Becoming a vegetarian is easy. Explaining to those around you that you do not eat meat and having them respect your position is an entirely different story. I don't even want respect. I am now to the point where I wish they would just leave it be, and I have a feeling I am not alone.

The argument I continually hear is "How do you get your protein?" There is not a single person in this country suffering from a protein deficiency. My own grandmother practically had a heart attack when I told her I no longer eat meat. "Why, that can't be healthy. You have to eat meat," she fussed the last time I visited. Grandma makes three things - Spanish rice, goulash, and chili. All with ground beef. She is the ground beef queen. Eating ground beef is healthier in the eyes of some of my family members than eating plants. Go figure. They sit and stare at me. "What are you going to eat?" I try to explain that it's simple to eat pasta without meat sauce. This is not a concept that comes easy to them.

The phone rings once a week. Another person having difficulty with my decision to eat an almost exclusively plant based diet has been my mother-in-law. Mind you, this is a person whose life is dedicated to the crusade against fat. She abhors fat, and talks about how healthy she herself eats to the point of exhaustion. "I had a third of a muffin and three strawberries for breakfast." The question on the answering machine this week, the one before Thanksgiving, is "Lorie eats turkey, right?" When my patient husband calls his mother to explain once again that poultry is meat, she counters with "Well, what fish should I prepare for her? She has to eat something." When I first switched to vegetarianism, this went on for months, with the same question, feel free to substitute in whatever meat you like. "She eats chicken, doesn't she?" "You eat fish, don't you?" As an acquiescence to me, she made rice once - with beef stock. She now acts as if I am a difficult eater. I ask that nothing be made special for me, and I try to be extremely gracious when it comes to the food prepared for me. I used to eat it just to be polite, but I soon realized that going against my principles because someone else is offended by my good intentions does neither of us any favors. The invites to my in-laws for dinner have ground to a halt, with the exception of major holidays.

Eating as I do has had a positive effect on some around me. My husband's eating habits have cleaned up, and he enjoys the meals I make for him. He even prepares his own vegetarian dishes for us now. One of my closest friends was having a difficult time losing weight after giving birth to her son. Her cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar were through the roof. At first, my vegetarian diet rubbed her the wrong way. She thought it was based on my love of animals, which is true, but not the entire reason. Why this angers some people, the fact that I do not eat meat because I do not condone the manner in which animals are raised for food in our country, is beyond me. I have been told that some feel that you are judging them by choosing a cruelty free lifestyle. If that is the case, so be it. Anyway, she was curious about what I was doing, because my weight is a very healthy 125, down from 140 two years ago. Skeptical at first, she slowly introduced vegetarian dishes into her own diet. She encountered a considerable amount of resistance from her husband and her family. The husbands, bless their hearts, can be terrible. Supportive at first, they become pouty after awhile, acting as if they are being starved against their will. "Can't we just have meat a couple times a week?" She stuck to her guns, and now eats an amazing diet, filled with fresh juices and organic produce. So does her husband and their son. This did not happen overnight. I leant to her my books, and shared information without forcing it on her, and she came to understand that this is not some crazy, tree-hugging way of eating, but a sensible, healthy way of life. She lost 15 pounds, and her medical readings are stellar. She is proud of herself, and has never felt better.

My sister literally called me an "a**hole" for being a vegetarian. She came to visit one week, and the friend I mentioned above, who likes my sister very much since they are very much alike, came over. My sister commented on how great she looked, and she told my sister what she had been doing. Funny thing about families - if you are doing something they don't agree with, you are a jerk. If someone else is doing the exact same thing, it is suddenly interesting, if not intriguing. Seeing my friend, with whom she used to drink and eat like godless heathens, and my husband, ditto, suddenly not just eating a healthy, plant based diet, but thriving on it, had a dramatic effect on her. She went home, called me and asked, "Guess what I am doing? I just went through my freezer, refrigerator, and pantry, and threw out all the garbage." She went shopping and replaced her unhealthy food with vegetarian and vegan options and, you guessed it, is now a practicing vegetarian.

Why is it that so many get upset about this decision? To not kill, to not pollute your body with hormones and antibiotics, to not digest saturated fat and risk heart disease and arterial sclerosis? Vegetarians are not difficult fussbudgets. I never preach to anyone about how I eat or why, and if they are curious, I try to be as diplomatic as possible in explaining my choices. But you should hear their comments when I order in a restaurant. "How can you eat that? That's so gross!" they cry, as they plow into their seventy-two ounce porterhouse. It's completely inappropriate, and at times I feel like responding "How can you eat that, weighing what you weigh?" Unfortunately, polite society dictates that we not counter rudeness with more rudeness.

