I spent the entirety of last weekend in the desert, walking and sweating and eating exceptionally crappy college cafeteria food. As much fun as this actually was, I came home Sunday afternoon, sick, dirty and exhausted. I took two baths and two naps, but continued to suffer from a splitting headache and churning stomach until I took some Tylenol and some Benadryl, and went to sleep again for the night. On the one hand, the weekend really had taken a lot out of me: short restless sleep, exposure to the elements and poor quality food would cause anyone to feel badly. On the other hand, this happens a lot.
There are many of factors to my frequent illnesses. Being somewhat stressed-out by nature, I add to this condition by loading my schedule with activities and responsibilities. I rarely eat right. Like most people my age, I usually lack the time or the money to indulge in healthy food. Frequently, during the weekends I do not eat any meals at all, but a series of ill-chosen snacks. Being vegetarian and completely unable to cook so much as a squash has severely limited my choice of meals. Which brings me to confess the thing I have been thinking of doing, the thing I sometimes confess to my boyfriend in our kitchen late at night, when I?m hungry and unfulfilled. I have been considering eating meat again.
This is a decision I had already made to a certain extent. In college, broke, horribly anemic and uninsured I compared the $3.00 a pack of fake meat to $0.97 a can of tuna and after a particularly bad spell, I became a pescatarian and general thorn in the side of my more strict vegetarian friends. And now I am considering a thing that many of us do, but that none of us talk about. Since I started eating vegetarian,?three of the four?veggies I knew at the time have returned to meat and the fourth I have lost touch with. Over that time countless scores of my peers and younger friends tried and abandoned vegetarian diets of their own. Although I couldn’t find any statistics regarding this issue, it seems that if a person makes it past the first few months on a vegetarian diet, the next great hurdle comes at around the five year mark. Not coincidentally, this month marks my fifth year as a veg.
I’ve always believed that the five-year limit signaled the time for which one can maintain a diet as restrictive as the vegetarian diet in a meat-eating society like America without learning how to cook portable, enjoyable foods?for yourself. Anticipating this milestone, I had attempted several very expensive, time-consuming and demoralizing portable, enjoyable meals of my own. Needless to say, here I am, five years in and still eating pickles for dinner on a semi-regular basis. Of course, if I was able to perfect the art of vegetarian cooking, as the impressive and untouched stack of books in my kitchen suggest, there is no guarantee that my health would improve. In the last month, my diet has improved, not through skill, but through the amount of money I am able to expend on food now. However, my health has not improved with my improved diet. I find that on average, one day a week is spent with a splitting headache and churning stomach. I know alcoholics in better shape than I am.
?Additionally, I wonder if I would even be able to resume a carnivorous diet. Last weekend, I found a piece of meat in my noodles, but being too hungry and too tired, I picked the meat out and continued to eat. Later, I became very ill and suffered through the rest of the day, unable to eat again, even when the contents of my stomach were quite gone. Other times, I have taken a bite of some poor dead animal, either out of ignorance, or because of how enticing it looked and smelled, only to be utterly disgusted by the fibrous, chewy?texture of cooked flesh. Despite my meat-eating boyfriend’s assurances that he could ease me back into practice, I’m not sure I want to suffer in order to do a thing I quite liked avoiding for the last five years.
As for the movement, I care lease about this aspect of vegetarianism. What initially welcomed me as a warm political community has, upon further experience and inspection shown itself to be a minority of insular, delusional news-hounds, accompanied by a majority of reasonable people that remain relatively quiet. Initially, being young and broke I chose not to give my small money to a meat industry that abused it’s livestock and it’s customers by feeding them said abused livestock, which undoubtedly contained a higher rate of carcinogens and a lower nutritional value. In the last five years, two things have happened. First, the agriculture industry has responded to the buying public’s need for better treated livestock, and second, I make much more money than I did before. Seeing as I was never a vegetarian that believed that vegetarianism was natural, only that tainted and abused meat was unnatural, it seems only logical that I would re-gear my campaign to give my money to the companies that are doing it right, which still maintains my original goal of taking money away from the companies that are doing it wrong. Everybody wins. Of course, I do still hold on to the spirit of everyday activism that vegetarianism gives me, the idea that, in some small way,?I am devoting my life to a cause. The thought of carefully researching the companies I would potentially buy my meat from and then spending the extra money in order to get said meat from reliable source doesn’t seem nearly as cool, although I’d still be restricted to about three items on any given menu, so there’s that.
I’m not about to be making any sweeping dietary changes today. I’d much rather try to nutrient-up my diet than attempt the inevitably painful and gross process of beginning to eat meat again, but I’m thinking that if nothing else clears up this lingering sickness, there may not be another option.