My New Year’s resolution for 2011 was to become a vegetarian. This is the first New Year’s resolution that I actually succeeded in completing.
I had a strange scare in late 2008. I thought I was having a heart attack. My chest felt like it was getting crushed, my left arm felt like I was being electrocuted and my breathing was all over the place. My wife and I went to the hospital and almost 12 hours later they released me. A hot dog gave me extreme heartburn and acid-reflux.
A week later I went for a follow-up and was given a list of items I should probably cut out of my diet. The list was not all that extensive, and contained some of the usual suspects: coffee, pop and red meat. Those three were the ones I focused my attention on.
I tried coffee first, and failed miserably. I think I switched to tea for about two months before coffee re-entered my life. Working in a bookstore with a cafe probably made cutting coffee a bad choice, and I still drink about two cups of coffee a day.
I did not even try pop. Pop (or soda for those not in Michigan) is like crack to me. I have tried numerous times to stop drinking it, but every time I come crawling back. I have cut back the amount of pop I drink, and I now drink more coffee than pop.
Which leaves us with red meat. This one worked. By the time 2010 rolled around I was not eating much red meat at all, and when I did I felt terrible, and the beginnings of vegetarianism crept in.
In August of 2010, my son was born, and I really began thinking about my health and future. I was still having issues with my stomach, and started to really believe that meat was the issue. I am sure that coffee and pop were culprits as well, but meat was the one that really had the stomach issues flaring up. A co-worker suggested I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, and everything just kind of clicked.
Foer had just become a father, and was questioning the decisions he was making for his child’s diet. So Foer explores the inhumane treatment of our food before it hits out plate, and our cultural connections to our food. It was a great book, and had me convinced that not eating meat was going to be the best way to make myself feel mentally and physically better. Watching Food Inc. around the same time drove it home. It was like a one-two punch.
So I decided to become a vegetarian starting in 2011. I was doing it for my health, my child’s future with me and as a mini-protest against the food industry. The first thing I thought about was my parents.
My parents are meat and potatoes kind of people. I was actually worried about telling them, and had no idea how to do it. They have always been supportive of anything that I wanted to do, but this was changing something that I had been doing for 32 years. I likened it to coming out of the closet, and asked my wife what to do. I am pretty sure she said something like, “Just tell them. You didn’t murder anyone.”
And I did. I just told them. I was heading out to their house for dinner, and my mom asked what I wanted and I told her I wasn’t eating meat anymore. I told her about the health issues, about wanting to be healthy for her grandson, and she bought it. She asked about protein, but she bought it. My dad was worried I would become vegan. I like cheese too much for that to happen.
I have this feeling that they both thought it was not going to last, but they have been supportive. My mom has added things to the freezer and fridge that I can eat if I visit. She has been trying new non-meat recipes when we come out for dinner, and best of all she has only asked about protein a few more times. I am sure my dad did not care about eating vegetarian lasagna as long as I brought his grandson with me.
As for myself I feel better. I honestly do. My stomach has had ZERO issues since I made the switch, and I find myself trying new things whenever I can. To counter the protein question I have added greek yogurt and quinoa. I have found replacements for most of the meat items I enjoyed with the exception of bacon (somebody please tell me about a good non-meat bacon). I am happy, I feel great and I do not miss meat at all.
The resolution worked, and it has me thinking about my 2012 resolution. I said I wanted to do an open mic stand-up routine, but my wife is scared for me. With good reason because it looks scary as hell, but I figure if I can stop eating hamburgers, chicken and bacon I can stand in front of a handful of people and tell jokes about my beard.