Speaking of going out to eat, there are a couple of younger members of my in-law's family that eat vegetarian, so we will go out for Japanese or Chinese food when we are all together. The grind? We non-meat eaters order two of three vegetarian entrees, the rest order ten with meat. They then proceed to eat theirs, plus ours as a vegetable side, family style, so needless to say we wind up with little to eat. The unspoken elephant in the room is "if you weren't so difficult, you would have more to eat." The mere suggestion that you may want to order something for yourself that is not meant to be shared because you will not be partaking in most of the available food is met with complete indifference from most of the meat eating sector. Plus you feel petty and foolish ordering something only for yourself, which is supported by the elders who think you are just being a pain in the keister.

Many think I am on a "diet". My mother-in-law called Thanksgiving morning to inform my husband that she was preparing a half grapefruit for my dessert while the rest would be dining on pumpkin pie. She knows that pumpkin pie is not meat, but I am to be punished for my desertion from the norm by being made to eat grapefruit. He had to politely explain that I eat pie, much to her disappointment. I made the mistake of mentioning to friends that I had read the book "Skinny Bitch" and they think I am following a "program". I understand that some abhor this book, but it is a great read and was just one of many books I read to support my decision, including "Fast Food Nation" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma". I do not consider vegetarianism a diet. It is a lifestyle, one that I will adhere to for the rest of my life.

There is a certain hypocrisy and also some prejudice when someone tells you how you eat is wrong. How vegetarians eat is not wrong, just different. Trying to get someone to understand that innocent animals are killed because they have become competition for food that we do not need in order to survive is met with such unwavering obstinence that I no longer care to discuss it with those that believe their position is firmly at the top of the food chain. I suppose I will just continue eating in the manner with which I have become comfortable for my own personal reasons, and remain hopeful that those around me will not continue to view my choice as one of difficulty for them, but as one of good health and happiness for me. Pass the grapefruit.

Comments

soozieQ Dec. 1, 2008 @ 3:33 p.m.

Bravo!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a new vegan (Jan 2008) it's been so frustrating to hear that same nag about protein. Broccoli has 11 grams of protein per serving! I don't need dead, decomposing flesh to nourish myself.

My story -- father passed away of heart attack nearly 2 years ago. His diet was fat, salt, sugar and lots of processed meats. He hated "rabbit food" as he called it. I mourn his loss to this day, but vowed I'd not go down that road. I became vegan soon after. Dropped 32 lbs and counting. My husband is down 20 in 2 months. My liver is healthier, my blood pressure is great, I can eat to full load capacity and am still losing weight.

It's also been interesting to see the righteous indignation people have against vegetarians? I don't get it either. Why do they care? Is it like alcoholics who don't feel right unless someone else is imbibing with them. When I ate meat, I didn't think my vegan friends were weird or malnourished.

All these "diets" are a scam. They blame it on "genetics." Really? Well, where were all those genetics before factory farmed meat? We didn't have the obesity rate we do now. The food pyramid is a joke. How can you eat 4-6 servings from the bread group and not gain weight? I had tried the South Beach, Atkins and Fat Flush diets, and more. My weight has yoyo'd for years. Now I feel great. And I'm not abusing animals to provide myself with nutrition. I no longer have cravings. My skin is clear, my nails are healthy. My IBS is cleared up. And my colon is happier.

One last thing. There is something I can't put my finger on since I stopped eating meat -- but I feel lighter in my psyche. Maybe it was unrecognized guilt or maybe it's the lack of ingesting the despair and suffering of animals. At any rate, the book "World Peace Diet" is invaluable in understanding the effects of meat eating on the planet and why we have been unable to attain peace in this world. I don't consider this a diet either. To me it's been a whole new awakening.

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HMOORE123 Dec. 2, 2008 @ 9:23 a.m.

I got a kick out of this blog I haven’t eaten animal products in nearly seventeen years and although my family and friends support my decision—and are trying to eat more vegan foods as well—I’ve heard my share of amusing comments and can relate to many of the situations described. People often ask if my vegetarian diet includes fish or chicken, as if fish were swimming vegetables and chickens grew on trees in my backyard. Even funnier, perhaps, is when my meat-eating relatives ask what we will do with all the cows, pigs, and other farmed animals if people don’t eat them. I suppose they think these animals just hook up on the farm and forget to use birth control, but most farmed animals are actually the product of artificial insemination. I’m also asked how I get protein or other nutrients, as if decaying animal flesh is something you want or need to sustain your body. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and all the healthy foods made from them are superior sources of nutrients.

