Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The challenges of becoming a vegetarian in a meat-filled world

By: Tanya Kewalramani ’14

The smell of the cheeseburger was driving me crazy. I looked at my grilled cheese sandwich and gave it to my friend. I was craving meat so badly. All I wanted was a steak, a cheeseburger or a crispy chicken wrap. Orange chicken, grilled shrimp, chicken curry and so many of my favorite non-vegetarian dishes were off limits to me. In an effort to have stronger willpower and become healthier I recently decided to become a vegetarian, and it’s been a challenge. The benefits are plenty, no doubt. I’ve seen a change in myself and I am proud, but it’s only the beginning.

A month ago, my twelve year old cousin announced that she had been a vegetarian for six months already. One of her teachers had shown her a video at school that really rattled her. She announced that she was going to be a vegetarian for a year and it really inspired me. This summer, when we went on a family vacation to Africa, not once did she touch meat. It was truly amazing. We were surrounded by such amazing food, and even if the vegetarian food was terrible, she ate it without complaining for even a second.

When I went back to Dubai, I thought it through and went for it. I decided to start when I landed in the U.S. There was no way I was going to miss out on all the delicious shawarmas and shrimp biryani. I ate like there was no tomorrow, until I reached the US. I was mentally prepared, or at least I thought. I love my food, especially seafood.

One of my friends came to pick me up at the airport, and took me to McDonalds because he was starving. The smell inside was just painful. I meekly ate my french fries and drank some soda while he chowed down three cheeseburgers. That’s when I almost gave up. I sipped my soda fiercely, in an effort to distract myself. It helped, no doubt, but my hunger had not disappeared.

I calmed myself down, and enjoyed the ride back to Hartford but the challenge presented itself again when I met all my friends later that night back at Trinity. They wanted to go off campus and go to Trinity restaurant. I ate my butternut squash ravioli in silence, and no matter how delicious it was, it simply did not fill me up. It took me a week to find good vegetarian food at Trinity that would fill me up and satisfy me as well.

My whole family enjoys  eating. We take our meals seriously, but recently they have been pestering me to become a vegetarian. They want me to be healthier, and they always said that being a vegetarian gives one a whole new perspective on life. It’s been a few weeks into this, and without a doubt, I feel better and stronger. Recently, I accidentally took a bit of a chicken sandwich and spat it out immediately. I felt disgusted that I had actually eaten the meat.

Yesterday I went to Tisane with my friends and while they ate meat, I ate my caprese flatbread,not quietly, but with joy. Food is such an important part of all our lives, whether we like to admit it or not. It nourishes us and gives us strength to go through our crazy days at Trinity. In between running to classes and meetings, a grilled cheese and some grapes really do a fantastic job.

I always used to criticize vegetarians. It used to seem impossible that people would not eat meat. It always used to baffle me how vegetarians had grown up without having ever eaten meat. My uncle is one such person. He loves his food. It’s a pleasure to go out and eat with him. Oddly enough, whenever we used to order non-vegetarian food, he would always tell us what to order and always got it right. I always thought it was a sixth sense with food that I wish I possessed.

It’s a process no doubt. Especially to convert from being a non vegetarian to a vegetarian, but it’s such an interesting challenge. It doesn’t just make me want to be healthier, but it’s improved my willpower and my daily habits. It’s provided me with this amazing motivation to want to do better in life, because I am slowly achieving my own personal goal.

If any of you out there have thought about being vegetarians but could not quite get there, now is the time to do it. Trust me when I say, it’s helpful in every way.

One Response to The challenges of becoming a vegetarian in a meat-filled world

  1. Tanya – Hooray for you for becoming vegetarian! In addition to personal benefits, being a veg(etari)an is much easier on the environment, because animal agriculture accounts for a significant portion of carbon emissions that go into the atmosphere.

    I would like to suggest, though, that transitioning to a veg lifestyle is much easier and more pleasurable if you view it as an adventure instead of an exercise in will power. When you expand your view of “food” to go beyond McDonalds and the standard American diet, you can find all kinds of other cultures that include myriad creative combinations of plant-based food. Indian, east Asian, and Mexican, in particular are abundant in staple vegetarian dishes. Keep in mind that when it comes to meat consumption, the U.S. is the exception, not the norm, since we consume far more meat per capita than any other country in the world.

    So – it’s not about self-deprivation, it’s about expanding your palette! Encourage Chartwell’s to explore a variety of cuisines when it comes to vegetarian food (which they do sometimes), and I promise you will never be bored or crave McDonalds again!

    Amy Harrell

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