I’m Over Vegetarianism, But My Ego Isn’t

Why am I still doing this?

04.19.17
Packaged Fresh Fish

Like a lot of decisions I make, my choice to become vegetarian was rooted in the internet. Seven years ago, I came home from school and asked myself, “Why do people stop eating meat, anyway?” I was listening to a lot of Sublime that year, and doing my best to understand what I viewed as “hippie culture.” Vegetarianism, I thought, would be part and parcel to my weekly viewings of Across the Universe and my Beatles T-shirt collection.

A litany of Google searches later, I sat at my computer horrified at the violence inflicted on animals by the food industry. “PETA is garbage,” my mother would later tell me, rolling her eyes.

Be that as it may, even animal cruelty wasn’t enough to convince my teenage self to pass on sausage and chicken nuggets. No, what swayed me was a link claiming that vegetarians live longer than meat eaters. Now, a claim like that is going to appeal to anyone. But I am prone to excruciating bouts of hypochondria, anxiety that left me sleepless on more than a dozen occasions in my teen years as I lay in bed convincing myself I had cancer, aneurysms or tumors of every shape and size.

I read the website’s claims and furiously began searching “vegetarian life span,” “vegetarian live longer” and, probably, “how long do vegetarians live?” It was almost a decade ago, but a multitude of articles and webpages still list the same statistics.

In sum, it wasn’t guilt about the pain of chickens and cows, but fear of my own body that led me to announce to my parents that evening, “Um, I think I want to be a vegetarian.”

Red meat in plastic package

At first, they resisted, but after months of pouting my way through meat-centered meals, they gave up. I was seventeen and no longer ate meat.

Over the years that followed, I learned to ask servers what kind of broths were in soups, how to alter the Taco Bell menu appropriately and how to sheepishly apologize for the inconvenience when served meat by an unsuspecting relative or friend’s family.

But like when I wore only band T-shirts for a year, or when I thought I would double major in political science, the time has come when I must ask myself, “Why am I still doing this?”

It’s been seven years of disappointing and overpriced veggie burgers, sad cheese sandwiches, and meticulous scouring of every restaurant menu for the one thing I can eat.

What have I gained? I’ve learned to curry lentils, how many things you can make with black beans and have probably improved my cardiovascular health. These are delicious and valuable, respectively. But the younger me who thought that nixing a food group from my diet would extend my life isn’t so convinced that putting myself in a box for the sake of putting myself in a box is worth not eating steak-and-cheese sandwiches in when I visit Philadelphia, or refraining from fried chicken when I spend several days in South Carolina.

So, why am I still doing it? Well, because I’m embarrassed and ashamed of giving up and giving in to all the uncles who teased me at family parties, of the story about how I drunkenly ate a beef burger in the back of an Uber because I was too hungry to realize what I had done and of the impending I-told-you-so smirks from everyone in my life who was right, that it really was just a phase.

It’s my ego, it’s my pride, it’s my whatever.

Meat and dairy products

To be clear, plenty of people refrain from meat-eating for a multitude of very, very valid reasons. Sometimes it’s related to religion and sometimes it’s related to health issues. My reasoning is neither. If I’m being completely honest, my vegetarianism was probably just a dumb, privileged thing I decided to do on a whim before my frontal lobe was even developed.

What about sustainability? you ask. There are socio-environmental reasons for refraining from meat consumption. Vegetarianism is said to help reduce methane production and salvage drinkable water, for example. This is the most difficult question for me in terms of deciding to give in. I’ve come to one workable conclusion: We must all do our part, but one person can’t do all of it all the time.

I know that may be touchy and that many ideological purists would disagree, but I’d like the freedom to, say, indulge in Thanksgiving turkey in November. Why does everything have to be so extreme?

Several vegetarian friends of mine have shirked their label in the past year or so, and when I ask them whether it was a big decision for them, they all respond, “No.” And explain that it wasn’t difficult because they realized, ultimately, that it was their decision to make, no one else’s. They still hardly eat meat, anyway, they say. Much like the decision to give it up in the first place, reverting to omnivorism was equally as personal.

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m thinking long and hard about it. Friends often ask me, “Is there anything you miss from when you ate meat?”

The short answer is always, “Yes.” The caveat is always: “But the concept of eating meat feels weird to me now.” The long explanation is often unspoken: I love the smell of bacon in the morning and fried chicken in the evening. The intoxicating fog of turkey roasting on Thanksgiving makes me salivate. I eat so much veggie sausage because I loved the real thing so much as a child, and yes, it all smells good. But I’m too ashamed to let you know that.

And finally, what I don’t say, ever, is that I don’t know, anymore, why I am resisting.

Photos via Getty Images.

Get more Beauty ?
  • I know a few vegetarians who have retained their healthy eating habits but simply eat some meat from time to time – only the posh things, considered healthy and not too cheap (organic, grass-fed etc. no sausages, no salami …). Doesn’t seem to be a big problem. But relatives happily teasing you for the rest of your life … hmmm 🙂

  • Loved this piece.

    Lately, vegetarianism has turned into a trendy habit. If you’re cool, you MUST be vegan because “it’s healthier and I hate animal crime!1!!1!”. I fucking hate that because it makes vegetarianism look dumb. I’m not a vegan (I love meat too much), but I can tell exactly which one of my friends turned vegan because it’s “the thing” now, and who’s vegan because they actually believe in their cause.

  • Bee

    I’ve been vegetarian for about 12 years now, but recently my body has been craving proteins like chicken and turkey (never red meat or anything like that, weirdly) so I’ve begun to eat it on occasion. I don’t know that I have a problem with not wanting to eat meat out of pride, but I certainly do feel guilty for eating more animal proteins due to environmental and cruelty issues. It’s a weird place to be, but ultimately I think it is good to listen to your body when it comes to these things.

    • Aaron Woods

      What’s in plant proteins that’s not in animal based protein? What a pathetic excuse to start eating meat again. I’m here bodybuilding on a vegan diet and you’re “body’ is craving animal protein.

