Do Vegetarians Have More Fun?

I didn’t give up meat just because Bill Clinton did. I gave up meat because of ads posted on the subway featuring puppies and kittens beside other baby animals with the caption: “Why Love One But Eat the Other?”

I have a dog and a cat that I love and I would never eat either of them. Not even a nibble.  As supposed hypoallergenic breeds, they were both really expensive! So right there, between Wellesley and Bloor station, without any other consideration or research, I decided not to eat meat again.

My attempt to go veg, however, has not been easy. Having always been a true meat and potatoes girl, I find myself desperately craving a good hamburger. I have been chronically tired since I ate my last one three years ago. I find myself dreaming about thick, juicy patties, sandwiched between enriched white flour buns, that no amount of tofu or lentils can satisfy. I share my name with a burger chain for goodness sakes! I have always prefered steak over salad and I think it was my carnivorous tendencies that endeared me to my husband in the first place. That I now make quinoa as a main course (or at all) is a pretty terrible bait and switch. A girl can’t go around ordering rare sirloins for breakfast, lunch and dinner, only to pledge allegiance to Gary Larson’s subjects once she says “I do.” It’s just false advertising.

Even more than my life-threatening iron deficiency, total lethargy and grievous pre-marital misrepresentation,  however, is my discomfort in telling people I’m a vegetarian. While many people feel good about their commitment to a belief or cause and are happy to vocalize any perceived contribution to the environment, I often find it embarassing. Like recycling. When, at a wedding, I have to lean in and ask a waiter if there is a vegetarian option, I can barely bring my voice above a whisper. I’m concerned about sounding pretentious or (shudder!) self-righteous. I find myself wanting to explain, to tell the other guests at the table that it’s just an allergy. “I can’t digest meat!” I want to yell, “I’m just like you!”

I feel even worse speaking to other vegetarians. Exchanging emails with a friend who has recently given up meat, I was so impressed with her wealth of information. Before making the decision, she had read dozens of books on the subject, met with a doctor and really considered the health implications for her and her family. She’s taken the time to make informed choices and structure her eating habits to ensure she is getting the proper proportions of vitamins and nutrients, sans meat. I, on the other hand, watched a single interview with Dr. Colin T. Campbell, one of the first advocates for a plant-based diet, after I had already made the switch. The interview was on Real Time with Bill Maher.

“Have you read Dr. Campbell’s China Project?” I asked my friend, “apparently he says there’s a real link between animal-based foods and chronic disease.”

“It’s called the China Study,” she said.


Now having the proper source to google, I’ve been taking the time to read up a little more about Dr. Campbell’s philosophy and was pleased to learn, in a New York Times interview, that he too is uncomfortable with vegetarianism:

“I don’t use the word “vegan” or “vegetarian.” I don’t like those words. People who chose to eat that way chose to because of ideological reasons. I don’t want to denigrate their reasons for doing so, but I want people to talk about plant-based nutrition and to think about these ideas in a very empirical scientific sense, and not with an ideological bent to it.”

I don’t want to have an ideological bent towards not eating animals either. So now, when people ask me about my dietary decision, I just quote writer A. Whitney Brown: “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”