Vegetarianism, I hate you.

Since my “vegucation” a week ago I have not eaten any meat or fish. I’ve discovered that Waitrose Indian Bhaji burgers are a perfectly good Friday fast food dish – think a cross between an onion bhaji and a vegetable pakora, grilled and served in a gluten free roll with lettuce, tomato and Holy Cow Bombay ketchup. I made a vegetarian risotto with asparagus, courgette, peas and celery that even my committed carnivore partner really liked, and I nearly fell over with shock when he said it didn’t need bacon. I’ve made some yummy veggie pizzas using these fantastic herby pizza bases from Venice Bakery – gluten free AND vegan, no less. No animals remotely harmed in the creation thereof, and they taste great, as did the topping of grilled artichokes, black olives and Peppadew spicy peppers.

But the novelty has worn off now. I want a steak, pretty badly. However, I have yet to decide if I am actually going to have one.

The thing is, it would be an easy decision, if a) the vegetarian food I’ve been finding and making had been terrible and b) I hadn’t found that my body has responded so well to a vegetarian diet.

The second one, in particular, is irritating, because I hadn’t thought it would be the case at all. I’ve gone Paleo before, with some success, particularly in the weight loss department, and Paleo doctrine dictates that vegetarianism is unhealthy. I was pretty sold on that for a while, and I ate a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of meat. How many people are going to say no to a diet that legitimizes bacon? I sure as hell wasn’t. Bacon is great. It smells great, and it tastes great. And eating bacon and losing weight? Sign me up.

However, Paleo was hard to follow, and expensive, because to give Paleo philosophy its due, it does advocate organic or at least free range, pasture-raised meat and eggs (dairy is a no-no). But high-welfare meat, whilst if you are going to eat meat, is the best way of doing it, is much more expensive than the factory farmed flabby antibiotic-ridden stuff. And I ran into problems with Paleo in the gut department, the details of which I will spare you – suffice to say, if you have strictures, there actually is such a thing as too much protein. I also had a serious low blood sugar problem on Paleo, and I couldn’t manage any exercise without feeling like I was going to pass out. And I was a little skeptical with regard to all this stuff about grains being soooooo bad for you. Gluten? Yep, sold, that’s my enemy number one. Sugar? No brainer. But rice? Rice? Really? I’ve been to rural China, Vietnam and Cambodia. They live on the stuff, and I don’t think I ever saw an obese person around those parts. They don’t eat much meat either, because it’s too expensive, unless you catch it yourself, or you develop a taste for deep fried insects, which I didn’t. I lost weight there, living off a lot of rice, a lot of veg, fresh fruit, and a bit of meat, fish or tofu when it was around. So I don’t buy this theory that rice is evil and must be destroyed.

Following a vegetarian diet for the past week has not only improved my energy levels, reduced my joint pain (painkillers required only 3 days out of 7) and the stiffness I get in my hands and feet in the mornings, I’ve even hit on the Holy Grail – a vast improvement in dysfunctional gut behaviour, even necessitating a reduction in the medication I take to keep everything working. That is seriously worth its weight in tofu, and it’s definitely enough to keep me motivated, at least for now, to carry on with it.

Don’t get me wrong – I am definitely motivated to follow a vegetarian diet and reduce my consumption of animal products in general because I don’t want to support factory farming or cruelty to animals, and I am also concerned about the environmental impact – and in turn, the impact on people, because you can’t screw up the environment without screwing things up for the people who live there. All that is good, and noble, and I am 100% in support of veggies and vegans for whom this is enough motivation to master their taste for bacon. In fact, brain scans of vegetarians and vegans have shown that they may be more compassionate than their omnivorous counterparts – but I wonder what came first? There’s a chicken and egg theory here – do vegetarians and vegans become such because they feel more compassion to begin with, or does being vegetarian or vegan increase feelings of compassion? Are certain types of individuals more likely to become vegetarian or vegan, or could anybody develop this heightened sensitivity, if they were to be vegetarian or vegan for long enough?

I suspect for a lot of people, there needs to be more motivation than just the squeamishness factor around killing animals for food. I will admit that I am possibly one of these people, and that I probably also need the health benefits factor to keep me motivated to stay off the bacon. Without the fact that I feel pretty good on it, I’m not sure I’d stay motivated enough. It’s not that I want to kill animals – I really don’t, but being a coeliac vegetarian living with a meat-loving, eats-anything partner, that’s going to be pretty difficult. Sharing food together is powerful, and if I can no longer bond with my guy over a rack of BBQ ribs, I at least want to know that there’s a payoff. The trade, at the moment, is a flatter stomach, less pain and cramping, less bathroom trauma, and moving around easier – that, I can trade an 8oz ribeye for, and he can probably deal with me being one of those knowing that my health is better for it.

Damn you, vegetarianism. Why did you have to end up being so darn good for me and give me absolutely zero good excuses to go back to eating steak?


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