      • Bee

        You’re totally entitled to your opinion and logically, I agree with you. As I said, I’ve been vegetarian for 12 years and am aware of people like Rich Roll who run ultra-marathons on vegan diets. Hence my conflicted feelings on the issue of craving animal proteins. However, regardless of facts and opinions, calling a stranger pathetic in the comments section of a website isn’t doing much to promote your cause.

        • Aaron Woods

          Yes, you’re right but you’ve misinterpreted my reply. You are not pathetic, your excuse is. Maybe you should go get some blood work done, see if you are missing any nutrients and then look into what plant foods contain these missing nutrients. It’s really that simple. So all of these “My body is craving….” are just excuses to jump back on meat. You guys don’t even try to solve the underlying problem, IF ANY problem even exists.

  • Nora

    “If I’m being completely honest, my vegetarianism was probably just a dumb, privileged thing I decided to do on a whim before my frontal lobe was even developed.”

    While I recognize that you’re admitting that you became a vegetarian on a whim when you were young, it’s odd to read a piece that critiques a vegetarian lifestyle for its “extreme” measures and rules by someone who never wholeheartedly believed in it or lived it. I don’t mean to sound like the devil’s advocate, but it’s quite disheartening to see a comparison between a band shirt fad and a lifestyle choice that, although now popular, shouldn’t be something that anyone simply dives into after reading a few articles or studies about its benefits. Your seven years of vegetarianism has undoubtedly had a positive affect on much more than learning a few curry recipes, and I think that you’ve achieved much more than you credit yourself with. Perhaps you would have a different opinion of vegetarianism if you had come to it yourself, instead of it being brought to you via the internet as you say – while the purists that you refer to may disagree, vegetarianism isn’t about making you afraid of admitting that you like sausage, but hopefully of being able to recognize that the plethora of benefits that come with refusing to eat animals can outweigh a love of meat, even if you do have some meat now and then. But saying that vegetarianism may have improved your cardiovascular health and that you learned how to alter your Taco Bell order makes this piece read like what I imagine you had read as a seventeen year old – deceiving and misguided.

    • Danae Belanger

      Thank you. I love MR but this piece is so vapid and tone deaf (though the author seems to be somewhat aware of that). If you decide to eat meat again, just do it. It’s a personal decision. I’ve been a pescatarian for 6 years but took a year and a half off 3 years ago because I lost my perspective. I’m currently an ovo-pescatarian (no meat, no dairy but fish and eggs ok). Do what you think is right, but please do not reduce vegetarianism to a trend. To many of us it is deeply meaningful.

      • She did not reduce it to anything – she didn’t say “all vegetarians are doing this because of the internet” or similar. She simply very honestly depicted her own personal Making of. Which is great: honesty is the best. I would throw the first stone but I have done things in my life that I cannot honestly brag about now, because the reasons were somewhat dumb.
        I became vegetarian because I didn’t like meat, which I had realized after a failed diet. That’s all. 25 years ago. No saintly feelings about it though.

        • Voovoo

          There’s nothing wrong with having a few saintly feelings. It’s great that you just don’t like meat..but you are in the minority. And when people go veg despite liking meat, they should be able to feel good about it. AND if people get into something for the trend, but then learn to back it up with actual reasoning, that’s good too.

          • You are right, about the need/the right to feel good despite denying oneself the things you like. 🙂

            (But not every person honest about themselves is automatically spoiling everything for the group they belong to and honest writing about life really can be the best, especially when not insulting the Others)

          • Voovoo

            True.. We are all individuals, and shouldn’t be required to speak for everyone, or ‘toe the party line’ when talking about life experience..(Roxane Gay wrote ‘Bad Feminist’…now someone just needs to write ‘Bad Vegetarian’…because no group is a monolith..)

          • Leandra Medine

            I don’t think we *can* speak for everyone — it completely discounts personal opinion. Also, that’s a funny idea voovoo bc vegetarianism truly is a fiercely personal decision and relationship that people make, and the decision is made for 101 dif reasons and sometimes, coming out of vegetarianism after you’ve been inducted into the community so to speak is an awkward/emotionally taxing experience and the best you can muster is self-defense, trying to justify why you don’t do it anymore almost as if you’re convicing yourself that it’s all okay…you know?

      • Voovoo

        YES. ‘Because I lost my perspective’ is exactly the right words… It’s a fluid thing, what we eat. But it is always meaningful.

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        I don’t think you’re being fair. I think it actually took a lot of courage to admit the reasons why she became a vegetarian in the first place. I did the same thing at 17 actually. I just decided to try it. I only lasted a few months. We are ALL pretty vapid when we are teens. And I think someone feeling that they have to stick to a decision and choice they made at that age is ultimately ridiculous. This piece wasn’t about framing vegetarianism as a trend but her acknowledging her own reason for choosing to become one. And also acknowledging that perhaps that wasn’t the best choice for HER.

      • Adrianna

        “this piece is so vapid and tone deaf ”

        LOL what? She’s talking about her personal diet, not racial inequality.

        “please do not reduce vegetarianism to a trend”

        It amazes me that so many people interpreted her article as a general statement against vegetarianism.

      • Scajaquadacrick

        Fish aren’t vegetables. When you say you eat no meat and then say you eat fish, that’s contradictory. Fish are animals. They have a central nervous system. They feel pain. Fish have flesh aka meat. Google “fish cruelty” to learn more. You can’t say you don’t eat meat when you eat meat. You can say you don’t eat mammal meat and bird meat, but you still eat fish meat.

        • Danae Belanger

          Whether fish is considered “meat” is honestly a question of semantics (and in some cases, religion) as the word “meat” typically refers to land animals. I clearly said I was pescatarian, not vegetarian or vegan. I am very aware of the flaws in the seafood industry and that fish are animals, but thanks.

          • CatMom

            Yep! For Jews who keep kosher, fish isn’t meat (or dairy, for that matter), and some kinds of fish are off-limits no matter what.

            Also, “meat” in most languages means mammals (hence words like “poultry” and “fowl”).

    • Maria

      “t’s quite disheartening to see a comparison between a band shirt fad and a lifestyle choice” really though….

  • Emii Lou

    I love this because it echoes my own experience of vegetarianism and veganism. I can’t believe I have trying to be vegan for 8 years now, and still when people ask me why I’m like ‘ummm I just think it’s better?’. And after bringing my own burgers to BBQ’s, and always ordering the freaking mushroom risotto, it feels like eating a burger in front of everyone is going to turn into this huge deal, where everyone gets to say ‘I told you so’.

