I have always been “different.” Raised by two healthy parents with vastly different eating habits, my diet was naturally most influenced by mother, the cook of the family. Unlike my father, my mother was a tenured, committed vegetarian. My father, not so much. To this day, despite his preference towards meat, my father admits he is much healthier abiding by a predominantly vegetarian diet thanks to my mother. I owe her the same appreciation.
Growing up, the way my mother educated me about the vegetarian diet was biased and lacked factual grounds. Fortunately being the rebellious young girl that I was, I participated in a secret venture and sampled meats of various kinds. Still though, I usually found myself hunched over the sink spitting up the taste. It wasn’t until college that I began researching vegetarianism. Upon injuring my hip flexor, I was determined to find the best diet for my active lifestyle, whether that be vegetarian or not. From my research and a visit to the doctor, it was found that my vegetarian diet was sufficient for my activity level. My injury was a result of overworking my body and also a lack of variation in my work out routine. Two years later and finally able to put in the miles the way I used to, I became extremely satisfied with my diet and my fitness.
Over conversation with my aunt I nonchalantly sipped on a protein shake to prepare for my afternoon run. She mentioned the importance of reading the ingredients on protein shakes because some of them contain meat. I scoffed in response. “What? I’ve never heard of that. There can’t be meat in my protein shakes.” I would soon find out, quite the contrary. Begrudgingly I googled one of the ingredients in my protein shake: casein. What I gathered is that casein, a milk protein, is processed with rennin, the lining of a calf’s stomach. Raunchy. I was not expecting that. Nor was I expecting to find that many of the products I consumed my entire life such as cheese, ice cream, and milk also contain this animal-processed protein. It took a millisecond for me to declare myself a vegan. As I have come to find, easier said than done.
Most vegetarians were once omnivores. As a lifelong vegetarian, I never had to give up meat. I never had to give up anything I loved. The journey to become vegan is appealing and daunting. Above all, it is an opportunity for me to learn and explore, understand, and emphasize with the challenges omnivores face when making this drastic dietary transition to a vegetarian diet. Equally important, I hope to understand why so many people are fiercely turned off from the idea of trying a vegetarian or vegan diet.