I’d like to talk about preferences. And more importantly, food preferences.
Whenever I’m out to eat, which is most nights of the week, there is inevitably one person that asks me why I choose to be vegan. It’s, really, harmless question, but it invites a long discussion about why I am choosing to put, or not put, certain foods into my body. Which is, honestly, no one’s goddamn business but my own.
But because I’m not a rude person, I explain my little story about my choices with food and how I have arrived at them. The conversation then turns to more questions about why. Or how the meat-eaters at the table feel the need to then defend their reasons for not being vegan or vegetarian. (Usually “because it tastes so good”).
This is a pretty common occurrence to me – it happens at least once a week. So, here is the little tale about how I have arrived at the point of eating a vegan diet.
My food story
In 2010 I started dating my ex-boyfriend, Tom. We dated for over 6 years and in that time he was vegetarian, and then vegan for about the last year we were together. So being at home and cooking together, I was used to seeing what a vegetarian diet consisted of.
Becoming the opposite of a pescatarian
When I went on my first, big overseas trip in 2012, I remember being in the Galapagos Islands and seeing fresh lobsters sitting on the concrete by the side of the road. I thought how wonderful it was to be able to purchase fresh seafood and how delicious it must be.
I then realised that the lobsters were alive, just baking on the side of the road. And I thought how barbaric this was. It was animal cruelty. If a cow or lamb was held underwater until it stopped breathing, there would be riots in the street. So why is it different for sea life? Why is there this double standard when it comes to cruelty and seafood?
The fishing industry has so many problems. By-catch alone is terrible as well as the fact that when we eat seafood, there are so many chemicals and plastics that go into our systems – it honestly baffles me how anyone can eat it.
However, it is also none of my business if people choose to eat seafood.
Next, I stopped buying meat. I decided that I didn’t want to contribute any of my income towards the meat industry. This meant that at work (I was working in hospitality) if there was some lamb leftover, sure. Or if mum made her delicious beef lasagne for dinner, why not! I then went on a road trip with my best friend for two weeks in which we were buying all of our food. So that was that – I was a vegetarian and I felt the desire to eat meat disappear. It made sense for me somehow.
Then, when I moved to Pai, Thailand last year, I challenged myself to try and stick to a vegan diet. I let myself be flexible at times though. If I really wanted that toasted cheese sandwich or a bit of mayonnaise with my chips, I would allow myself that. But I found myself making more and more choices to go for vegan options, rather than let myself fall back to old habits.
Because that’s what I found that it was; it was a habit of eating whatever was put in front of me, rather than questioning its sources and ethics and why I was eating what I was eating.
The conclusion that most of these conversations come to, is that people make their own choices. And no one has any right to tell another person what to put in their bodies. As long as people are eating more consciously and are aware of the impact their choices have on the society and the environment, then that’s fine with me.
I am very happy with my choices and I don’t see myself ever changing that. The blood tests I get twice a year show that I am actually healthier eating a vegan diet than I was eating a meat-based diet.
Not everyone can be vegan, but everyone can be aware of themselves.
What you can do
So, I ask you, if you find yourself eating mindlessly in your diet, ask the questions, do the research and try to identify why you are eating the things you are eating. Is it purely for pleasure? Is it a habit that you are in? Do you not know about where your food is coming from, and how it is getting there?
I am aware as well that economically, not everyone can eat a vegan diet as the choice is not there. Food is food in some parts of the world. However, if you are in a first-world country, you do have the choice. Meat substitute products are expensive, but also, not so necessary in a vegan or vegetarian diet. Search recipes that use more grains or vegetables instead and let yourself get creative. And every menu everywhere will allow for different options. It’s very simple to just say “could I have this without the chicken/eggs/cheese?” The answer will be yes.
So, please, don’t attack peoples food choices because we all do whatever we can to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and feel proud of ourselves. This goes for vegans and non-vegans! But also inviting a more mindful approach to your diet will let you explore what your choices mean to you, and how you can live a more balanced a mindful existence.