    I fully understand the ethical considerations and sustainability aspect of why many become vegetarian and vegan, but I never feel confident enough in my own lifestyle to say ‘ I am a vegan, because I don’t believe in animal cruelty or damaging our environment’. It feels false, because i don’t think my never eating a chicken nugget again will solve our massive consumption problem. What I do believe is that by having a more moderate approach, more people will embrace eating fewer animal products, less often. I probably eat meat like once every couple of weeks, don’t buy any in my groceries, and use plant milk – I no longer obsessively check whether products ‘may contain traces of milk’. When I talk to people about rarely eating meat, and eating less dairy they ‘get it’ a lot more and it feels more natural. Thanks for sharing!

  • Voovoo

    I think its excellent when anybody eats fewer animal products. And the view of many vegans that you have to eat/wear plant-based 100% of the time, or you can’t be part of their exclusive club, is what turns many people off. I have been MOSTLY vegan for 4 years; but sometimes I eat something with butter/eggs; i.e; recently a ton of Cadbury eggs (my husband’s mother sends them, he hates them…SOMEBODY has to eat them..right??)
    I totally get the ego part of this. I WANT to be part of this cool/annoying vegan club. But I DON’T think that all-or-nothing is the way to go here. And since I still wear leather shoes (I buy them secondhand) and I would rather eat sour cream than send an entire plate back at a restaurant, I can’t call myself ‘vegan’, according to many vegans. BUT I think its important to do what you can, even if you confuse the people around you. It is OK to eat whatever you want- your family can grumble that they never know what you’re eating from one week to the next, but f**k em. It’s your choice, either way, and its not a competition. But you built such a strong base in the last 7 years- it would be sad to let that go! Your frontal lobe IS developed now, and plant-based IS the way of the future. I know so many people who are ex-vegetarians; which means they weren’t clear about their reasons, methods, and intentions. Educate yourself – watch ‘COWSPIRACY’. My only regret is that I didn’t go veg sooner. But you have to do it in a healthy way, or you’ll just go back. Better to eat real bacon once a month than soy bacon every day. Just saying. That stuff ain’t alkalizing.

    • Voovoo

      Sorry to lecture…I just want people to stay the course, even if it’s not a totally clear course…

    • Elise Michelle

      I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons, but I also understand your plight. About two years ago, I went vegan. I had been vegetarian for 9 years, and it just felt like the next logical step. I was really dedicated to my new diet for over a year, but then I started culinary school (at a vegan friendly but ultimately omnivorous school). When it came to meat, I abstained, but, I started tasting the dairy and egg dishes, comforted by my school’s food quality and ethical sourcing standards. I faced the same “why am I doing this” quandary and made compromises that I was comfortable with. I have been able to find local farmers who meet my ethical standards for eggs and honey – still having a hard time with dairy because of the veal connection. I figured out what works for me, and I know you can do the same. If everyone was a flexitarian, we could save a lot of animals and the environment!

    • Nick

      Eating meat is bad PERIOD! Is murder okay if its only 1% of what you do? NO, not a single murder is okay! Even people less than yo

  • agoraphabulous

    Go easy on yourself. You can start something for one reason and keep doing it for another. Also, it is perfectly okay to change your mind. I can remember feeling like it wasn’t and maybe you’re there now. Therapy will snap you right out of that one! 🙂 Maybe cliched but … no one thinks about you nearly as much as you think they do. Your decisions and lifestyle choices are just a blip (if even!) on their day. It makes me so sad to think of you stressing about being teased by your uncles if you change your mind. Worst case: they get to feel super proud of that one time the guessed something was a phase and was right! Best case: they shrug and keep it zipped because they’re actually, underneath the bluster, wise enough to know change happens. And nieces grow up to make decisions about elder care & such LOL!

    • Kattigans

      Completely agree with: no one thinks about you nearly as much as you think they do. Your decisions and lifestyle choices are just a blip (if even!) on their day.

      I tell this to my friends all the time who over analyze the tiniest details about interactions with others. I do it too so my reminders for them are reminders I use for myself. Life’s too short!

  • Adrianna

    Oh boy. Some of these comments are projecting onto this article. I think it was pretty clear that Monica wrote about her personal experience, and not a sweeping generalization about vegetarians

  • grace

    i like the idea of “eating mostly vegetarian” or following a “plant-based diet” rather than identifying with a strict “vegetarian” label. you don’t need to put yourself in a box! no need to throw away vegetarianism in general – you can still make a difference even if you ditch the label.

    • Nick

      just like eating the disabled, totally agree, those lesser beings deserve to be eaten every once and a while!

      • goodnorevil

        I’d eat a nice fricassee of Nick, though, he’s annoying and needs to go.

  • Maddi B.

    I was a vegetarian for 8 years, simply because I thought it would help me lose weight. Long story short, I found out that I have various health problems that caused me to limit my diet so extremely that prohibiting meat was no longer practical. To be honest, it was a big deal when I started eating meat again. When I told my dad I wanted to eat meat again he told me to wait until I came home from college during winter break so that we could go to a steakhouse and reintroduce meat to my system with a quality meal versus college cafeteria mystery meat. When the fateful dinner arrived, my dad stared at me as I cut my filet mignon and took my first bite. All of my friends kept texting me, asking me if I liked it or if I felt sick (I was convinced that my reintroduction to meat would end similarly to the Exorcist). But after a few weeks, no one made any remarks.
    Now, I have to follow a strict low FODMAP Paleo diet and the only piece of advice I ever give anyone is that if you do not have an allergy or health concern, do not restrict your diet. Alternative options (I’m looking at you, gluten-free cookies) usually have a ton of chemicals that are worse for you then gluten and don’t taste nearly as delicious. Variety is the spice of life, so enjoy it for those of us who can’t.

  • Abby

    Excellent article, I really feel you with so many of these points as a former vegetarian BUT excuse me, no Philadelphian has ever heard of a “steak and cheese sandwich”. It’s a cheesesteak.