But I welcome questions about vegetarianism, even sarcastic ones, because it gives me the opportunity to tell others why a vegan diet is best for animals, people, and the planet. I often urge people to check out www.GoVeg.com to watch compelling videos like Chew On This or Meet Your Meat. For people who think I eat salad at every meal tell them about al the vegan foods available and refer them to www.VegCooking.com for recipes, product suggestions, and more.

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MsGrant Dec. 2, 2008 @ 9:26 a.m.

Congratulations, soozieQ! I cannot express enough how great it is to hear from someone who successfully embraced a lifestyle that would save countless lives if there was just more acceptance and tolerance of it as the most natural manner of eating. I never go hungry and never feel deprived, and I look much younger than I am. You and your husband keep up the good work. Meetup.com has a vegetarian group (SD Vegetarians Unite!)that I joined and I hope to begin attending some of their functions after the holidays. It would be great to see you and your husband there as well.

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MsGrant Dec. 2, 2008 @ 9:36 a.m.

HMOORE123, I could not agree with you more on the outrageous things we have heard people say regarding factory farmed animals. They think the animals are all frolicking in a field just waiting to be turned into tasty little packages of styrofoam and plastic wrap. My friend that I referred to in my blog was a hard core carnivore and after she actually looked at videos from slaughterhouses, it made her ill. Thanks for the links! I've sent links to the Vegetarian Starter Kit from Vegetarian Times to people, and even if they do not stop eating meat, they do learn to make meat free meals that are healthy and delicious.

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Ltizzle Dec. 2, 2008 @ 3:54 p.m.

excellent post...I've been getting it really bad from friends and relatives, and I just gave in and ingested turkey on thanksgiving - thinking that a wild, free range, organic, blah blah turkey was okay because I'm "not against eating meat, just against the process in which it comes to my plate." Well, after eating flesh for the first time in months, I realized something - meat just tastes wrong. You can get your protein and other valuable life staples from a billion living, breathing, beings that don't have beating hearts and eyes.

Also, went to the doctor and got a bunch of blood work done - no vitamin deficiencies, nothing lacking. It feels really good to legitimize your own beliefs with medical results, and really bad when you give up your beliefs for a day to go along with a holiday like Thanksgiving. Never again.

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MsGrant Dec. 2, 2008 @ 4:23 p.m.

Ltizzle, I brought my own gravy (vegan) to dinner and made dressing with vegetable stock and was able to enjoy all the trimmings (trust me, the pressure was there, though!). Most folks feel bad enough about how they eat without us around to remind them of the crap they put into their bodies, that's why they pressure us into joining them. And it's not nice pressure. It is insinuating something is wrong with us. I used to think most people mean well, but there is an undercurrent of intolerance and ignorance that really bothers me. Isn't it funny that the pressure comes from them, even though we are being the difficult ones if we don't eat meat? You didn't do anything wrong, they did. I agree that meat tastes pretty bad after you haven't had any for awhile. We all grew up with it so it is difficult for some to imagine their life without it. I don't miss it one bit. Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings, stay strong and don't be afraid to bring your own food to family gatherings! Better yet, bring your medical records!

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KathRogers Dec. 4, 2008 @ 12:05 a.m.

Ten billion animals in the US suffer untold cruelty on factory farms - the best way to help animals is to go veg!

Going veg is not only the best thing you can do for the animals it's also one of the best things you can do for the planet - it's the dietary equivalent of driving a hybrid instead of a hummer!

Being veg has never been easier - check out www.VegSanDiego.com for a listing of veg-friendly restaurants in San Diego County!

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MsGrant Dec. 4, 2008 @ 7:47 a.m.

Here, here, KathRogers! Due to length, I did not go into the unbelievable amount of waste and pollution created by factory farming, or the amount of plant food necessary to feed animals raised for consumption by humans that could actually FEED humans and end world hunger once and for all. The cruelty inflicted on these poor creatures is unbearable to witness, but I suggest anyone on the fence view the video in the link from HMOORE123 above, www.GoVeg.com. Animals raised for dairy are just as bad off. Once they are used up, riddled with hormones and antibiotics, they are slaughtered as well, for soups, stocks, pet food, MEAT FOR SCHOOL LUNCHES, you name it. I hear people to this day that still believe you can lose weight by eating meat and dairy, and cite studies. No chance. The growth hormones will keep you fat. Guess who supports those studies? The dairy industry. The meat industry. I no longer have to work out like a maniac to maintain my weight. When I ate meat and dairy all the time, I used to exercise hours a week and wonder "why can't I lose this weight?"

Thank you for the link. I had lunch at Sipz last weekend. It was incredible. As an aside, being a vegetarian has made me a better cook!!

