Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Being Vegetarian & Finding Happiness

When I was sixteen years old my sister, her friend and I went to a music festival about an hour away from our house. I had coerced my sister into coming with me so I could see my favorite band, Cobra Starship. I had been to concerts before but nothing like this one. There were about 20,000 people there and almost 40 bands. It was a whole new experience for me and I soaked up every inch of it, including the pamphlets about vegetarianism. The whole festival had a vegetarian vibe and by the end of the day I had decided I was going to become a vegetarian. The problem was that I didn't really know how to be a vegetarian. Yeah, I knew not to eat meat but I had no idea of how to form proper meals centered around veggies.

I went home and told my parents that I would no longer be eating meat (they were still the ones cooking all of my meals at this point) and they didn't seem too bothered by it. Growing up I never really liked meat so this wasn't going to be too big of a change for me. In the days following I took to the internet to find out all about maintaining a vegetarian diet. I found out about new foods and hit the grocery store to stock up on some new goodies. After a few weeks I was completely in love with my new lifestyle. That summer I lost about ten pounds and looked and felt my best. People questioned my decision to become a vegetarian but I knew I was doing the right thing for myself.

Fast forward to now. I have not eaten meat since that summer and I am proud of that fact. Yes, there have been a few occasions where I have thought about eating meat again but I'm not quite sure I could do it. The only times I ever really crave meat are when my boyfriend and I go out to eat and I am starving waiting for our food to come. But I fully credit that to my hunger. Now, when we are cooking dinner the sight of chicken repulses me a little. I have absolutely no desire to eat chicken again. So I'm still doing good with the no eating meat part. The part that I am really struggling with is the whole making my diet centered around fruits and veggies.

I spent my first year as a vegetarian eating veggie burgers, salads, and pretty much anything vegetable based you can think of. I was very conscious about what was going into my body and I was still swimming competitively so the 20 hours a week of swim practice ensured that I was one healthy person. Now my diet consists of mostly processed crap that is ready to eat in three minutes or less. I don't want to go back to eating meat but I know that I need to do something with my diet (when I say diet I don't mean that I am on a diet, I am simply referring to my eating habits).

I have gained about 20 pounds from when I first became a vegetarian. I don't look good and more importantly I don't feel good. I used to be so proud of my lifestyle choices. I didn't care what people thought because I was doing what made me happy. Now I feel lost though. I love training for races but it does not give me the same fulfillment that swimming did and I think that is because I was proud of myself as a swimmer. That's who I was and everybody knew it. Now I just feel mediocre and I am not okay with it. I still have two weeks left of school until summer break and while I can't make any big changes in these next two weeks, I am declaring summer 2012 as project happiness.

I want to feel confident about my body, about my training, about my lifestyle. I want to take pride in the things I am doing with my life. I may not be Shannon the swimmer anymore but I am still Shannon and that needs to be good enough. I don't want to dwell on the past anymore. I want to be able to move on and start a new chapter of my life without feeling like I will never measure up to the person that I used to be. I have put so much pressure on myself to be perfect that I have forgotten about happiness.

I know this post started about my life as a vegetarian and there was a reason for that. I want to remind myself that the little decisions do matter. Eating healthy makes a difference in my mindset and attitude and I learned that through becoming a vegetarian. This summer is also going to be the perfect time to learn some new vegetarian recipes and get back on track with living a no meat lifestyle.

1 comment :

  1. I used to be a veggie but started eating meat again during pregnancy and never switched back :) oops!

    However, I will say that when I first started I gained tons of weight and got bloated. It sounds like you know a lot more now and you're probably eating better b/c of it, thus the weight loss. It's all about balancing foods properly to make whole proteins. It was too confusing for me. But I'd like to try again one day.