    • _lauristia

      lol
      loved your point! a cheesesteak

  • I know some of the other comments have picked apart what you said and how you said it and while I think critiques can be totally valid, I just want to thank you for sharing your perspective at all.

    Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been a vegetarian half my life and have had to defend my oft evolving feelings on the topic many, many times, but I’ve become pretty much wholly averse to judging anyone on any diet they choose. It’s such a personal decision, one that can change over the years (because, like, we’re human and such), and I really appreciated reading your point of view.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      Well said! There is a LOT of judgment on this thread.

  • Leilani Fraser-Buchanan

    I initially became a vegetarian because my sister became one and I wanted to be like her. It’s been like, almost 20 years now (with a small break ages 16-19) and I don’t think I’d ever go back. I eat gravy made with meat sometimes, or fish sauce in pad thai, but ultimately, the few times I’ve tried to eat meat it does not taste like food or anything I should be putting in my mouth.

    I’m not exactly an ethical vegetarian (I recognize that there are a LOT of things I partake in that come from unethical means- cheese, for instance) but I do believe there is cruelty involved in the meat eating process and it gives me peace of mind to know I’m not part of it. The environmental part is the most important though, I think- not eating meat, not driving, almost never buying new clothing- they are *easy* ways for me specifically to reduce my strain on the environment. Sometimes I think that I don’t particularly care about being a vegetarian, but I also don’t really care about eating meat either so why bother?

    I will say- it took me a very, very long time to learn how to eat properly for a vegetarian. 12 year old living off fried tofu & bbq sauce- not healthy! But if you have tried to be a vegetarian and found it difficult or unfulfilling but have a genuine desire to change your lifestyle- stick with it! Or start out small- I know lots of people who are “vegetarian-at-home” and only eat meat out, or only eat chicken, or whatever. It’s worthwhile to give it a try if it feels important to you or to investigate other ways to reduce your impact on the environment!

  • Kristin

    I feel like consider the lobster should be required reading—he basically goes through how cruel and unnecessary it is to eat meat but then how he likes eating animals and wants to keep doing it and then ends the essay because he can’t bear to think about it any further.
    I agree it’s probably better not to eat meat for health, environment, etc—but isn’t it also cruel to go to someone’s house and then not eat what they made for you—or worse to ask them to make something specific to your diet?
    Plus the only bigger lie than vegan sausage is vegan leather. its like once you start calling something “vegan animal product” you can charge whatever you want.

    • Voovoo

      There is a BIG difference in the level of cruelty between asking your host to make a vegetarian option (or bringing it yourself) and forcing a pig to live in a crate, using a forklift to move living cows, or shooting baby lambs through the head. I understand your argument, but don’t throw the word cruel around like that. We all ask things of the people we know. Life works that way. Usually ‘cruel’ doesn’t describe it.

      • Kristin

        Cruel might not be the perfect word but it isn’t thrown around–I do think that when you’re traveling or you’re a guest and you reject someone’s food you’re rejecting them to an extent.

        • Voovoo

          Definitely; food is really tied to our identities. It would be very challenging for certain people to be veg; anybody who lives any kind of public life would have a hard time, since its a sign of ‘respect’ to eat whats presented in many cultures. But things have to change. We shouldn’t have to let other peoples’ delicate egos determine what we put into our bodies. I’ve lived most of my 35 years worrying about what other folks thought of me, or whether I’d offend them..but people get offended no matter what you do! Being the odd one out can be lonely..but living according to other peoples’ values is a big way to have some major regrets later in life.

    • I personally don’t feel bad at all, asking for a vegan option, and I don’t think I’m being rude. If it were for a religious reason or a food allergy, no one would complain about it.

    • Greenborough

      I’m done planning out my dinner party menu for vegetarians. How about vegetarians cooking me a steak when I come to dinner? Do you think that would ever happen?

  • Listen eat what works for you but can we please stop calling vegetarianism or veganism “XXTREME”. It’s exactly those words that alienate people from even trying it. I’ve heard this so many times I’m sick of it. My choice to not eat animals is NOT extreme. It’s completely rational, easy to do, and doesn’t leave me feeling deprived in any way.

    • Jessica H

      YUS THANK YOU

    • Leilani

      yeah this!! so much!! like i’m surprised when people (in canada/us anyways) think vegetarianism is this like… extreme, strange difficult thing. it’s really not a big deal. it’s 2017. vegetarianism as a *movement* in the western world has been around for a long time now??

    • Yes! It may be hard to believe, but there are some people out there who genuinely don’t like meat. I’ve been vegetarian for almost 10 years now and I don’t miss meat (it actually grosses me out). I’m very happy with my diet. And it’s not hard to be a vegetarian. I never have problems finding food at restaurants. It’s actually pretty funny when I eat out with friends, there will always be the one person who worries about me and tries to find the veggie dishes for me. And I’ve had plenty of delicious veggie burgers!

    • Flo

      THIS! I am so so so so sick auf people talking about “balance” and “extremes” when they justify their meat consumption. Being a vegetarian is not extreme. Being a vegan is not extreme. Like what the heck. Please just find a better reason and then do whatever you want.
      I do appreciate the honesty of your article, but I still find your reasoning very odd and weirdly generalizing. If you’re not morally, environmentally or whichever way inclined enough to be a vegetarian/vegan then don’t be one, fair enough.

  • Where to start with this. I’ve been a vegan for four years now. I don’t miss meat at all. While I understand that the author is speaking from personal experience, I can’t say that going back to meat is a wise, healthy, or earth-friendly choice. I guess to me being a vegetarian would be pretty easy. I was a vegetarian for a year, before I transitioned into a vegan.

    Being a vegan is “mostly” easy now, although there are times when it’s an exception. I guess I can’t understand why someone, no matter how they came to it, would give up a lifestyle that is healthy and earth-friendly, just to be like everyone else.

    Maybe you went vegetarian at the time to be cool, but here’s the thing: Being a vegetarian or a vegan is cool. Why? Because, you are helping the earth, you are helping yourself, and you are saving the lives of animals. That’s a very big deal and very cool.

    At the end of the day, do what you got to do, but remember that you also have to live with yourself. I couldn’t live with myself or look at myself in the mirror if I ever ate a piece of meat again. I would judge myself for that.

