There's probably a lot of people out there who don't know that these days I eat mostly vegetarian. I don't shout it from the rooftops like some vegetarians and I don't take a fuss if meat is put in front of me by an unsuspecting host. I will fully admit now - because I know someone I've had burgers with is sure to comment - I am not the world's best vegetarian. But since this week is National Vegetarian Week, I thought it was a good time to talk about why I have chosen to eat mainly vegetarian and how travel has affected my choice of diet. While many people will focus on how cruel it is to hurt animals and to kill them in order to feed our ever growing obsession with steak - that's not my reason for choosing to live this way. I don't dispute it being a good reason, but for me there are just many other important reasons for doing this.
Why am I vegetarian?
It all started when I first went travelling, before I left I was a big meat-eater who loved a steak, but once I discovered the delights of South-East Asian cuisine and their remarkable vegetarian selection, I was sold. A few experiences with some questionable meat and I soon decided to stick purely with the amazingly fresh veggies and tofu - what a discovery! No longer was it the soggy, tasteless meat replacement, but instead a meal all in itself - never have I had tofu as well seasoned, as flavoursome and exciting as I did when I was in Thailand. It really set my tastebuds on fire and made me realise I didn't really even miss meat when I had such amazing veggie options on offer. The rest of my five months in Asia, I pretty much lived off a diet of veggies, rice, noodles and fruit - and to this day I have never felt healthier, happier or stronger.When I reached Australia I ended up travelling around so much and then working jobs with crazy hours so I never bothered to buy meat to cook in case it just went off and was a waste. Instead I would raid the amazing range of tofu and fresh veggies for healthy meals or salads. I've seen a real transformation in my diet over the last three years and it has been a natural transition as I've realised what really makes my body feel good and healthy, I don't need meat to feel strong - I can get my protein elsewhere and I actually prefer the tastes and textures to eating flesh. I feel better for not eating meat - I actually notice the difference immediately after eating a meal with meat and eating a vegetarian meal - meat makes me feel sluggish, bloated and overly full.
But what's a bad vegetarian?
I will admit that I'm not always religious with my vegetarianism - I do have slip ups and when you're travelling it's not always easy to eat as healthily or as strictly as it would be at home. In Melbourne I ate so healthily because I was able to prepare all my own meals but when you're travelling all the time or have rubbish hostel kitchens to work with it can be more difficult. Check out my top tips for staying fit and healthy when you travel here. Plus there is the fact that I don't actually dislike meat - I still enjoy the taste and smell of it and if my mates decide to have a barbecue or someone wants to go for a burger or a steak - if I crave it I'll eat it. So yes, I'm a bad vegetarian and some may even consider me not a vegetarian at all, but I don't really care. The fact is, I've gone from eating meat every day to often not even once a month.
Why should you try this?
It might sound like this is just something I have done purely for my own health reasons, but actually since making this change I've done a lot of reading and watched a lot of documentaries about vegetarianism and the environment. I've steered clear of the usual "don't hurt the baby animals" ones and instead looked more at the effect a carnivore diet has on the environment as a whole. If you haven't watched Cowspiracy (it's on Netflix) then you should definitely check it out - it is the documentary that has stayed with me the most. This one focuses on the effect farming cows for food has on the environment and particularly on climate change - the facts and figures it offers pretty much shows that farming meat has had much larger effect on global warming than pollution and use of fossil fuels which I find both fascinating and scary. This fact is just brushed under the carpet because of the sheer amount of money the industry makes for the economy and the governments.I'm not proposing any huge move to change the world, but I do think that we as individuals can do small things both to help ourselves and the planet. I personally feel that not eating meat has made me feel much healthier and better in myself, and I also like knowing that I am helping the environment at the same time. I don't feel guilty if I slip-up and have a bacon sandwich but I do know I won't do it all the time. Since it's National Vegetarian Week, I challenge you all to just try it for one week. If you can't stand the thought of full vegetarianism, why not just cut back on eating meat every day and just have it twice a week? Even that would make a huge difference - not only to your health and the environment, but also to your bank balance. Give it a try, it's just a week and it could change your life.