Ciao! 2020 has been all about health and the wellbeing of us all and since the 6th anniversary of me not eating meat is close, I thought about sharing my experience here, hoping I can help someone out if they are considering turning vegetarian or plant-based. Also, this will be posted for all the future questions my meat-eating family members and friends will have 😁
A small disclaimer: Vegetarianism, veganism and being plant-based are not the same thing. I don’t like labelling things but for the sake of this post and any future questions, I will explain the differences and share my experiences. Being vegetarian means eating everything except meat and fish, being plant-based means not eating any animal products (no meat, no fish, no animal milk and products, no eggs, no honey) and being vegan means being plant-based but also avoiding any products harming the animals and the environment (no fur and leather, avoiding plastic, no palm oil, using cruelty-free vegan cosmetic products). I have been vegetarian for 6 years, I have had periods of eating fully plant-based and I would recommend that to everyone as well. Also, this post is created solely based of my experience and my lifestyle. Some data is backed by doctors and professionals, but take everything with a grain of salt and consult your doctor and nutritionist before trying any major diet change.
To start with, a little background story:
Since the age of 6, I started telling my parents I would like to stop eating meat because I felt sorry for the animals. My parents were never against it even though they both ate meat and they always were fully supportive of me. But at that young age, my journey didn’t start as planned since I was just a kid who loved food and forgot that I wanted to stop eating meat. Luckily, I was never the biggest fan of meat except the processed kind that didn’t even remotely resemble meat. When I became a bit older, that’s when I could finally stick to my decisions. 2014 hit, and my journey started.
Why did I stop?
Everyone is, to this day, asking themselves why I stopped: and I don’t have a solid answer for that. People turn vegetarian or vegan for the animals, some do it for health reasons and aesthetics, some do it for the environment and I bet there are even more reasons. And to be a 100% honest with you, I don’t even remember the reason why I first stopped eating meat. Today, I am just aware that I will be continuing not to eat it because of the number of health benefits it has given me and because I know I am doing my part of helping the environment.
So let’s talk about what I learned during this 6 years and why you should give it a try too.
I started feeling lighter and healthier after just a month or two. I didn’t have that sluggish feeling I got before when I ate meat. My skin drastically improved: it cleared up and changed it’s texture a lot.
My period cycles got lighter and more regular and the pain and cramps I had before decreased. I can’t tell you much about weight loss since that was the same year I started working out a lot, but I can answer a frequently asked question with this one for sure: Yes, I got more than enough protein.
My blood tests came out perfect, I had every vitamin and mineral above the average rate, and the first year or two I didn’t even supplement with anything because I didn’t’ feel the need to + I didn’t know how to and wasn’t very interested in that.
Does not eating meat prevent you from getting sick? I wouldn’t say it fully prevents it and that you will never get sick. Of course, I get the seasonal flu, like every other human being. But they are less occurring and even when I get sick, it doesn’t last long and it isn’t as bad as some people. But I can reassure you that consuming veggies and fruits instead of someone’s flesh will aid in healing, feeling more energised and be less sick.
Healthwise, I can’t talk about diabetes, cholesterol and all of the other diseases being vegetarian/vegan can cure because I never had those problems. But I am sure it can help prevent a lot of health problems and cure some.
Another plus of not eating meat is that you could help the environment a lot. It saves water, land, reduces gas emissions and a lot more. For one kg of meat, there are between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water required. 26% of the planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33% of croplands are used for livestock feed production. Besides the huge environmental impact, there is also the humane side. My intention with this post is not to make anyone feel bad or forcefully to convert someone to stop eating meat. But just to think about how big of an impact it would have for just one person to stop eating meat regularly. For an almost accurate representation on how much water, forest, animal lives and much more you could safe, I recommend the vegan calculator
For example, I could proudly say that in 6 years I have saved around 2,190 animal lives, over 9 million litres of water, almost 40 thousand kg of grain, prevented almost 20 thousand kg of CO2 gas emissions and saved over 6 thousand square meters of forest. If you want to contribute to our dying planet and save a piece of it, I would highly recommend you to start by having a meat-free day a week, experiment with recipes and build you way up to more days.
The social aspect
I didn’t find hanging out with my friends once I turned vegetarian harder than usual. I guess I am lucky to have had friends back in the day who supported my decision. Now, a lot of my friends are vegetarian too, some are even vegan. My family consists of heavy meat-eaters but family gatherings were never a problem. My cousin stopped eating meat as well a couple of years ago so that made it even more easier. A great thing is that I love cooking and cooking for others, and being vegetarian was a great way to introduce some new options and recipes into my family and friends circle.
FAQ’s answered and how you can start too?
You can start by taking one day a week to ditch the meat. Take that day for experimenting with other recipes (I promise you they are even better than your regular meals). Go to vegetarian/vegan restaurants, try foods you haven’t tried before and try to make your regular meals, meatless.
If done correctly, a meat-free diet is suited for absolutely everyone (and by everyone I mean even the ones who claim that they couldn’t stop eating meat because of their health).
Protein, fat and carb, as well as all the vitamin and mineral intake on a vegetarian/plant-based diet, is more than sufficient for a long and healthy life.
I like to base my diet on whole food when I can and I would be more than happy to share with you some of my favourite recipes.
If you need any help and inspiration for stopping meat consumption or even starting a vegan lifestyle, I have some Instagram profiles for you to follow: Ivana Pirizović (the local recipe queen), Ri also known as plntbasedprincess, my great friend Larisa (kitchenjourneywithlac), and the movies Earthlings and Forks over knives. Also, try some meat substitutes like tofu and jackfruit, and Beyond Meat and the Next Level Burger.
If you have any further questions or requests, feel free to comment down in the comments section or on my Instagram.
Until next time!