    It seems to me, that other people are influencing your decision to return to meat. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to have an opinion of your own and stick with that.

    ~Laurali Star

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      With all due respect there is a lot of projection of your own feelings and judgment in your comment. She flat out stated that she would like to have Turkey for Thanksgiving. How does that translate to her being influenced by others to have meat? It seems to me that Monica IS finally having an opinion of her own and is attempting to reconcile that with the expectations of others. What we eat is a personal choice and I hope Monica comes to the conclusion that ultimately it’s no one’s business what she eats – whether they themselves are vegetarians or meat eaters.

      • You’re absolutely right. She can eat whatever she wants. However, she posted it in a public forum, and this is my take on what I read. As far as judgement goes, I said if it we’re me, I would judge myself if I switched back. I truly do believe she’s influenced by friends and family. Reason being, I go through it every day with people. But that’s just my personal opinion and take on what I read here. I don’t believe I did or said anything wrong.

  • Alicia McElhaney

    OMG the year of watching Across the Universe weekly. I lived it!

    I also was a vegetarian for 6 years before giving it up. Speaking from the other side, I can tell you it’s worth it. Steak is good. You can eat it rarely. There are other really good ways to remain sustainable.

    • Voovoo

      Animal agriculture accounts for a huge % of the greenhouse gases in the world. Something like 91% of the rainforests have been flattened for agricultural uses. There’s not much of a chance that a large % of the planet will stop consuming animal products, but to think that other ways to be sustainable are anywhere near as effective is wrong.

      • SK

        I agree that animal agriculture does account for a large portion of greenhouse gases (thanks methane), but I’m not sure if using rainforest slash-and-burn is the best example to use for your argument. For instance, soybeans are one of the largest beneficiaries of the slash-and-burn method in Brazil, due in part to increased demand for soy. Both of the facts that you state are correct but not necessarily related!

        • Voovoo

          They’re actually completely related. The demand for soy is a direct result of the demand for animal products. According to the WWF, ‘Soybean meal is the largest source of protein feed in the world, and is generally used in animal feed’. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/soy/consumers/…Obviously, everything humans eat have an impact on the planet, whether its plant-based or not. But SO much land is taken to raise livestock or to grow the food they eat..nothing else compares.

  • Ma

    I think you need to assess whether your decision to go back to eating meat regularly might be as misinformed as your decision to become a vegetarian in the first place… I first became a vegetarian when I was 11, completely on a whim. Needless to say, the decision was not very well received by my parents, and my unusual dietary choice combined with stubbornness of all parties involved led to severe anemia within a few years. By the time I turned 14 I was back at eating meat as per medical advice. However, I never felt quite right about it, and after visiting India it suddenly hit me that if about 1 billion people (not everyone in India is vegetarian, not all vegetarians are Indians, etc) did it reasonably successfully and healthily enough, so could I. This time around I became very aware of what I was eating – dark green leaves, nuts, etc, to ensure I’m getting the right nutrients and avoid another bolt of anemia (for the worried, blood tests confirm I’m just fine). I do also allow myself to eat meat from time to time (e.g.: when I visit my grandparents halfway across the globe, when I crave sushi, if I’m having dinner at my husband’s new boss who didn’t know I don’t usually eat meat). I want my *mostly* vegetarianism to be a sustainable decision, and in order to do so I must control what I can control, and let go when I can’t. I personally don’t mind going to the vegetarian option in every menu (in fact I find it liberating), and I even cook my own food to take on planes because the vegetarian option is usually as flavorless as they come, but I don’t judge people for their eating meat, or think that the occasional meat including meal is a sacrilege, and I don’t actually know any vegetarians who are like that (including some of which who don’t eat meat for religious reasons) – all of the ones I know agree that it is a healthier, sustainable and potentially more ethical approach to nutrition, but none go to the extent of shunning people who do things differently. So here’s the thing: maybe you want to go back to eating meat just because you don’t want to belong to the vegetarian “club”, and that’s ok, but I’m not entirely positive that your nutrition/lifestyle/ethical decisions should be made based on “being/not being part of a club” – or else you risk falling into a new club, which you will soon enough want to escape to, and so on. Rest assured: mostly no one will care about what you’re eating but you – if you feel like eating meat just do it guilt-free, but if you learned enough tasty vegetarian dishes over the years, there’s no need to incorporate meat to them unnecessarily – free yourself from the box-thinking mentality of either/or and be happy with your choices!

    • Voovoo

      Yep. Exactly.

  • The Fluffy Owl

    this is why i try to avoid any type of label if i can help it, for instance, in my home when I’m cooking, I stick to vegetarian/vegan meals- for ethical, environmental and health reasons, but if we’re going out I may partake in the devil’s meat and if i’m at someone else’s house I’ll eat whatever goes on my plate. my honeymoon to Iceland would have been nearly impossible if I was sticking to veggie/vegan meals and it would have robbed me of expirencing an essential part of their culture (Horse meat anyone?!) I don’t want to claim to be something I’m not, and since I’m prone to breaking my own rules, I’d rather not say I’m anything other than human. Life’s too short not to eat a cheese-steak once in a while, and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal not to while in Philly. 😉

  • lilyelle

    As a non-evangelical vegetarian, my response whenever anyone asks me about my personal diet choices is: just like everything else in life, it’s okay to exist somewhere on a spectrum. Like Leandra said in a comment, it’s a deeply personal relationship we all have to our food and what works for one person will not work for everyone. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12 (16 years total for those keeping score at home), and just this month decided I would venture back into the world of seafood … which, I relate so hard to the author here, was EXCRUCIATINGLY difficult and damaging to my ego. I feel like I’m letting down the entire community of vegetarianism by going back on my 12-year-old self’s decision. I’ve been debating it internally for over a YEAR before I finally gave in and ordered a fish taco, and hadn’t even expressed my thoughts to anyone until a couple of months ago because it just felt like I was doing something wrong. But as soon as you feel like you’re existing inside a box that someone else created, that’s when you’ve gotta get out! Claim your own space and don’t let anyone else determine what’s right for you. Yes, I’m sure many of my meat-eating friends will come at me with the ‘told ya so’s’ and ‘so, when are you going back to bacon?’ with a wry smile, but that’s just them validating their own personal experience against mine. We’re all just out here figuring out our own spot on this spectrum of life, and it feels GOOD to feel comfortable where you are! I cooked fish for the first time in 16 years last weekend, and it turned out beautiful, and I enjoyed it so much, and I don’t feel bad at all anymore 😀 Monica, I feel ya girl.