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Josh Board Dec. 5, 2008 @ 10:40 a.m.

my girlfriend LOVES sipz. as a non-vegetarian, i can say there are things there I love, too.

great write up, MsG. my sister is a vegetarian. i am not. but i do feel they get nagged a lot by people unfairly.

rent the movie MOTHER, with albert brooks and debbie reynolds. they do things similar to your in-laws.

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MsGrant Dec. 5, 2008 @ 11:33 a.m.

Thanks, JB! Sipz has the best spring rolls. I'm glad you like to eat there as well. It shows that you have an open mind about food and you don't view vegetarian eating as weird. I was at a big holiday party yesterday, and they had a buffet. Everyone at the table looked at my plate and started in on the protein thing. And the "you eat fish, though, right?" line of questioning as well. Sigh.

I am putting that movie in my queue right now. I really do love my in-laws and we get along great, but they are old school. Which actually helps, because it gives me lots of stuff to write about!!

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TheSisterGrant Dec. 6, 2008 @ 10:54 p.m.

I couldn't have been that harsh in using the word a-hole for my sister when she informed me of her new choice of healthy eating habits. I'm sure it stemmed from one weekend visit a few years back when I was promised sausage and eggs for breakfast. WhooHoo! What I got was Egg Beaters and a sausage substitute that could only be equated to a crispy dog turd! You say, "I'll bet she's never tasted a dog turd!" and you would be correct but left to my imagination, that's what it tasted like! I have recently adopted this lifestyle myself and am thoroughly enjoying it! As some have said, you never go hungry! And being one who loves to cook there are endless new recipes to be discovered! I must say that meat substitutes such as Boca burger and Soyrizo have come a long way. I can make a chili that even my meat eating friends enjoy! And my sister and brother-in-law have since redeemed themselves for the Dog Pooh Plate they served me for breakfast that one day by introducing me to Soyrizo! So, I continue to explore the opportunities and boundless selections of new foods for me to savor! I've only been doing this a few months and I feel great, not to mention having a lot more energy! So, when they ask if I eat chicken, I just say, "No."

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MsGrant Dec. 8, 2008 @ 4:52 p.m.

Welcome, sister! My apologies for that breakfast, as we should have been more aware that to someone who has never eaten soy sausage before, what we served to you was not what you were expecting, to say the least. But with a little experimenting, you found lots of substitutes for meat that not only do not taste terrible, but are downright good and good for you. Thanks for posting all the way from Arizona and showing your support for us sometimes misunderstood non-meateaters!

My sister e-mailed me this line and I thought it was funny, so I am quoting her here:

"I guess I haven't followed the program as diligently as others cuz I do eat fish. I pick them off the tree out back!!"

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TheSisterGrant Dec. 11, 2008 @ 1:41 p.m.

I must give credit to HMoore123 in a previous comment: People often ask if my vegetarian diet includes fish or chicken, as if fish were swimming vegetables and chickens grew on trees in my backyard. "I pick them off the tree out back" is not original. Forgive me, HMoore123!

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antigeekess Dec. 12, 2008 @ 1:59 p.m.

Okay, MsGrant --

I would 'like' to be a vegetarian. Really. I love animals, and have contributed to several animal-related charities, including PETA.

But I am a person who needs a LOT of protein to feel well. I've got blood sugar issues (definitely hypoglycemic, at minimum, and probably diabetic but just not diagnosed yet.) I am one of those people who does NOT want to go out to eat Chinese food because I'll just be hungry again soon after.

Ditto for pasta. If I have it for dinner, I'm going to wake up extra-early with a specific type of sick hunger that I do not enjoy at all. I'm a carb addict, like Oprah. What you eat might very well make me feel really crappy.

The only time I feel really good is on a high-protein diet, like Atkins. Lotsa meat there. BTW, being a vegetarian isn't the only way to lose weight. Atkins works very well for me and lots of other folks. The main evils that keep us carb addicts fat (and hungry) are: Sugar, Bread, Potatoes & Pasta.

And I've read "Skinny Bitch." Gave it away to a friend at work, whose husband I now refer to as "Skinny Bitch" because he became more enthusiastic about the book than she or I were. Funny at first, but the over-the-top swearing and general tone of it wore "thin" after a while.

Anyway...

I'm open to eating less meat. I'd eliminate it entirely if I could develop a vegetarian diet that both tastes good and makes me feel well. I even pick up some soy stuff at Trader Joe's sometimes, but usually find it just plain gross. (Including those frozen "chickenless meat strips" that were supposed to be so "delicious.")

