Vegetarian challenge. Why do I still eat meat?
The challenges in my life are not only about traveling. Even a simple everyday life we can turn into a battlefield if we want to.
This time — about the vegetarian challenge. I decided not to eat meat for one month and observe how will I feel about it.
I failed. And decided that being vegetarian is not for me. Here’s why.
My eating habits
First of all, you should know, that I am not a frequent meat eater. I never cook meat by myself, I prefer raw (or a little bit not raw) vegetable salad especially in summer when I have plenty fresh vegetables from my own garden.
I eat meat very rarely because I believe that it is not good for my health to eat too much of it. Just like some kinds of nuts. Small amounts are OK, but one can be even intoxicated by too much of them. I heard a story about it, and read in many places, that one can get sick from too many cashew nuts.
So, the same is meat. It is good for health, but we should not eat it all the time. We do not eat nuts all the time, right? And do not drink olive oil all the time no matter how healthy is it? There are limits.
Usually, I eat meat once or twice a week when I visit my friends, relatives or eat out in some restaurant.
And I do not pity killed animals. I’m concerned only about my health. I believe if only everyone cared enough about themselves, the world would be a better place.
So, the challenge was simple. To adjust my eating habits just a little bit — to avoid that once or twice a week of meat. For 30 days. Simple, right?
And there were no exceptions, that meant in no way I can put any product of meat in my mouth. Dairy is OK, I was not going vegan, only meat or any parts of body of living creatures.
The two moments of failure
In the beginning, it was everything so simple. I just took some vegetarian food in restaurants instead of meat and experienced no problems.
But then something happened!
My mother invited me to have some our national food. Meat wrapped in mashed potatoes. Well, now the story begins.
I could refuse, and to say that this month I do not eat meat. But that would not be nice because the reason of the meeting is not the food. The meeting with my mother is the thing that matters itself. So, obviously I must and want to go.
Then I could say, that this month I do not eat meat, and she could prepare some other kind of food. But I got the invitation in the morning to join lunch. So, she was already bought the products and preparing the meal. Well, I did not want to cause embarrassment by my challenge games. My mother is not good at preparing vegetarian food, she would need then to invent some other dish, to buy new products and so on.
The third important thing is the tradition. Our family long ago had a tradition to eat this dish every Sunday. So, it is nice to commemorate this long ago abandoned tradition.
Again, there are priorities. What is more important? My challenge games and unnecessary embarrassment of my family, or peaceful meeting? Again, each can choose according to their values (if you choose according to your values, then you have harmony).
For me as introvert continuing the challenge would cause additional social interaction. This challenge is not worth that waste of energy!
Of course, after this dinner, I tried to come back to challenge.
But then another thing happened!
In my favourite Chinese restaurant, where I always can easily get vegetarian dishes with lots of vegetables I got a surprise.
There were particles of meat in a soup! The soup was supposed to be a vegetable soup, but the chef added some meat, probably to give the soup a better taste.
Of course, I followed my challenge and did not eat the meat, but still the soup was with meat, and had a taste of meat, and had particles of meat, that I still ate, no matter how thoroughly I was playing to catch them all.
Where was the problem?
I could not refuse the soup because it was everything OK with it.
What I could do is not to eat it at all. But I paid money for the food, what bought should be used, otherwise it would be disrespect to people who made it.
What I really should have done, I should have asked in advance — is there any meat in the soup? Or in vegetables? Or in tea?
I have some vegetarian friends, and I see how they struggle each time to make sure any kind of food they want to order do not have meat inside. What an amount of exhausting social interaction! Distraction from the conversation with friends! Creating tension and embarrassment!
It is a big deal because some restaurants do not have dishes without meat. Some of them have, but potato pancakes fried in oil are not a healthy food at all. There are vegetarian restaurants — and they are expensive. There are raw food restaurants and they are bloody expensive!
There is no problem at home, I can eat what I want, but the problem is to go out.
I could say that we can call this problem social. Ant there are two problems.
Two social problems of being a vegetarian
First. There is a plenty of social interaction required to make sure, that the food served will really be vegetarian. This social interaction creates stress, anxiety, additional pressure on the mind, distract from the original purpose of the meetings.
Calling myself vegetarian is not worth of this.
Second. The food becomes the center of life. If I want to be real vegetarian I must always warn others “I do not eat meat”. I must always fight for the right food for me. When going out everyone must always adjust to my preferences, and I am the one who never adjusts.
There are more important things in my life than just food. Food influences my health a lot, but it is not the ultimate thing. The mind influences health more than the food.
And here I talk only about vegetarianism. And how more people care about food when they become vegans or go raw!
Again, everyone chooses according to their values. My challenge showed me, that I cannot be and will not be vegetarian because it is unhealthy for me. Too much stress, brrr…
Vegetarian food in Buddhism
For the end of this topic, I would like to add some things I learned while traveling in Buddhist countries.
There are three ideas about vegetarian food in Buddhism and they are a little bit contradictory, because of different traditions of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.
If you practice Mahayana, you must be strictly vegetarian. If you practice Theravada, you can eat whatever you want. In Thailand, even monks eat meat.
So, the three ideas are these:
1. You are not supposed to eat meat because eating meat means killing, harming the animals. And Buddhist should refrain from killing or doing harm to anyone.
2. You are not supposed to eat meat because digesting meat makes the mind heavy, and one cannot be mindful while digesting meat. Also eating meat makes one’s mind agitated, and one cannot maintain perfect calmness and stillness while having meat in his ration.
3. You are supposed to eat meat because you must accept any food you get. There must be no attachment to any idea. If someone gives you meat, you must accept.
Seems like you can do anything you want and there always is some supportive material for any decision.
Why make every day a battlefield? Why struggle when it is unnecessary? I believe additional social interaction is serious enough reason for an introvert to cancel some ideas and projects he or she does not consider essential to his or her life.