  • Krusty the Kat

    Monica, thank you for sharing your story. As a former vegetarian-turned-vegan for 6 years, I can relate to the inner turmoil that accompanies the decision to revert back to omnivore. Moving across the country a couple of years post college was the final push I needed, as I was meeting lots of new people who never knew me as a vegetarian.

    That being said, it’s worth noticing the overtones of anxiety and self doubt that permeate this article and comments below. Eating is very personal and emotional, and we do identify ourselves by what we eat to some extent. And while it doesn’t have to be, vegetarianism and veganism are frequently a cover for mental health issues. I, for one, could certainly talk your ear off about factory farms and water waste and the real cost of meat when I was veg, but you know what? I was restricting my diet because it was easier to be anorexic in public when you eat a restricted diet. I know that I was not alone in this.

    This isn’t to say that all vegetarians have an eating disorder. It’s just to point out that if you are having difficulty reconciling your past motives with your current desire to eat meat, you may have matured, or gotten stronger, or ejected the anxiety in your life that compelled you to want to control your food, and that is fabulous. You can be who you are and eat what you want, and you don’t need a prescriptive label to justify anything.

  • alansa

    To the MR team: I think that readers of MR tend to be empathetic and appreciate of other perspectives, but to echo what another commentor said, this piece is incredibly tone deaf. Do we always have to appreciate when an author comes forward with her neuroses? We all have them, sure. But we don’t all have a platform like MR to voice them on. By fulfilling her own need to be heard and speak of a very legitimate personal battle, she has also simultaneously undermined a movement that she has quickly branded extremist.

    I enjoy being challenged. I am not quick to be offended. Yet, this post was not the nuanced and well-thought out piece that MR usually posts. Perhaps this is a chance for the team to consider what is truly worthy of a guest piece. Quite honestly, it read as if you were forced to publish a client’s daughter’s midlife crisis into experimental writing.

  • Linda

    “my vegetarianism was probably just a dumb, privileged thing I decided to do on a whim before my frontal lobe was even developed”. CORRECT.
    And you know why it does not feel sustainable to you? Read your own words.

    “We must all do our part, but one person can’t do all of it all the time.” WRONG.
    It’s not about doing ALL, and it’s not about doing it ALL THE TIME. It’s about ideas, and values, and principles. If your ideas are important to you, then any choice you make based on them will have value, and meaning – and even when it all feels like a burden, you will still know why you are doing it.

    Also, why do you think “vegetarianism” is a label? It’s a way of life, it’s how you choose to interact with the planet and its creatures. Labels are – by definition – something negative that narrow-minded people apply to others: the fact that you think of vegetarianism as a label, and the fact that you apply it to yourself, is completely absurd! I am a vegetarian, and I don’t wear this as a flag, nor I ever felt it like a label. To be honest, most of the time I don’t even think about it, because that’s just natural to me. And yes, I did eat meat when I was younger, and yes, I still find the smell of meat appealing. But who cares? I know why I made my choice and I don’t regret it. When people ask me why, I like to share the ideas behind my choice because they are important to me. Label?! Oh, please.

    Frankly, this article is a pile of rubbish about your own selfish ego. You should be ashamed, but not about quitting your (pseudo) vegetarian diet (I am sorry but being vegetarian means something different from what you did). You should be ashamed about always making decisions for superficial reasons: quitting meat to “live longer”, and not quitting your diet because of what other people will think.

    Seriously, you sound like an immature teenager, still. Just make decisions based on your TRUE wishes and values, you’ll see it’s going to be easier to stick to them.

    And please, who thought this would make a good article, it’s such a winy piece of millennial, first-world c**p. It makes me sad.

  • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

    Joining in the peanut gallery down here to give my 2 cents.
    Ironically the judgement you’ve been afraid to receive from family has been fairly served to you down here in the comments with a cherry on top.
    Do you, gurrrrrl. I’m a “recovering vegetarian” (lol), my vegetarianism came to a halt last Christmas. You know what? I was fine. I survived.
    Do what makes you feel your best self.

    • Voovoo

      Of course YOU survived. Of course YOU were fine. What about the Christmas ham? How’s she doing?

      • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

        Well Voovoo, it’s dead. Obviously.

        • Voovoo

          My question was redundant. Obviously.
          And maybe I’m beating a dead horse here (yes, intended), but it seems to me that a lot of the comments here are treating Monica like she went through a really traumatic event, and that she needs encouragement and kindness in order to be ok. She didn’t actually go through any serious trauma. And neither did you you, most likely, when you stopped being veg last year. Small crisis, maybe. SO, I just feel like there’s no need for all the bolstering of Monica’s fragile emotional state. What all the ‘go Monica’ posts seem to ignore is that the REASON many people stay vegetarian is that they remember that ANIMALS have gone through trauma, just so you can chew happily for a few minutes. I’m all for a flexible attitude toward plant-based, but the level of selfishness here disturbs me. Being your ‘best self’ should include a sense of responsibility to the world around you.

          • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

            I appreciate the effort you put into this message but miss me with those accusing undertones sis, your whole point is wasted on me with that one. Soooooo…

          • Leslie Price

            What I’d say to this is that part of the point of the piece is that an all-or-nothing attitude can be very alienating, and that she, as a current and longtime vegetarian, is cognizant of the point you are making here — and says as much in the article.

          • Voovoo

            The article is a good one..and it is personal, and specific to her; but relatable. My little rant above mostly refers to various other comments here. I don’t think the author was looking for sympathy or attacks, but I bet she’s not surprised she got both. It’s one of those topics that gets people riled, and I’m sure MR knew that going in.. I agree about the alienation thing..hence my own long-time hesitation to ever get involved with vegetarianism. Pointing out that animals are part of the equation when deciding to eat meat isn’t intended to have accusing undertones. It just is how it is. Sorry to be so persistent here, but I happen to feel strongly about this..and I also respect everything ManRepeller posts. And I don’t think having a dialogue about it is terrible..but it is a bit exhausting..

