions for not eating meat have completely changed. It’s no longer a challenge for me because I’ve become so used to not having it be a part of my diet. During this entire time frame, I started to become more aware of how animals were being treated on farms, both on land and in water. I educated myself with articles, factual and opinionated, as well as a myriad of documentaries that demonstrate the truth of animal cruelty. While not all farms treat animals this way, there’s enough out there for organizations to be established and documentaries to be made, eachpushing for some kind of change. You can choose not to care or believewhat they’re presenting to you, but the fact that so many people haveput in days and weeks to inform the public about the reality of animal cruelty must spark some curiosity in your mind. For me, even if there was a one percent chance of it happening, it motivated me to really care about what I’m putting into my body and how that affects the world and other living organisms.

There is a myriad of people in the world who will attack others for what foods they eat, and specifically whether they eat meat or not. There’s also a large community of vegetarians and vegans who attack meat eaters for their dietary regime, blaming them for the many problems we see in our Earth’s climate today. A huge misconception a lot of people have about those with fixed diets is that we are all out to attack meat eaters based on what they eat. I think it goes the other way as well. Countless people have told me about their newfound hatred for vegans, and much of the discontent between the two groups comes from a lack of information on both parts. Instead of attacking other people for something as simple as what they eat, there needs to be a discussion between both parties about the benefits of both. This is why I advocate for everybody to stay knowledgeable about not just how what we’re putting in our bodies can affect it, but also about how our eating habits can affect the environment. My goal here is not to convince or pressure any of you into becoming vegetarian or vegan, but to demonstrate that anything, even completely revamping your diet after 14 years, is possible with a little bit of effort and self confidence.