Richard and I turned vegetarian in October 2019 after a lifetime of meat eating. Why? It may sound cliche but we watched a Netflix documentary (you may have heard of) called Game Changers and overnight we were converted. The documentary explored a wide variety of benefits to cutting out meat. It was a very one sided view but many of the messages resonated with both of us (not for entirely the same reasons) and we decided to try becoming vegetarian. Initially we thought there would be health benefits and it might help our athletic performance. As triathletes, we wanted to get our nutrition right and this seemed a great direction to go.
We reduced our processed sugar intake, cut out meat, poultry and fish entirely. It was a learning experience but we both felt infinitely better after just a couple of weeks. Over the following few months, our energy levels changed and we both felt incredible, lost weight and felt leaner and stronger. My skin even improved and I swear my reflection looked younger. Converting to vegetarianism was so much easier than I thought it would be and there was never a question of reverting back to eating meat.* I thought that as time went on, I would get cravings.
In reality, as time went on, the thought of eating meat became less and less appealing. I realised that I didn’t want to eat a living creature and the thought of cutting up raw chicken made me feel sick. I had always felt uncomfortable with the idea of eating animals but had pushed it to the back of my mind as I simply enjoyed eating meat. Now I am more aware and care more about where my food has come from. When buying meat, we have no idea where that animal has come from or what it has been fed or what hormones we are ingesting. Plants are natural and come from the ground. It just feels so much safer and healthier in general. I have also always had a delicate stomach and countless cases of food poisoning/stomach issues. It would happen on a monthly basis but, since we turned veggie, I have had zero problems. That is a huge reason for me to continue. For Richard it is all about the health benefits but I definitely also enjoy knowing that I am not eating animals and that I may be helping the environment by giving up meat.
Learning a new way to cook
There was (and still is) a learning curve in terms of cooking and meal planning. My whole life, I had planned recipes around the meat/fish and suddenly we had to learn where to get our protein, the importance of nuts and grains, discovering lentils and quorn…the list goes on! However, becoming vegetarian is definitely much more accessible these days. More and more restaurants are getting on board so there are choices when eating out. There are meat alternatives that are super easy to buy and lots of choices at the supermarket.
Temptations to eat meat
Just this weekend, I smelt something amazing cooking in the kitchen then realised my mum was making bacon sandwiches for everyone. Initially I was tempted as the smell was so good but, as soon as I realised it was bacon, the reality of putting the fatty meat in my mouth was unthinkable and the temptation swiftly passed. The same went for Sunday Roast dinner. I thought this might be the time I would break down and convert back. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my first nut roast experience and felt no sense of missing out as the rest of the family tucked into their beef, lamb and pork.
Anyone can try!
I would suggest to anyone to just try being veggie for a fortnight and see how you feel. Richard and I both grew up in meat eating families and I had tried to turn vegetarian and failed on a number of attempts throughout my adult life. I had previously been intrigued but never really had the willpower or support network to follow through. I think it helped having someone to try it with. We kept each other on track so having an understanding friend/family member/housemate/partner try it with you can definitely help. Not everyone will understand, support or encourage the move so choose wisely.
We are definitely still learning and I am very excited to keep experimenting and sharing my vegetarian recipes along the way. It is easy to eat too much cheese and fall back on easy quorn alternatives too often so we are making a conscious effort to continuously improve the way we eat. Keep checking back to find healthy recipes and, if you are tempted, try going veggie. You won’t regret it!
*Confession – After our Ironman 70.3 in China we were STARVING and had struggled all weekend to find any vegetarian food. We succumbed to a mountain of McDonalds chicken nuggets out of desperation for calories. We have never done so since (especially as we discovered quorn nuggets which are delicious)!