Written by Jamie Bible. Media by Jon Friedman.
I wish that I had a better story behind the original reason for my lifestyle change. In all honesty, I decided to become a vegetarian because I had experienced the reality of the Freshman Fifteen. My first year at college, it was so easy to buy ramen in ungodly-sized quantities and eat a pack of the creamy chicken at 2 a.m. while powering through an all-nighter of gen eds.
I was overjoyed to meet so many new people, and agreed to late night Steak n Shake or Denny’s runs where I would “social eat” (graze on an unhealthy amount of calories, even though I wasn’t hungry, just because everyone wanted to hang out at some fluorescently-lit grease-bucket of a restaurant). Unlike in high school, where I was able to eat a lot of calories and then work it off in one of my after-school sports, I was now completely inactive (save for the trek up three flights of Burritt stairs each day to go to bed). This being said, I gained almost 13 pounds in my freshman year alone.
I decided that if I was going to start living a life of significantly less physical activity, I needed to make a lifestyle change rather than try another diet that only works temporarily. I was tired of feeling gross and eating cheap foods. I looked at my diet and realized that besides chicken, seafood, and the occasional cheeseburger, I ate very little meat. I decided that over the summer I was going to test out vegetarianism.
Before embarking on this journey, I thought of myself as someone who would never be able to give up meat, that by the end of summer, I would be practically begging to eat a Big Mac. My original goal was to just try vegetarianism for a couple months and then limit meat intake after the summer. Almost a complete two years later, I have not had meat in my diet since eating a chicken caesar salad from Kahuna’s on May 16, 2016.
I have no desire to go back to eating meat. The first couple of weeks were hard as I realized how many of my main entrees were meat-based, and I was practically just eating cheese and bread in truckloads. I remember having several odd dreams about eating bologna sandwiches (I know, out of all of the meats I was missing out on, and my subconscious chose bologna). However, it didn’t take much longer than a month to fully adjust to my no-meat diet, as I started subbing in veggie and faux-meat substitutes.
The longer I was a vegetarian, the more I respected and identified with the lifestyle. I think taking Plants and People my freshman fall semester taught me to respect the world and nature in a different way. I have a greater appreciation for the intricacies that God created in each petiole and apex in every leaf of a plant, every one being crafted differently than the last. And I know that a God that is that meticulous and perfect in creating even a single leaf of a plant has also uniquely created animals. The more that I learn about the abuse, neglect, and overcrowding in the meat industry, the more my heart hurts to think that an animal with a real life is forced to live in pitiful conditions for a short time and meet a horrific death, all just so that for one meal, someone can enjoy fried chicken.
I have always had a predilection toward animals, and after spending three months not eating them, the idea of eating meat again made me feel nauseous – I was perfectly content with a Boca burger or a veggie pizza. I found that the longer I went without meat, the less tempting it was for me. I have no problem with other people eating meat, I just personally feel no desire to eat it.
Overall, I think this was the right choice for me, but I understand that it may not be the right choice for everyone else. I am not interested in “converting” others to vegetarianism, but I will gladly tell people all of the benefits I have experienced since switching my diet permanently. However, if you are interested in giving vegetarianism a try, or simply limiting the amount of meat you eat each week, you may be surprised by what you find.