In 2009 I started an experiment. I became a vegetarian.
People often casually ask me why I am a vegetarian. It seems they expect an answer about how much I love animals and just can’t eat them. I do love animals and hate animal abuse. But that is not my reason. My reason is kind of complicated and unusual, but I love sharing it with others and I hope people can be inspired and learn from it.
It truly started as an experiment and one that although it didn’t achieve my initial goal at first, did have a lot of really good side effects. I enjoyed it so much that as I write this over 13 years later I’m still a vegetarian and thriving!
Let me start at the beginning of this journey.
Growing up, for as long as I can remember, I had really bad menstrual cramps. I would sometimes come home sick from school. They would at times cause me to vomit and be debilitated. When I went off to college it didn’t get any better. In fact, I remember my sophomore year, my roommates had me call a nurse’s medical hotline because they were so worried about me. For me, this was unfortunately a normal part of my life.
Fast forward a few years and in my mid-twenties I moved to Cameroon, Africa to teach at a Christian missionary international school for a year. It took me a few months to notice because every day I was so overwhelmed, but my menstrual cramps were much better while I was there. Minimal pain and no vomiting.
After a year there, I returned to the States to live with my folks for a few months before moving to Chicago for Seminary and Grad School. The first period I had after returning was the worst in my memory. I was throwing up for 10 hours straight. Light cramps and no vomiting for a year to 10 hrs of vomiting. I don’t know what you would do but for me, it sent me on a mission to figure out what was different.
My Search for a Solution
I knew it wasn’t just the air I was breathing. Something I was putting in my body was different. In Cameroon, we cooked a lot from scratch with the foods we bought in the market. Processed foods were harder to find and really expensive (mostly shipped from Europe). So we stuck with simple fruits, veggies, grains, chicken, and eggs, with occasional beef and dairy. I was already hoping to put my new cooking skills into practice and do more cooking from scratch. I thought perhaps it was the preservatives and more unhealthy food I ate in the States that caused problems.
Somewhere along the way, a friend suggested it could be all the hormones and antibiotics used in the mass production of meat in our country that caused me problems. I tried researching this but didn’t really find anything on it. The more I thought about it, it seemed that it could make sense that consuming meat that consumes a lot of hormones, could mess with my hormones.
Hormones are always that mysterious thing that you can’t see but believe in. Did you ever live with several women and all end up on the same menstrual cycle rhythm? Medical folks say periods aren’t contagious. But I swear if you live with women long enough you all magically get your period on the same day! Anyway, I digress…
I decided I had nothing to lose and was going to go vegetarian when I moved to Chicago for Seminary in 2009. Living on my own allowed me full control over what I ate and cooked with no one but myself to complain. I committed to do a three-month experiment and see how I felt.
I moved to Chicago in January 2009 and then I dove into my grand experiment.
The Results of Becoming a Vegetarian
When my first period came around, I was curious to see what would happen. Well, I found myself laying on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy and miserable with cramps. No vomiting, but still bad cramps. Bummer.
But I still had two more months to go in my experiment.
I had some things in place but definitely didn’t have it all figured out. So I researched things like how much protein I needed and things to be aware of as a new vegetarian. I subscribed to Vegetarian Times to get recipe ideas and inspiration.
Since I was avoiding hormones and antibiotics, I decided I was ok eating wild game, grass-fed beef, or eggs and dairy labeled to indicate the animals weren’t treated with these products. I didn’t really enjoy the taste of cow’s milk anymore (I went a year without it in Cameroon because it was really expensive and powered milk tastes gross!) so I switched to Soy milk which was the main plant-based milk available. Grass-fed beef was expensive so I never bought it. I occasionally ate some venison from my Dad’s deer kill the past hunting season.
After three months I was still bummed that my cramps weren’t miraculously better. I hadn’t thrown up anymore and I thought the cramps were maybe a fraction more tolerable but that may have just been my imagination.
But I stuck with it. Why?
Because there were all these other amazing side effects I wasn’t expecting.
I was sleeping better
I lost about 10 pounds and continued to keep it off
I just felt better overall
I was enjoying the challenge and fun of cooking vegetarian!
So I stuck with it.
After about 6 months or so I completely gave up meat (even grass-fed and wild game) because my stomach no longer tolerated it and I felt sick after eating it.
My cramps did eventually get much better. I credit part of it to my vegetarian diet, but I’ve made other healthy changes that I think have helped as well.
My Vegetarian Life Now
Fast forward 13 years and I still eat a vegetarian diet. Some might call me a Pescatarian because I eat fish. I try to eat fish that is sustainably caught but I know there are challenges there (more on that in part 2 of the series).
I converted my boyfriend/now husband to be vegetarian. He already ate less meat than others but was hesitant to cut it all out because of his protein needs as a distance runner. (That is something to pay attention to which I’ll talk more about in Part 3 of this series.) I had a healthy vegetarian pregnancy in which I felt great most of the time. We’re raising a healthy vegetarian son.
My Challenge for you
For those of you who eat meat, I challenge you to pay more attention to your meat. Where does it come from? How is it treated (humanly speaking)? What is it treated with or what does it eat? Because whatever it eats, you eat. Think about it. Whatever the pig, cow, chicken ate, you ultimately are getting a piece of it.
Chew on that for the month! (And pay attention! It’s probably more difficult to find out this information than you would think.)
Come Back To learn more about Becoming a Vegetarian
This is the first of a three-part series. Part two will be released the first week of May and is on the lessons I’ve learned while being a vegetarian. There are some big lessons, but also plenty of small yet valuable ones.
Part three will be released the first week of June and is focused on tips and tricks to becoming a vegetarian. It’s not hard, but it does take intentionality, courage, and determination.
Check out some of my Favorite Vegetarian Recipes
PIN FOR LATER!
I’m a new blogger and saving this image to Pinterest can help me grow! Learn more about my blog HERE.