Before we get into this, I want to share some definitions I came up with to understand the difference between all these people who change their eating lifestyles. It’s okay if your definitions are not the same as mine because … well, this blog isn’t about you. Here we go:
- vegetarian: eats fruits, veggies, & meat alternatives; doesn’t mind eating animal products like cheese and yogurt
- pescatarian: eat fruits, veggies, meat alternatives, & seafood; doesn’t mind eating animal products
- vegan: eats fruits, veggies, & meat alternatives; refrains from animal products (so they won’t eat eggs from a chicken or milk from a cow because they are from an animal)
- AND THEN THERE’S YOU: do whatever you want so you can mix and match all of these to be honest
Now that we got those definitions out of the way, I can share my journey.
So, when I moved back into my parents home October 2016, depression was making its debut so the transition was difficult. As I was navigating this, I felt like I had absolutely no control over anything in my life. I was spiraling and after a trip to my gyno for my annual women’s exam and physical, I decided to tighten TF up!
When my lab results came back, it said all types of stuff that I did not understand. Thank God for my dear friend @taeliveswell who was on the journey of becoming a Registered Dietitian (she currently is one). I reached out to her to help me breakdown all the medical terminology and we came up with a plan that worked for me. Without going into much detail, I needed to baby step my way into eating (I was malnourished) and then into healthy eating (I was pre-diabetic with high cholesterol and low iron).
During this time, the church I attended was preparing to go on a 3-day fast and I figured, this would be the perfect time to take control over my lifestyle by becoming a vegetarian. I was doing research on best practices and alternatives so when the fast ended, I was no longer going to eat meat or seafood. It was the best thing I could do for myself.
Remember, I felt like I had no control over my life and now I was finally getting my power back with being in control of what I ate. It wasn’t because I saw everyone doing it or because the What The Health documentary conveniently was plastered all over Netflix around the same time. It was because I needed some control before I completely lost my sanity.
And I never told people outright that I was a vegetarian because people often respond in two ways: (1) interview you to see what’s wrong or (2) debate with you to change your mind. I was not interested in doing either but they still happened. However, I have much fortitude so once my mind is made up, nothing you can say will change it.
The deeper I dived into vegetarianism, the more I knew that I was headed in the right direction for my life. I read so much about how the food we eat is tied to our physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. I learned about the differences between the food in different countries and how honestly, the best food you can possibly eat is the one you grow yourself.
The beauty about this journey for me was the fact that now that I was focusing so much on eating better and consciously not eat meat, I did not focus on my depression. I did not have time to wallow in my stress because I was trying to make sure I eat so I did not die lol. Anyway, for those that want to know how this journey was possible, here are some tips:
- Get Your Mind Right
It’s true what they say about starting something new – you have to get your mind on board so the rest can follow. Why do you think people struggle with dieting, working out, or any of their New Year’s resolutions? Their mind is not truly on board with it. The idea is nice but they have not put in the work to truly wrap their minds around what they are about to do.
- Substitute Instead of Remove
So, one thing I read when I was preparing for this lifestyle change was the concept of substitution. One reason why diets suck (in my opinion) is because you are told to remove all these things from your palate. Then you start craving them and as soon as the diet is over, they are the first thing you run back to. So, to help get my mind right, I would eat the same things I normally eat but I would substitute instead of remove. For example, I would still go to Taco Bell and get my usual orders but just substitute the meat option. I got my Nacho Cheese Chalupa Supreme with beans instead of beef and I opted for a Cheese Quesadilla instead of chicken. If I went to Chipotle, I swapped out the Chicken Bowl for a Veggie or Sofrita Bowl. If I went to BurgerFi, I went for the VegeFi instead of the Angus. Since I was substituting, it was not registering to my mind that I was not eating meat because I was still eating my favorite foods.
- Review Menus BEFORE You Go Out
One thing I love to do is eat. In the past, I would get invited out to eat and I would just look at the menu when I got there. When I switched to #TeamVegetarian, I would look up the menu to see if they were vegetarian friendly. I was not trying to spend my night out eating mac & cheese, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. I also was not the type of person to order salads, even when I was a carnivore because I felt that could be made at home. If it was not vegetarian friendly, I would eat before I went and just order a snack. But since I learned how to substitute, I did that at restaurants with no problem and would often ask for the chef to recommend something that can be made vegetarian.
- One Thing At A Time, One Day At A Time
This lifestyle change is not a race. It is not a competition. If anything, you’re competing with the person you were yesterday. NO ONE ELSE! Take it slow and if you “mess up”, so what. Do what works best for you.
To wrap this up, I just want to say that for me, being a vegetarian was one of the best things I have done in my life. I do not regret it and I do not see myself returning to meat or seafood. If I do, that’s fine because I have the right to change my mind but as for right now, I am content in my decision.
Side Note: When I went back to the doctor for my 4 month check up, my labs did a complete 180. Everything that was “wrong” reversed as if it never existed. I was no longer pre-diabetic, malnourished, and my cholesterol was back to normal. And I never told my doctor I went vegetarian, she just said “whatever you are doing, keep doing it.”