Monday, October 4, 2010

Meat-free me

About six months ago, I made a change. I decided to try on vegetarianism for size. I get on these little bandwagons every now and then... so I fully expected myself to fall off this one in due time. I thought sure I’d succumb to a random chicken nugget or a pepperoni.... But I wanted to try to live a cleaner life, which for me meant giving up eating most animal flesh. I decided to give myself a little leeway, however. I allowed myself to occasionally eat fish. I figured if Jesus was OK with it, I could be too. Plus, going full-on vegetarian was a little intimidating for me. I don’t call myself a pescatarian, because I very very rarely partake in fish these days. But I do allow myself the option. So I suppose you could call me a pescatarian if you like, or a slightly hypocritical vegetarian. But I digress...

I made this lifestyle shift in the spring after reading Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet and watching part of Michael Pollan’s eye-opening documentary Food Inc. For a long time, my family had been eating a mostly vegetarian diet and didn’t really realize it. We rarely incorporated meat, and hardly ever red meat, into our diet. But we did have our weekend barbecues and as an Italian gal, I loved my sausage and prosciutto. But I never felt quite right after eating a meat-laden dinner. I felt heavy, sluggish, bloated and just generally gross.

My motives for giving up meat were strictly health-related in the beginning. I wanted to feel better and be leaner. But the longer I’ve gone sans meat, the more I appreciate the humanity of it. I can’t imagine eating the flesh of a cow or a pig now. I can’t justify their slaughter for my personal pleasure — especially since I know that pleasure is fleeting but that animal’s demise is permanent.

I’ve noticed since converting to a mostly vegetarian diet, that I feel better, my skin is clearer, and my body functions more efficiently. I even sleep better at night (literally and figuratively).

I’m by no means becoming one of those preachy, strict, paint-wielding vegetarians who shakes fingers at hamburger eaters and disfigures fur coats. I don’t hug trees in my back yard, worship Jerry Garcia or wear Birkenstocks on a regular basis.

I don’t flash the peace sign to everyone who walks by either. But I do feel more at peace and generally happier. If indeed our bodies are temples, I am so glad I’m no longer filling mine with animal flesh. I’ve spruced up this temple.

I encourage everyone to give up meat at least one day a week just to experience something different. Have a Meat-Free Monday so that you can explore all of the wonderful other options there are out there, like a veggie quinoa pilaf or red beans and rice or a hearty vegetarian minestrone. You’ll be surprised how good you feel — literally and figuratively!

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