Today is my fifth month as a "renewed" vegetarian and my third month eating raw vegan food.
I wanted to revisit my history as a vegetarian since I may not have fully discussed it here in a while.
When I was in college I ate a sporadically vegetarian diet. I'd always eat veggie gyros, veggie subs at Subway and ate a lot of Kraft spaghetti kits (they came boxed with dry spaghetti, a little can of tomato sauce and some Parmesan cheese).
I also ate some of the worst processed meat nightmares ever like Hamburger Station cheeseburgers (sliders), the Mr. Hero Romanburger (a burger patty with grilled Italian cold-cuts on it), the Mr. Hero cheesesteak sub, McDonald's cheeseburgers with cheese sauce and grilled onions on a rye bun (a special that they have not had again in 20 years because I am sure they discovered how unbelievably bad it was for you) and processed meat at Chi-Chi's where we went to have Mexican food on a semi-regular basis.
One semester that I lived at home (and commuted) I ate much healthier sticking to an almost vegetarian diet for about 4 months.
I was on a serious vegetarian rollercoaster in that I would often go months eating vegetarian only to completely fall off and go the other way entirely. I had no real motivation other than health at this time as the concept of an ethical vegetarian had not reached but a few cutting edge people in Ohio in the early nineties.
When I was finally clued in four and half years ago, it was through some Buddhist friends that I had been on a retreat with and my friend Brooke who was the first person to introduce me to the concept of a living foods diet.
I played around with vegetarianism for about a year before I decided to go to PETA and read (not view) the animal rights information there. I also made friends with an AFL member who was instrumental in my finally becoming vegetarian.
I did fall off once before coming back five months ago so while I call this my five month anniversary it really has been 14 months total of a meat-free life, just with a small (ok, not so small) hiccup in the middle.
So what made me come back? What made me go further even to raw food?
My husband died ten months ago. This life-changing event reverberated through me. For months I couldn't eat anything but onion soup and pasta. I started to lose weight after being obese for the past 12 years of my life.
Since I had a head start and was dealing with type 2 diabetes that I had let run uncontrolled for 8 years and complications from that (peripheral neuropathy), I decided that it was time to get myact together.
I also went back to PETA after reading a stunning article in The Humane Society magazine on the closing of the Hallmark slaughterhouse. This article and the subsequant viewing of the material that I couldn't bear to watch a couple of years ago made me an instant vegetarian.
This time I did it differently.
I got involved in the blogosphere. I read every vegan and vegetarian book I could find. I began getting rid of all of my cookbooks that had meat recipes in them (and I had a collection of several hundred). I adopted animals at Farm Sanctuary and Animal Acres. I supported animal welfare through The Humane Society, National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, Pigs for Peace, Polar Bears, Alley Cats, PETA and many others.
I bought back issues of Herbivore magazine and subscribed to Vegetarian Times and VegNews. I read many vegan and vegetarian blogs and started getting involved with raw food, reading every book published on the subject as well as attending seminars and joining raw food communities.
I started un-cooking and using superfoods.
I've lost a total of 80 lbs too which keeps me quite motivated toward my goal.
At the same time I used up household cleaners and goods and replaced them with clean and green. I changed my body care and skincare and make-up to organic, no chemical, green, sustainable, vegan options.
I'm not telling you this to show you how wonderful I am or that I deserve a big award for being a vegetarian (though if there is a big award I hope it is vegan cookies or cupcakes!). I'm telling you this because all of this has helped me to STAY vegetarian. I have made lasting changes in my life and took the steps to make sure that I would not abandon my principles in a time of high-stress as I had before.
The things I read and viewed at PETA made an indelible impression on me, one that I had not allowed myself to endure previously out of fear. No one wants to see such scenes of terror and horror and think that they were complicit in the acts.
I wear a virtual hairshirt of my own weaving for the guilt I carry for having been a meat-eater for all but 14 months of my existence. I was not strong enough to do this before, not strong enough to dedicate my life to ethical vegetarianism and animal rights. Now I wear that hairshirt proudly because it reminds me that there is no other way to live.