Vegetarian Update 2

salad by Ivan Prole

It’s been five months since I announced I was adopting a vegetarian diet, and four months since my last update. It’s time to do another post on this topic.

First Things First

Well I seem to have reverted back to my old ways.

My excuse is I am just too tired. Too tired thinking about what to eat, trying to find alternatives. Too tired trying to avoid this and avoid that.

You could say I lost motivation to follow through.

Circumstances didn’t help. We had a trip to Ipoh with all the wonderful food. There were a few wedding banquets with tasty delicacies. A few celebrations came in the way, and a month of confinement food was served on the dining table at home.

All vegetarian plans went out the window.

At this moment, I would not say I ‘qualify’ to say I follow a vegetarian diet.

What Has Worked

Generally I am still consuming less meat, just that I am not abstaining totally.

When I have the choice, I would be able to choose a vegetarian option. So it’s not a matter of cravings or willpower.

What Didn’t Work

I am starting to gain weight. Maybe it’s due to lack of exercise, or maybe it was all the rice I was eating to get more minerals.

I lost motivation somewhere along the way. Maybe it’s harder to do it alone.

Moving Forward

As I write this post, I remember some of the reasons why I wanted to do this. After a while, I lost sight of that and maybe it has caused me to wander off.

Moving forward, I will be more mindful of my goals and try a little harder. Maybe take that extra step to find vegetarian options. Maybe try to communicate more.

I heard this word of advice: don’t beat yourself down when you fail. There aren’t any vegetarian police out there to catch you. Just do what you can, even a small change can make a difference.

That’s so true and liberating. Why feel guilty or try to hide when I eat meat? It was never my intention to be religious about it.

Eating even a few vegetarian meals is better than not doing anything at all.

Sometimes if we’re too strict, the task seems impossible and we will give up or lose motivation.

But I’ve not given up. Yes, I will try harder. But at the same time I’m not going to be guilty or quit if I fail.

Photo By: Ivan Prole

Vegetarian Update 1

Healthy Food by Fleur Suijten

It’s been one month since I publicly declared I was becoming a vegetarian.

How has it been going so far? Confession time.

Failures

There are times I’ve accidentally consumed some meat. Sometimes it’s the meat in less obvious places. Like hidden in a spring roll, or minced meat in a bowl of noodles.

It is much easier to choose vegetarian meal options when I eat alone.

It is more difficult when I eat at home, or when going out with others . Mostly because I don’t want to impose on others or make it inconvenient for everyone.

Also, sometimes when eating out there aren’t any vegetarian choices. So I can only do the next best thing, order something without meat even though the broth or sauces may have been cooked with meat.

I have also found it impossible to avoid ikan bilis and sambal belacan (made from shrimp).

Successes

Despite my failures, I’ve drastically reduced my meat consumption. I eliminated meat from 90% of my meals.

My family have accepted the fact that I want to become a vegetarian. Colleagues are starting to notice I always order food without any meat.

I haven’t had any cravings for a steak or lamb chops yet, though I have this strange craving for seafood.

I would say my biggest success this month is just learning more about the vegetarian diet, finding more resources and exploring new restaurants.

Lessons

I’ve learned that I won’t die from hunger or malnutrition. I won’t get sick or grow weak.

I’m still learning to adjust my diet.

I’ve doubled my rice intake. Usually I take a serving of rice (about the size of my fist, or 1 cup) but now I take a double portion.

This may seem ‘fattening’ because thats almost 800 calories on rice alone. But I discovered that rice is a source of protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and other minerals I used to get from meat.

I don’t know if I’m over-compensating for protein or putting too much focus on it, but I try to take generous helpings of fruit, tofu, bean sprouts, bean-vegetables and soya milk.

I still take eggs and cheese.

Next Target

My focus will still be learning. Maybe I’ll start tracking my food intake for a month to see if I’m meeting the recommended dietary requirements, then adjust from there.

Maybe I can adjust the portions if I’m taking too much, or find alternatives.

