This March is my six-year veggiversary!
On my two-year veggiversary, I shared why I went vegetarian – if you haven’t read it yet, please do.
This year I want to reflect on what I’ve learned in my six vegetarian years:
1. Doing good feels good.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Going veg feels amazing! It’s not just physically feeling great, it’s emotionally feeling great too. Making a conscious and daily choice to do something that reduces suffering, benefits the planet, and is good for your health, has a hugely positive impact on your overall well-being. Going vegetarian is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
2. Condemning others doesn’t help the cause.
It’s really easy for vegetarians to get up on a high and righteous horse (especially vegetarians who write blogs, ahem). But I’ve learned in my six vegetarian years that vegetarianism isn’t about condemning others. It is simply counterproductive to everyone involved for vegetarians to condemn meat-eaters (or vegans to condemn vegetarians). Obviously, pissing people off is very poor way to go about changing their minds – it doesn’t do vegetarianism any good, and it sure as hell doesn’t help any animals.
3. No one is perfect.
Vegetarianism is not about perfection. Vegetarianism is about living a compassionate and healthy lifestyle and doing the best you can to choose kindness over cruelty. Vegetarians (or aspiring vegetarians) shouldn’t beat themselves up about one slip-up. Just get back on track and keep going. Vegetarians shouldn’t hassle someone for only doing Meatless Mondays (instead of meatless every day), at least these people are doing something. And non-vegetarians shouldn’t expect vegetarians to be perfect. It is quite unnecessary to “catch” a vegetarian every time they own a leather product. I assure you, they are already very aware of it. Instead of bullying each other, or ourselves, for not being perfect, why don’t we extend our compassion to everyone and be supportive instead?
4. You are not alone.
Being in a minority can be isolating. As a vegetarian or vegan, you will no doubt be the brunt of every bacon joke, be stereotyped as a preachy hippie, and get into some heated discussions with defensive meat-eaters. And at times, it can become very overwhelming and disheartening. That’s why it’s important to interact with like-minded people. Having people in your life that share your philosophical beliefs, or people who will always have your back (whether they’re vegetarian themselves or not), makes it easier to face whatever the non-veg world throws at you. Spend time with friends and family who are supportive of your choice to go veg. Find (or start!) a vegetarian meet-up group in your city. And participate in the online community. Follow vegan/vegetarian blogs, Facebook pages, and Pinterest pages. Just remember that there are lots of us out there and you are not alone!
5. The times, they are a-changin’.
Over the past six years, it has been absolutely beautiful to watch people’s attitudes toward meat change. In my personal life, seeing family and friends cut back on, or completely cut out meat has been one of the most rewarding experiences of this journey. I love that moment when someone makes the connection: realizes that what we’re doing to these animals is abhorrent; realizes that what they’re putting into their body is unhealthy; realizes that it really is pretty damn easy to leave the pepperoni off that pizza; realizes that every meal, they can make a powerful, meaningful choice. I’m so impressed and inspired by those in my life who have changed their eating habits, and I’m so humbled by those who have said I’ve helped them to do so. There is without a doubt, more public awareness of the issues with meat production and the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets than there was six years ago. The mainstream media more often exposes the cruelty and filth in the meat industry and our current health crisis is undeniably linked to our terrible diets. More people are becoming informed. And as more people become informed, more people change. And if enough people change, so will the system. And I see it happening (albeit slowly at times) and it makes me hopeful.