          • Leslie Price

            Totally. As someone who has cycled through veganism, I get both sides of it. People constantly ask what my “diet” is and I hate saying “vegan” as I do occasionally delve into eggs/cheese depending on the source and situation. I don’t really have a word for what I am, which can be confusing for people.

  • Greenborough

    Gosh I think we’re all too hard on ourselves. This writer is being honest about an issue she’s having with her diet and her identity. What’s wrong with that? Why does she have to tow the line for vegetarians?

    Why do we define ourselves by what we do or don’t eat? I think this is a particular part of American culture that we let food define us.

  • Anaid Chrietzberg

    This was painful and awkward to read; however, I appreciate it’s honesty. I’ve been vegetarian for the last 16 years, vegan for the last 2 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My main reason behind it is based on health, moral and religious beliefs. While I understand that my choice for being vegan is MY choice and I would never want to push my agenda on anyone, my biggest annoyance is with people who assume that it’s just a matter of swapping out “junk food” with vegetarian junk food (i.e. fake meat products, etc) Being vegetarian requires its reading and understanding of nutritional value. I also don’t really struggle with finding great things to eat while I’m traveling. Because if convenience is really the main gripe for being vegetarian, then you’re either really lazy or vegetarianism isn’t for you. Which is fine, by the way!

  • Cristina

    Holy Moly, what intense comments. I enjoyed the read and absorbed it simply from a “label” perspective. Can we all agree to ditch labels for 2018? I am right there with you, that the root of most of my decisions comes from the internet and social media and that is a bigger picture problem. These communities are so exclusive and shiny and new when you get to be included but man, when these guru’s (your veggie experience = my paleo experience) get that fame… they are on such HIGH HORSES. The Whole30 founder went on this huge, terrible, judgmental rant about Weight Watchers that I was literally embarrassed for her. But of course the paleo community and all the sub-famous people underneath her back her statements. Labels make people high and mighty. Why on EARTH someone would judge a weight loss program that helps people lose weight without extreme dieting is beyond me. Why anyone would think their way is better than anyone else is beyond me. I am no better than the vegetarian sitting next to me and if they think they are better than me by not eating animals for whatever reason, that’s their spirit they have to deal with. I agree that vegetarian and veganism are extreme, because to anyone of the extremists on that spectrum HOW DARE SOMEONE care about animal cruelty but also eat meant?! Like go straight to hell or something. I eat meat. I also eat vegetable. I also buy my meat/dairy/eggs from a local farm and I get to see these animals live out their life happy and free the way people used to do it. If I cannot afford it that week, we eat mostly veggies. I don’t eat pork unless I can afford the really good stuff so we basically don’t eat pork. I don’t go around touting my beliefs and ideals on other people and I wouldn’t turn down a non grass-fed burger, ever. Honestly, the internet has ruined us as people.

  • Verena Teixeira

    The same happened with me when I was even younger than you were when you stopped eating meat, after a while a start eating meat again but after I grew up more and somehow got more mature about lots of things I decided to stop eating meat for a less selfish reason. Maybe you only need to grow up 😉

  • lateshift

    I can’t find it, but somebody had a great comment here about how people should just stop commenting on what other people eat, period, to which I say: AMEN.

    I was raised eating yummy, healthy foods, nearly all vegetable-based, so that’s what I’ve got a taste for… especially since I personally feel better after eating them than when I go for less-healthy options. (I ate a lot more meat during high school and college — and had stomach issues the whole time that magically went away when I switched to the more sporadic “one burger per summer, one serving of Thanksgiving turkey per fall” pattern of meat consumption. This probably isn’t true for everyone! that’s just how it was for me.) And, not that it matters, but thanks to a combination of genetics and my sincere personal taste, I’ve pretty much always been pretty slim. I just eat whenever I’m hungry and stop when I’m not.

    All this tends to make eating meals with other people an exercise in pain.

    The way it typically goes is: we hit a restaurant. I order whatever looks most appealing to me. Then someone else, usually somebody struggling with their diet choices for some reason, will make a loud comment about how I’m being so “GOOOOOOOD” …and keep going long, long after I try to brush it off and change the subject.

    Then the restaurant will bring me a meal for one person that’s technically, per official measures, large enough to feed a small family for a day or two. I eat a single portion size, then stop because I feel full. At which point, one or more people will interrupt the table conversation to direct attention to my plate and start an extended group conversation about how I don’t EEEAAAAAAAT, why don’t I eeeeaaaat, I never really eat a REAL meal, etc. Besides being completely untrue, it sounds even more condescending and belittling in real life than it does on the page, and it will go on for an uncomfortably long time… so long, in fact, that I realized several years ago that I had started eating well past the point I was full, to a point that I felt physically ill, just because I wanted to avoid that commentary. I know it’s probably more about the personal neuroses of whoever starts the conversation than about me, but it sure feels personal, and it sucks.

    My own rule of thumb: nothing that comes out of my mouth should be about what another person puts into theirs. [end rant]

  • I went through a similar bout when I was 18 – my dad waved some raw deer meat in my face, I was enrolled in a human impact course in my first year university, and I essentially was scared into vegetarianism. However, when I returned to eating meat a few years later, I faced a ton of mocking from the same people who found it most difficult to adjust to me being vegetarian in the first place. Now I don’t find it worthwhile to announce how exactly I want to define my diet if I happen to eat venison or tofu; we all have fully-formed frontal lobes now, can we stop being so judgy?

    Thanks for writing this article; and for some comfort music while you ponder your own ethical decisions, here’s something I like to listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGErC6QQdoc

  • Christafroon

    Should we really all be that shocked when someone who became a vegetarian for selfish reasons, decides to quit being a vegetarian for selfish reasons, but has a hard time quitting being a vegetarian for selfish reasons?

  • Karlsson

    What is the purpose of this article? Is it an encouragement to all the people that just got on the “veggie trend” and now longs for some bacon to just give in? Your friends started eating meat again and now you are considering it too. You write that “one person can’t do it all” and so on.
    Do you want approval? Well meat is bad, sorry to say it. But you are right that one person can’t do it all. But on the other hand- with “encouraging” articles like this it will be more likely that no one will accomplish anything at all.

