Normally, I was about 180 pounds, and then I got sick. The doctors put me on medicine, and I gained 60 pounds in three months. I was still sick. They changed prescriptions. More weight. I began throwing up six times or more a day because I was so sick. No medicine or medical “oscopy” of choice was of any use. I would have to run out of my classroom hoping that I wouldn’t get sick in the hallway at school. A teacher’s worst nightmare.
I’d tried being a vegetarian once before, but I met a road block. This time there would be no road blocks. On the wintery commute home from school, I decided I would become a vegetarian. After all, when I ate roast beef, the thought that was prevalent in my mind was, “Muscle tissue, muscle tissue” with every bite. Normal people don’t think like that.
I came home and cleaned out my refrigerator, my freezer, my pantry, even the chicken flavored ramen. There was no “cold turkey” to be had. I was just quitting. I took a grocery basket full of about $100 worth of meat products to my elderly neighbors and made their night with the gift of free food. That was it: I was a vegetarian.
But everyone always said, “Vegetarians aren’t healthy. Vegetarians don’t get enough vitamins and essential nutrients. Vegetarians don’t get enough protein.” I set out on a mission to prove that wrong. The following day on my prep hour, I called my doctor and asked for a referral to a dietician. I’m Type A. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right.
I met with my dietician. I weighed in at 245 pounds. The largest weight of my life. She showed me what a vegetarian plate should look like, how much protein I should eat, how big of a serving of fruits and vegetables I should eat with each meal, and instructed me to keep a food journal for two weeks — until my next visit. On that second visit we discussed my food journal, weighed me in (I was already down 8 pounds), and I was sent to the lab for a blood test. In two weeks it was a repeat, only this time she had my blood test results, and she instructed me on which vitamins I would need to take in order to supplement my current diet to ensure a healthy balance. I’ve been taking them ever since. Now I never get sick!
Every now and then I would get a meat craving, it’s true. Just one time I caved. I thought, “The person at KFC doesn’t know I’ve been a vegetarian for the last eight months.” I took one bite of the boneless skinless, breast, and threw up. It was so chewy, salty, greasy, and disgusting.
Since then my vegetarianism has evolved into animal activism, and I’ve had to give up other things. For instance, I had to give up my favorite vice in the world, gummy bears, because they were made with gelatin, which is made from pulverized beef bones — by far the hardest sacrifice I have had to make. I’ve given up milk. I drink almond milk, and when my creamer runs out in a few days, I’m switching to Coconut Creamer. I find myself relying heavily on dairy products like cheese and yogurt still, however. I’m slowly going to transition myself away from them since the dairy industry disgusts me. The longer I’ve been a vegetarian, the more I’ve educated myself.
For a long time I lost weight at the rate of 5-8 pounds a week. I got all the way down to 122 pounds at my lightest, too skinny in my opinion. A problem I’d never before had in my life. I’ve since gained some weight and am now up to about 138 pounds. I’m happy at this weight. I’ve been a vegetarian for two and half years. I’ll likely transition into full veganism.
Learning how to cook in new ways with tofu, tempeh, and other veggie proteins has been fun and exploratory. I love how healthy I am, how much more energy I have, and how much more I feel life blesses me with. Being a vegetarian is part of my identity.