I’ve been vegetarian for about 3 years now and I’ve never once regretted that decision. Giving up meat and fish was hardly a difficult transition, as I’d never been a huge meat-eater before, so I wasn’t really making any huge changes to my diet. The main differences were probably that before I would have meat if I was eating out, whereas transitioning to vegetarianism I had to always make sure there was an option suitable for me on the menu.
After being vegetarian for about a year, I decided to try out veganism. I felt really good about the decision, especially after having done my research into the egg and dairy industries and the suffering they impose on animals. However, being a student at the time, all those trendy vegan products sold at health food stores weren’t exactly within my price range. None the less, I continued with it and tried my best to be creative with my eating. Here’s what happened:
1. I lost weight without realising
Living on a student income meant that my diet was mostly consisting of vegetables and carbohydrates. Not being able to add cheese and eggs to that combination definitely caused me to lose weight and I received comments that I even looked too skinny.
2. I overanalysed everything I ate
When you are vegan you can’t eat anything unless you have checked the ingredients. I would refuse to eat things because they contained milk powder or even traces of dairy. I developed an obsessive relationship with food simply because there was so much of it which veganism forbid me from. I was definitely missing my vegetarianism ways.
3. I had low energy
I transitioned into veganism during my final year of university, a really exhausting period which drained me of all my energy, and being vegan definitely didn’t help. My restricted diet was causing me to lack the drive I really needed to perform to my highest capacity.
I continued as a vegan for about 9 months until around May time I got really sick with the flu. I felt so weak and nauseous and couldn’t stomach anything. The only food I could think about was cheese. I remember feeling so torn, and I phoned my mum and told her how badly I was craving cheese, and she told me plainly, “Just eat the bloody cheese!” So I did. I ate the cheese and I started to feel immediately better.
Once I was back to full health I was planning on reverting back to my normal vegan eating ways, but I was going on holiday to Sicily and had never been hopeful about the likelihood of vegan-friendly restaurants. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there were no vegan dishes on the menus where we ate. Vegetarianism, yes, there were always a few options, but eating vegan would have been a matter of ordering a Caprese Salad without the cheese, or a pizza made of nothing but a tomato base and vegetables. This is not how one should spend their holiday in Sicily, a region globally recognised for its delicious food. So, I relished in Sicilian cuisine for a week, and it felt great!
During that summer after having just graduated, I was moving to Colombia for a year to teach English. I’d done my research, and as much as it made me anxious, I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t moving to a vegetarian-friendly country, never mind vegan-friendly. I registered instantly that veganism was not going to be an option while I was out there, but was fully committed to maintaining my vegetarianism. And do you know what? After having now spent that full year in Colombia, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being part of a culture where so much consists of sharing, being vegan would have been detrimental to my experience of that culture.
Colombians eat a lot, and virtually everything that is vegetarian contains dairy! And most of those things are delicious! The thought of coming away from that country without being able to say that I’d tried the Colombian breads and pastries such as the buñuelo, the almojabana, the arepa, or the empanada, fills me with despair. Being vegetarian limited my diet enough and there were some things I obviously couldn’t try, but meat has never been a temptation for me. Dairy, on the other hand, is everywhere and can easily cause temptation. I soon realised that there was absolutely no sense in restricting yourself to the point of misery. In Colombia I felt healthier and happier than I had in a long time (the avocados definitely helped), and that became my main priority.
I’m now back in the UK and have considered reverting back to veganism, but the truth I’ve realised is that it is an expensive and restricting lifestyle which, although it has an amazing impact on the environment and animal welfare, isn’t always easy to accommodate. I credit anyone who can fully commit to veganism and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but until vegan products become as available and affordable as non-vegan products, I can see myself sticking with vegetarianism from a more realistic point of view, and it’s not something I would ever let myself feel guilty about again.
What do you think about the veganism vs vegetarianism argument? Let us know in the comments below!
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A 22 year old foreign languages enthusiast from Glasgow. Lover of all things latino with a passion for travel, writing and photography.