Anything Lime

Where’s the beef? Somewhere else.

Nine months ago I stopped eating meat. I know I know, you want to know why. OF COURSE YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY. Everyone who hears me say, “No thanks, I don’t eat meat,” asks me why. Actually, it’s more along the lines of, “Is it, like, a new diet thing?” People ask. “Or is it, like, because you love animals or something?” Which seems weird because I wouldn’t ever think of asking a meat eater, “What, do you, like, hate animals or something!?” And I just want to be all, “IT’S BECAUSE YOU TOUCH YOURSELF AT NIGHT.” But instead I politely tell them that it is, in short, for health reasons, which I begin to regret as soon as I say it because then I have to listen to all of the reasons why it is not, in fact, a healthy life decision.

I wish I could accurately convey my level of annoyance with the general population’s sudden interest in the nutritional content of my meals. “So, um… how do you get your protein? I just can’t imagine you get enough protein.” Then that’s usually followed by some statistic that’s made up on the spot, “Ya know, 74 percent of all vegetarians don’t get enough protein.” Realizing that I’m still not flabbergasted by their argument, they throw one of these out there, “And they’re likely to not live as long. Like, maybe die in their forties.” It’s usually at about this point in the conversation when I roll my eyes and explain that – GASP! Meat isn’t the ONLY source of protein in this world. FANCY! “But what about iron?” They ask. “Are you sure you’re getting enough iron? I mean, it’s impossible to get enough iron. You’re probably going to be anemic now. Eighty two percent of all vegetarians become anemic.”

This is when I smile, thank them for their brilliance and anemically prance my protein-and-iron-deficient body back to my cubicle.

The answer to the question “why” began with my acupuncturist, who made some dietary recommendations when I began seeing her in January of last year. She told me that among other things, cutting out red meat could significantly improve my anxiety symptoms by changing the energy, qi, in my body (especially my liver). So I did. I focused on eating only lean poultry and fish occasionally.

Months after I had cut out red meat, I was out to dinner with my Grandma waiting eagerly for the slab of ribs that was moments away from covering my hands and face in barbecue sauce (this was considered cheating, but it was only the second time in four months, so I figured it was ok). To my dismay, I was horrified when the plate arrived. Instead of looking at them with wide eyes and a rumbling hungry belly, my stomach started flip flopping at the sight of them. There it was – a dead cow. On my plate. It was a cow who had a mom. Maybe a name. Maybe a calf or two.

“Go ahead, eat up!” Grandma said.

Oh. Dear. God.

When I took a bite, I tasted a farm. It was like running up to a wild animal and sucking my face onto the side of it like a fish on the side of an acquarium. I became completely aware of the way the gristle felt in my mouth. I was chewing on something that was once alive. “Grandma, I’m going to take these home. I’m just really not that hungry.”

I went the next few days avoiding the meat all together, eating potato dishes, pastas and filling up on fruits and salads. When I finally tried meat again, it was the confirmation I needed. It was a piece of meat in a frozen bag of Chicken Voila ™ that made me sick this time. And all I could think of for the rest of the night was poor, poor chicken!

Here I am, nine months later, getting all of my nutrients from plant foods and chocolates. I make a great effort to maintain a healthy eating regimen, and I’m quite proud of the current state of my health. I’m not bothered by the fact that most of the negative comments about going meatless stem from people’s own insecurities. What does bother me, however, is that they feel the need to say anything at all. No one would ever feel compelled to walk over to me if I sat at my desk and crammed chili dogs in my mouth every day. Never would anyone think to approach me and ask, “You eat like this? How do you get enough servings of vegetables? How are you monitoring your cardiovascular health with so little exercise? Even more, what about your cholesterol? YOUR CHOLESTEROL!”

No, it’s not until someone makes a positive change that people question and discourage that person. Do you HONESTLY care where I get my protein? No, you don’t. And honestly, when you tell me that “vegetarians are actually some of the most unhealthy people, surprisingly,” because you think you read it somewhere once, well, we both know you’re lying. And even if it were true, we’re living in a society where a good portion of the population is malnourished somehow, and most are overweight. A society where it’s perfectly acceptable to walk into a McDonald’s and order a double cheeseburger – extra cheese, extra mayo, no lettuce – without the bun, and yet when I dare remove meat from my diet people gasp at the absurdity. And then point out to me that when I’m pregnant I’ll be taking a huge risk by depriving my baby of essential nutrients. What they don’t know is that a baby with two chins for ears is JUST WHAT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED!

My point is it’s better to say nothing at all. Isn’t that what your mother always told you? If you don’t have anything nice to say, it must be because you’re acting defensively because you’re uncomfortable that YOU are not, in fact, living a healthier lifestyle so you’re making a choice to bring someone else down. Is that it? Are you feeling threatened by my positive life choices? Well, here, nuzzle into my bosom. AND LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER.


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  1. * veganinthecity says:

    Hey Whitney, its Christine, old neighbor from Chicago burbs. About a year ago I went vegetarian and subsequently vegan and I get questions about my lifestyle choices a lot. I always have a hard time when people ask me this question at work because at times they say things that are somewhat offensive but I think its important to stand up for what you believe is right. You may be the only vegetarian they come across and its important to make it a positive experience. Its also important to answer this misconceptions. I have a huge book about nutrition that was putting out by the American Dietic Association that talks about nutrition.

    Heres what they say about protein: “Almost all plant-based foods supply the indispensable amino acids, but not the same amount as “high-quality” protein foods do; for some amino acids, the amounts are quite small. Legumes (beans and peas), seeds, and nuts supply plenty of proteins. Grain products and most vegetables supply proteins too, with small amounts of some essential amino acids.”

    They also state earlier in the chapter that the protein we eat comes foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and soy products. They are considered high-quality “complete” proteins.

    “The Institute of Medicine advise Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR): for adults, calories from carbohydrate (45 to 65 percent, from fat (20 to 35 percent), and from protein (10 to 35 percent)”

    That pretty much means that 35% (at the high end) of our calories should come from foods that contain protein, aka animal (or soy) based foods and that 65% (at the high end) of our calories should come from a plant based since they don’t contain complete proteins.

    Heres the book, its quite a read but its a great reference:

    I would also point out that they probably wouldn’t eat their dog and realistically theres no difference (except for DNA) between any species of animal, dog, cat, pig, human, except for the way we domestic or eat them.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  2. * Aimee says:

    I. Love. You.

    Last night I made chili with MorningStar Farms crumbles. It changed my life. I’m getting ready to jump into the pool of vegetarianism.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  3. * samueltolmanmills says:

    Whitney, I love this. Hilarious. And so true.

    The older I get, the better I understand that most people just don’t know shit about shit. I’ve learned to ignore just about everyone. No one has the right to tell you how to live.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago

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