If you or anyone else can point me at a good, comprehensive list of vegetarian protein sources online, it would be much appreciated. I'll try some more things.

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MsGrant Dec. 12, 2008 @ 3:38 p.m.

Try reading Fast Food Nation. That was really the book that did it for me. It is nothing like the movie. Only one chapter is devoted to the slaughter of animals, the rest is how the government controls our food and due to mass production of food what you eat has very little resemblance to real food grown in a field. It all boils down to money. Trust me on this. You will be horrified at what you are eating.

It is difficult at first to become used to cooking a vegetarian diet. You have to be patient. Start slow. I actually did not become a vegetarian to lose weight. It was a pleasant side effect. Do not be afraid of nuts or avocados. These are foods I used to shun because they were "fattening". Not by a long shot. They keep me full and they taste great. Avocados are actually listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the most nutritious whole food. Soups with split peas, lentils, you name it are satisfying and delicious. Balance your meals with only whole-grain carbs. I eat only whole-grain breads and pastas. Whole-grain foods have lots of protein.

I know that most folks are afraid of carbs. Once you change your diet, you will never feel that carb-crappy feeling again, because you will be mixing healthy carbs with vegetables and meat substitutes that taste great. Soyrizo is eaten by my Hispanic friend's FATHER! He is from Mexico and he loves it! Chop up a couple of potatoes and onions and fry them in olive oil for about ten minutes. Add one-half tube of Soyrizo (more if you want) and fry it up until it is crispy and the potatoes are cooked through. It is crazy good.
TO BE CONTINUED...

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MsGrant Dec. 12, 2008 @ 3:39 p.m.

It's just a matter of learning how to incorporate meat substitutes that taste good. I agree with you about those fake meat strips. Stay away from them. Get a good curry recipe, and sub in cubed tofu at the end instead of the meat it calls for at the beginning of the recipe. Cook some brown rice and serve the curry over the rice. You will NEVER miss the meat. You will actually become a better cook because your plate will have a variety of things on it - garlic, onions, ginger, curry powder, mushrooms, broccoli, tofu, veggie broth for liquid, whatever you want to add to your curry. I am not saying curry is all you can make. As you get better, buy soy crumbles for ground meat. Smart Meat makes a great one. Saute in a pan with onions, garlic, one can organic tomatoes, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper. It makes taco meat that even your diehard meat eater friends will not know the difference if you add it to a shell with lettuce, cheese (if you want) and salsa. Trader Joes has a soy meatball that my husband goes nuts for. He likes it better that real meatballs! Plus he can eat two meatball subs for less calories that one made with real meat! All you need to do is put the meatballs in a frying pan with some organic tomato sauce, cook until they are hot and maybe a little browned, split a couple rolls, spoon in the balls, put a little grated motz on top, broil till melted and brown. You will be shocked at how good these are. Just try a few of these. Boca Burgers are great with saute'd onions, pickles, cheese, lettuce and tomato on a whole grain hamburger bun. You can't tell the difference once you get used to them. They are actually really good. I also make sweet potato fries in the oven to go with them. Slice sweet potatoes like french fries, mix in a bowl with a little olive oil and seasoning like a Cajon one (Tony's) put on a cookie sheet greased with a little more olive oil and bake at 450 degrees until crispy. Turn once. TO BE CONTINUED....

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MsGrant Dec. 12, 2008 @ 3:42 p.m.

For breakfast, get used to a high protein cereal like Cascadian Farms or Kashi Go-Lean Crunch. Eat it with vanilla soy milk (so much yummier than real milk) and a banana. You will be satisfied for hours. DO NOT COUNT CALORIES OR FAT GRAMS! Plant based foods will not make you fat if you are not eating potato chips and cheese everyday for your vegetarian diet. Peanut butter or any nut butter on toast rocks and keeps you full.

Anti, it takes a while to make this change, and you don't have to do it overnight. I didn't! Make a few substitutions here and there. Slowly incorporate things into your diet. Costco has a great butternut squash ravioli that I love! I don't normally shop there, but lately they have been offering a LOT of organic items, and they sell Boca Burgers in bulk. They also have these great frozen organic bean and rice burritos by Cedarlane that are fabulous in a pinch, when you are hungry and don't have time to cook. Amy's organic soups are great as well, and beans are a fantastic source of protein. This link has useful information, but there are so many out there. Go to www.goveg.com as well.

http://www.vegsoc.org/info/goingveg.html

And promise me you will read Fast Food Nation. It starts out slow, but once you get into it you cannot put it down. And every word of it is true. I had some of the same health issues you described and changing my diet from a meat and dairy based one to a plant based diet has had a remarkable effect on my health. Keep me posted on your progress!

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