Just Another F***ing Veggie: My Journey Into The Heart of Vegetarianism.
“But how do you get enough protein?”, “Do you miss bacon?”, “Will you ever eat meat again?”.
Having just survived christmas with my family, a struggle only partly accentuated by the fact that I no longer eat meat, it is fair to say I’ve experienced the main brunt of the veggie-bashing that I shall have to undergo. Luckily by sheltering behind my bowl of Mushroom Risotto, I managed to stave off the temptations of Pigs in Blankets, the stuffing, the goose fat roasted spuds and the pheasant-rammed-in-a-duck-squashed-in-a-goose-probed-into-a-turkey, which the other 20 family members assured me was ‘the best thing ever’.
I stopped eating meat 2 months ago, which makes me a relative newbie at this. I have to be honest, I felt worried: Am I going to lose weight? Maybe I’ll get fat from all those nuts? How will I get the protein that I need? Luckily for me, all of the fear surrounding a no meat diet is utter bullshit. It is just fear-mongering. The biggest fear I had was not being able to compete to my greatest potential because of the ‘energy’ I would lack. I play field hockey in goal (don’t start, it is a mainstream sport), a lot. On an average week in season I train in the gym on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday; on the pitch on a Tuesday and Thursday; I have games on a Wednesday and Saturday; and if I can move on a Sunday I might go on a run, maybe. All this adds up to about 12 hours of exercise a week. So yeah, taking out what everyone raves about as being the most important part of an athletes diet, the protein, sounded scary. Until I realised two things: one, the more obvious, I’m not cutting protein, just one source of protein, and two (and this is a biggie) you don’t actually need the stupid amounts of protein the fitness world sells to you! Read any half decent guide to sports nutrition (I suggest Anita Bean’s Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition) and you’ll find around 14% of your daily calories should come from protein. That’s just over 100g of a 3,000 calorie diet which, (if you eat properly) isn’t much.
Something else I learnt the hard way, is to stop worrying about exact numbers, like the ones I just stated. As Michael Pollan* puts it in his most recent bestseller In Defence of Food “what other animal needs professional help in deciding what it should eat?” By the hard way, I concentrated so much on getting the right kind of nutrients in me, I neglected to realise I just wasn’t eating enough, and one day fainted in the gym, luckily not mid squat and only for a second, but it was enough to make me realise I was vegetarianing wrong. Just eat Doug, just eat*.
Since then the only difficulty I’ve had with eating the veg, is when people ask. Sure I’m not ashamed to say I think it’s pretty reckless to eat something which is proven to be bad for the environment, bad for our bodies, and bad for the animals. However it is pretty difficult to say that to a friend or your grandmother and not feel like you’re telling them off. So my solution is thus: write about it all, the easy bits like the whole eating things side of it, the harder bits, like the reason for the whole eating of the things, and just let people know that it’s nothing crazy, just not eating meat. Not that I’m some intrepid dietary Francis Drake paving the way for all to follow, I’m not even a vegan for Surabhi’s sake.
Over the following weeks I’m going to be sharing with the inter webs recipes, reasons and resources that shape my journey.
I hope it’s not all too wanky.
*Now accepting lessons in the correct use of commas, I do not condone eating Doug