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How I became a near-vegetarian
August 16, 2021 | James Lin
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
I have led a mostly vegetarian diet for the past five years, having been a regular meat eater in the past. This didn’t occur overnight; I will share here how I began and maintained the transition, and what my experience has been.
I began in 2016 by ceasing meat consumption (including seafood) at home, for environmental and ethical reasons in equal parts. This happened gradually over the course of about a year, and not completely consciously, as I bought meat from grocery stores less and less often before ceasing completely. It turns out for me that while eating meat was enjoyable in the moment, when I am not actively thinking about it (which was most of the time anyway) I did not miss it, in an “out of sight out of mind” type of way. As a compromise, I continued eating meat in restaurants.
The next step was to gradually decrease my meat consumption in restaurants as well. Again, this was only a partially conscious choice, and was a natural next step after going vegetarian at home. This is easier than in the past since most restaurants have vegetarian or vegan options these days.
My vegetarian habits also helped me develop friendships that likely would not have happened otherwise (or would have developed differently). I have two different vegan friends with whom I go to vegan restaurants, one in Edmonton (where I live) and one in Toronto. Yes, Alberta has vegan restaurants. While I myself am not vegan, my shared interest in vegan food with each of these friends is a form of “social glue” that unites us, similar to liking the same music or graduating from the same university.
The aforementioned restaurants serve various forms of imitation meat, made from ingredients such as soy, peas, tofu etc. This leads to the question, are these substitutes good and/or realistic? My personal approach is to judge them on their own basis, independently of what I know actual meat to taste like. Some of them taste like meat, some don’t, but that’s not the point. If I enjoy the meal, then that is what matters.
A vegetarian diet also goes hand in hand with a physically active lifestyle. I am an avid ultimate player, and go on regular two to three-hour hikes. Pre-COVID I also played badminton. My two vegan friends are also into fitness (including weight training, 160 km ultramarathons).
Keep in mind also that vegetarianism/veganism is not a binary choice, and there is a wide middle ground. Some people go meatless once a week, or one week a month etc. I consider myself to be about 95% vegetarian and 60% vegan. I still consume dairy, and occasionally consume meat when visiting my parents and going to Chinese restaurants, where diners tend to share common dishes.
So that’s my journey towards vegetarianism, which is still ongoing. It was surprisingly hassle-free, and happened partially on its own. I am happy with my decision, and do not see myself returning to my old lifestyle. If anyone out there has a similar experience they wish to share, please feel free to get in touch.
In closing, remember that becoming vegetarian can be gradual, and there is no need to, ahem, quit cold turkey.
She said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I had never seen herbivore.
James is the son of INZ founder Charles. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Alberta.