I’ve been heavily dependent on Indian vegetarian food. I can’t really find any Chinese vegetarian restaurants I like. So I’d like to explore and find more options that are tasty and not pricy.

It hasn’t been too difficult to avoid eating meat. I’d say on a scale of 1 to 10, the difficulty is a 2. It can be inconvenient at times, be definitely not hard to do once I can find the right source of food.

It would be easier if the rest of my family joined me, but that’s not my choice to make.

 

Photo By: Fleur Suijten

 

Vegetarian Life

Tomatoes on White by Zsuzsanna Kilian

I used to think vegetarians were weird, snobbish or health freaks.

Recently I read a book (You Don’t Need Meat by Peter Cox) which has completely changed my perspective.

All this time, I knew eating vegetables was good for health, and eating too much meat was not good for health.

Little did I know what happens to bring the meat to our plate.

Today I’m also announcing to the world that I am trying to practice a vegetarian diet. I will still eat eggs and maybe some dairy products, so technically I will join the ovo-lacto-vegetarian way of life.

I will try to reduce dairy products, which isn’t too big a deal since I don’t drink milk (but I love cheese!).

As I mentioned before in a previous post, I will not be too strict about this yet. For example, if there are dinner parties or no other choice of food available, I may still eat some meat.

Okay, now let me share with you what I’ve found out.

You Don’t Need Meat

We’ve been sold the idea of eating meat as part of a balanced diet. Actually, we can get the vitamins and minerals we need from non-meat sources with proper planning.

I’m fine with planning my meals. I’ve been doing that for the past year in my quest to lose weight.

The author of the books suggested humans were primarily designed for a plant-based diet. Even our parents and grandparents don’t eat as much meat as we do today (because of economic reasons).

Health Benefits

The first health benefit will be lowering my risk for cardiovascular disease (which is a risk I inherited from my ancestors).

This will come from lower consumption of fat and increased consumption of fibre.

Vegetarians are also supposed to feel less lethargic and less constipated.

Second benefit is reducing the risk of cancer.

Third benefit is reduced exposure to diseases (refer next section).

Animal Diseases

Come to think of it, almost every type of livestock animal has had some form of epidemic in the past few years.

Mad cow disease (BSE), scrapie, swine flu, avian flu.

The question is, have these diseases jumped from animals to humans? Another question is, how long can these diseases lie dormant in humans before showing symptoms?

It’s not only about us eating meat, but even what the animals eat. I’m not sure if this is still practiced today, but diseased animals used to be ground up and recycled as feed for other animals.

I am also reminded of the growth hormones and antibiotics fed to the animals to increase profits.

How Animals Are Raised and Killed

I used to think animals are bred by allowing them to freely mingle around, fall in love and then have babies.

But did you know, they are forced to become pregnant? Check out this slideshow.

Then there is the issue of slaughtering animals. There is a debate on whether animals have feelings like humans do. Many vegetarians are animal lovers who can’t bear to see an animal die.

Personally I don’t feel so strongly about this, but it’s still hard to support some of the practices.

How I Will Do It

One step at a time, slowly reducing until it becomes a way of life.

Again I’m going to stress I’m not going to be religious about it. I suspect as I get used to it, it will get easier.

Believe it or not, I feel sad when I imagine never eating another bite of KFC again. And no more bak kut teh. Or satay. OK I better stop before I change my mind.

It won’t be an impossible task. After all, our Asian cuisine has a lot of vegetarian options. I am especially fond of Indian vegetarian food.

I may fail totally and abandon the idea one day, but even then I don’t think I will eat as much meat as I did before.

This Is My Feeling

I’m not trying to force anyone of you to change. I am not saying I am better. I’m not even sure I can succeed.

I’m just trying to give my family and myself the best quality of life, at the same time trying to persuade Poey Chin and the kids to do this together with me.

This is the stage of my life where I start to think of the kind of life I leave behind for my children.

I know plants are not immune to chemicals and contamination risks too, so we will have to be more selective of the plants we buy and maybe get a “vege-washer”.

My only request is for you to understand why I’m doing this.

 

Photo by: Zsuzsanna Kilian