It’s National Vegetarian Week this week. On reading an article in the Independent about the 5 main ethical reasons for becoming a vegetarian, I decided to pen an article about the non-ethical, but still very real, reasons why I became one. Animal rights? I couldn’t care less. The environment? Last time I tried to give up on meat because of the environment, a cause I passionately do care about, I found the motivation was enough for one week before I was found salivating over my favourite meaty treat down at Tesco (the pork and leek sausage, if you’re interested).
Although I’ve tried to give up on meat several times in the past, I’ve never found that ethical concerns could propel me not to want to gorge on a steak and chips or reach for the Big Mac after a night out. This time, I gave up for me. The success was firmly proved the other day when, on a trip to Atomic Burger, I resisted any kind of temptation and plumped for the Veggie Burger (a delight!) My motivations for giving up meat were simple: weight, digestive health and money.
I noticed last term that I had gained a bit of weight. As much as everyone tried to tell me that not an ounce of extra flesh had appeared on my backside, they were wrong. Several buttons came off my clothes; tops remain at home this term, as my porky pecs have grown too big to stretch over them – and not in a good way! I was researching over Easter the best ways to lose weight and there seemed to be unanimous agreement on various websites that three factors would help: the reduction in bad fats, an increase in protein at the expense of these bad fats, and exercise.
Well, exercise has never been my bag. Luckily for me, the World Health Organisation even came out in support of me, announcing, with perhaps imperfect research, that diet was the way to go. So, I did some reflecting. How does one reduce bad fats (which usually come from meat and meat-based derivatives) whilst simultaneously increasing proteins (which, naively, I also thought were the exclusive preserve of the meat-eating classes). I did some research.
It turns out that certain vegetarian foods provide the protein your body is craving. Black beans, quinoa, spinach, butter beans, chickpeas, eggs. All these foods are vegetarian, yet none are meat based. All these foods provide you with prime protein, yet none are meat or fish. These are just a few. As it turns out, vegetarian food can easily provide you with the same protein that a normal human requires, with none of the bad fats. This protein is important, since it staves of hunger pangs and allows you to tone your body if you start doing some exercise.
As for digestive health, think about it. At what time in human history did we consume so much meat on such an industrial scale? Never. Meat has traditionally been viewed as a treat food, one that you eat rarely. However, in the last century, we began to eat meat more and more often… wait, what also happened in the last hundred years? The obesity epidemic. Now, I’m not saying the two are linked, but such excessive meat consumption is certainly a potential factor in the world’s huge weight-gain. Your digestion requires fibre, which vegetarian food has in abundance. I can certainly tell you that I have never experienced such a pleasant digestive period. Vegetarian food provides you, almost exclusively, with high-fibre foods which are also what ward off stomach cancers, often caused by, you guessed it, processed meat.
Finally, I cannot stress enough how little money I spend on veggie food. All the high protein vegetables and legumes cost so little in comparison to meat. Furthermore, even vegetarian treats like avocados and coconuts can be bought so cheaply from the Gloucester Green market where avocadoes are priced at 4 for £1.50, which is an unbelievable bargain. Meat, and particularly fish, are priced at horrifically high prices for your everyday student. However, that’s only half of it – what about going out? Meat based dishes way exceed any vegetarian ones on any menu, that I will bet you.
It’s time you think about yourself! Vegetarianism does not have to be an ethical choice. It can, and for me has been, a totally selfish one. Motivation is what is important – I still miss my pork and leeks, but I don’t crave them. I know that I don’t need them, with their fat and gristle oozing out of that synthetic skin. I can be much healthier and happier eating vegetarian alternatives which provide all the protein you need with none of the $$$$ and none of the heart attacks. Why don’t you treat your body and turn veggie?