Let’s start from the beginning.
I became a vegetarian in the seventh grade when I was around 12 years old (ugh, crucial growth period much?). I chose to become a vegetarian because ever since a young age, I had passionately loved animals (I still do) and felt that it was wrong to eat them (not anymore). After having my innocent and impressionable mind mutilated by PETA and the horrors of factory farming, I dived right into vegetarianism without looking back for a long, long while. In my mind, there was no median and simply because I was young and naive, I didn’t know that there were so many other alternatives to vegetarianism that allows one to respectfully consume an animal. I was also completely unaware that there was such a thing as HUMANELY raised animals; PETA forgot to mention that to me somewhere in their gajillions of brochures filled with suffering animals in factory farms. All they wanted me to know was that “meat is murder”. Well, I heard their message loud and clear and out of chivalry I let my health suffer for the sake of those animals because somehow that HAS to fix the problem right? But alas, no. I was wrong. So, so wrong.
The very year I became a vegetarian was the year that I gained the reputation in my circle of friends as “the girl who was ALWAYS sick”. I kid you not, I had to have been sick every other week. Prior to that year, I had never experienced so many bouts of the common cold paired with coughs that would have me nearly hacking up my lungs. Having been so young, it never crossed my mind that my change in diet had to do with my severe decrease in immune health. What a crazy concept right? At the age of 12, it truly was a strange, abstract concept that, quite frankly, I just could not grasp nor even have cross my mind! Granted, I was still at the age where vegetables were my enemies so what more could one really expect? Needless to say, most of my vegetarian meals consisted of foods that I wouldn’t even dare eat now. Breakfast consisted of a cheap sugary cereal with some low-fat and low quality milk. Lunch was either a slice of cheese pizza, a slushee drink, or nothing. An after school snack would usually take the form of curly fries from Jack in the Box or some kind of packaged Fruit Roll Up food product (note that I say food product, not FOOD). Dinner was inevitably my most healthy meal of the day (HALLELUJAH) as it was always prepared by my parents. Sadly, I ate very little of whatever would be prepared (usually rice with some sort of stew or vegetable stir fry) as my taste buds seemed to only appreciate the taste of cheap fat and carbohydrates. Talk about a sophisticated palate huh?
In eighth grade, I continued this style of eating but I think it’s safe to say that I started to care a bit more about being healthy. I had a bit of pudge around my abdomen and so, in an effort to deal with that belly pudge, I gained a deeper interest in researching about health and nutrition (not like I learned anything though). In this second year of vegetarianism, breakfast usually consisted of a half piece of whole wheat pita bread with some feta cheese and honey paired with a cup of sweetened black tea (super comforting if I don’t say so myself). If I ate lunch, it would usually consisted of some kind of processed crap, for lack of a better word. Dinner would be the same as before but this year I would eat more of the healthy stuff with less fussing around. Probably halfway through my eighth grade year, I decided to become a vegan. This was my “turning point”, if you will. In my mind, adopting a vegan lifestyle equated a healthier, less pudgey-bellied Venus. It also meant that I would be, by some miracle, saving the lives of many more animals. All real foodies beware of the following content: breakfast then became cereal with soy milk or a vegan waffle with maple syrup. Lunch usually consisted of a small carton of chocolate soy milk with some kind of grain-based filler. My after school snack was pretty much the same thing. To be fair, there was a decent amount fruit consumed during both the 7th and 8th grade, I have always loved fruit and I’m thankful for that because I’m pretty positive that fruit was the most nutritious food I had to have been eating during these phases of my life.
I kept up my veganism for about 8 months, eating meals that had tofu as the protein and some kind of starch and vegetable (I had a green bean kick during this phase). Of course, after 8 months of an excessively horrendous regime, I started to develop a handful of health issues. Nothing too crazy, but nothing, by any means, normal for a barely 13 year old. Without fail, every time I stood up, the room would go black and then come back into focus. I developed medium blotches of lighter discoloration on my face. I always looked washed out. I had hormone imbalances paired with thinning hair. Often, when I’d walk, my knees would suddenly buckle and throw me off balance. My digestion was in the dumps (hehe couldn’t resist) and I always felt sad (boo). And lonely. And boy was I grouchy at times. But really, at the age of barely 13 you just think that you’re lonely because no one likes you and that’s that. Unless if you’re a child prodigy, and let’s face it, THERE ARE TONS OF THEM OUT THERE, you’re not going to think that you feel sad and lonely and crappy because of your diet from hell. Needless to say, I wasn’t a child prodigy. LOL.
After much fighting with my parents and them pleading for me to at least convert back to vegetarianism, I finally decided it was time to give this gig up. I had my time and. . . it sucked. This style of eating definitely didn’t help me but I was convinced it wasn’t all in vain; I diligently had consumed all of my soy and grain products and saved animals from torture. That’s what counted. Little did I know that I wasn’t actually doing anything for animals suffering in factories and I was even supporting the destruction of ecosystems. WHAT? I know. I’ll get to that later.
Fortunately, my skin became a bit more rejuvenated after giving it some good ole’ animal sourced protein (eggs and dairy). However, a decent amount of health problems lingered. Hormone imbalances, looking washed out, poor digestion, feelings of sadness, loneliness, and irritability. I was fortunate to have really fantastic friends (you know who you are, your mom was worried about my health too) throughout this whole ordeal, some of whom I still speak to regularly. They kept me sane in my paradoxically self-induced phase of insanity. Because I didn’t even understand how I felt at this time, I doubt they did either but they still managed to make me feel very cared about. They were like the angel on my shoulder keeping a smile on my face while I or more accurately, my malnutrition, was the devil on the other shoulder feeding me everything I didn’t want to hear. I also have to give a shout out to my parents who always showed their care for me despite me being in one of those awful my-parents-are-so-annoying-and-mean phases. They were the reality check or the slap in the face that I desperately needed.
So here I am, it’s freshman year of high school and I’m still a vegetarian and damn it, I’m proud of it! I think I could’ve had a lot more friends if I wasn’t the kind of vegetarian I was, now that I think about it. Thank you friends for having been so tolerant! Freshman year came and went without too much change in my diet and respectively, my health. Breakfast was usually a Luna/protein bar or some kind of cereal with milk. Lunch usually wasn’t consumed except for a stick of string cheese and a dried fruit leather bar; sometimes, I’d have a Luna bar for lunch too. My after school snack would be something along the lines of a Luna bar with a banana or maybe a granola bar with a light Yoplait yogurt. Dinner consisted of fussing and fighting with my parents over eating meat and usually consisted of rice, salad, and cooked vegetables picked out of a stew.
On to sophomore year, this is where the REAL problems began (in my opinion). I had always, always, always been self conscious about myself and my body and this year, my self-consciousness really manifested itself and managed to heavily influence my behavior (in terms of food).
And, I think, that is where we’ll stop for Part I of my dietary journey . . . Gah I know! Way to leave you hanging. I hate to be so cold to you but my homework isn’t going to do itself
For all of you health practitioners, Primal, Paleo, Weston A. Price, and Real Food people out there, I’m sorry you had to read this horrible food diary. I know it was bad, I know. BUT, to be fair, there were times where my mom would cook me meals with eggplant, tomatoes, and chickpeas or lentils and those were pretty darn good. But I have to say that I would consistently eat the listed diet during the school year with oatmeal or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a grilled cheese thrown in here and there. Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that I would often eat meat replacement such as Tofurky and soy-rizo and the likes. Man oh man.
I’ve eaten some foods that I would NEVER even consider coming near anymore (fake meat, ew), what are some foods that you’ve consumed and totally regret?