  • streats

    I’m what people might call a flexitarian – on a daily basis I don’t tend to eat meat or dairy, but I occasionally will. When I order a veggie burger, or other meat-free option, people ask if I’m vegetarian, as if meat-eaters have to have meat at every opportunity and can never enjoy vegetables, and friends tease me for my “vegan ways”, even though I ascribe to neither label. I just happen to no longer buy meat or dairy products as part of my grocery shopping, mainly for environmental reasons (impact of cow industry but also all of these things come in non-recyclable packaging which avoid as much as possible), but also I just prefer cooking with vegetables. I’ve discovered a joy in cooking in recent years and I don’t particularly enjoy lobbing meat into a pan, waiting until it’s cooked enough to not kill me, and then slathering it in sauce. I don’t have the patience for marinating and I can’t be bothered to try and remember “did I already defrost this? Can I refreeze it again? When did I buy this? Am I going to get sick if I eat this?” I still eat a lot of eggs at home, and will on occasion eat meat and dairy when I’m out. I don’t get into the details of broths and cross-contamination, etc., I just go by what’s on the menu that sounds good, and since I rarely eat out, it’s rarely something I have to think about.

    If I’m visiting my parents, I eat what I’m given, and on special occasions, like my birthday, I will order what I want (I have a tradition of taking myself out for a solo dinner, which usually includes steak and a cheese plate). I am environmentally conscious but I’m also someone who believes life is to be enjoyed. I’m not going to deny myself certain things forever. Since my motivation is mainly environmental, I feel okay with the huge amount I’ve reduced my consumption.

    Though conceptually I don’t think it’s morally wrong for humans to eat animals, I believe there are a lot of problems with the way meat is farmed and produced (I have a lot of issues with the mass over production of food in general), so it’s becoming less and less appealing. Even if I gave up all animals products (on and off my plate) I don’t know that I will ever be able to call myself a vegan unless my belief system is fully aligned with that (i.e. my moral stance changes on animals eating animals)

    In any case though I think we would all do well to eat less meat, eat more vegetables, learn to cook our own damn food more, and pay more attention to what we’re putting in our bodies. If we can fact check our news why shouldn’t we fact check our food?

  • meme

    Letting go of things we do for ego reasons is a good thing, and it won’t keep you from doing what you do.
    I don’t practically eat red meat, but about once a month or less I feel the need to have a small amount and I do. I also have fish regularly. I have never called myself pesceterian or anything like it. I still get yelled at by meat enthusiasts for not having “enough” meat and I also get the “holier-than-thou” attitude from my vegetarian friends. But I don’t need a star for my eating habits. I applaud my vegetarian friends and I do what I can to eat healthy and to listen to my body.
    So as someone who has to check her pride quite often, I say maybe stick with it but tell people you are no longer a vegetarian. It might be a good exercice.

  • Lu

    This author’s use of the term “privilege” is excruciatingly ironic. This is an incredibly privileged, bumbling piece about a woman who finally realized she had no desire or obligation to help the environment and hinder horrific, systemic animal cruelty and human exploitation. Bravo, MR

  • Shelby Mc

    I think if the extremism was removed more people would be keen to try. This is absolutely right, its just ego and pride and labels. If there were more of a “come and go” approach to Vegetarianism/Veganism I think people would be less intimidated. I do think that everyone should do their part and be more conscious of what they put in their bodies but there is no shame or blame in being vegan or the occasional omnivore. What is important is acceptance, awareness and just plain trying your best to be good to your body and the planet.

  • CatMom

    While I can’t speak to vegetarianism extending your life, just cutting back on meat/animal products *can* improve your health! It depends upon the other things you do, obviously, but you don’t have to never eat meat again to get some benefits.

  • Lula

    “We must all do our part, but one person can’t do all of it all the time.”

    It sounds like one person doesn’t want to do anything, anytime. If you don’t care about any of the reasons not to eat meat, just admit you care more about your own gratification than any kind of social or environmental or greater good, and don’t claim to be doing “your part.” How anyone in the age of Trump is actually SCALING BACK on their social/environmental responsibility and activism is beyond me. Now is the time you should be leading by example. Step the fuck up. This is embarrassing.

    • Voovoo

      omg, yessss… I get pretty annoyed by folks who lament Trump’s attacks on environmental standards, while still eating meat and dairy. This is really well-said..I wish I’d said it.

  • Nick

    Just like when I eat a random person against their will every once and a while, as long as we all take a break from eating each other every other Monday its all cool. Why dont you try walking in the animal’s shoes? What if you found out you were mentally retarded and a group of smart guys started murdering you and everyone else of lesser intelligence?

    • Voovoo

      No amount of meat-eating is ethical, as far as I’m concerned. And no amount of leather is ethical either (Yes. I’m unethical) And I wish that all the animals in the world (including humans) could not be tortured for someone else’s benefit, starting now. But we live in a pretty harsh world. It’s been decided that there’s a hierarchy..And your example of ‘smart guys’ murdering the mentally retarded doesn’t sound super far off from things that have happened in the past (i.e eugenics), OR the future (Trump’s capable of anything, as far as I’m concerned). BUT- animals aren’t helped when you make people feel defensive, by accusing them of murder. I ABSOLUTELY believe in showing people pictures and videos of what farm animals are enduring; I’m pretty strident about it. And I HATE people who won’t listen, and who won’t change. But before I was vegan, I reacted badly to folks who accused me of being evil. I probably would’ve researched factory farming years earlier if I hadn’t felt antagonized by judgmental vegans. If you LOVE THE ANIMALS and you want them to be free from suffering, BE UNDERSTANDING that changing one’s habits are hard, and HELP PEOPLE CHANGE. That said, I get you. I do. Don’t eat animals OR disabled people.

      • Nick

        Viewing it from the perspective of the animals is what made me start to care, I do get what your saying though. A somewhat realistic scenario is if aliens kill us all, there are billions of earth like planets according to NASA and it would be unbelievable if there wasn’t any life there at all.