To Vegan or Not to Vegan?

So here’s where I’m at…

I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism which I have long suspected is what’s causing most, if not all, of my symptoms. The gist of what I need to do is take a thyroid pill and some supplements and avoid gluten.

Let me back up. I grew up in Chicago. I ate meat all the time. I ate meat 5-6x a day for I don’t even know how long because that’s the traditional bodybuilder way of doing things and I was hell bent on being a competitor. I bought into the idea that it was the “only” way to be fit and at times, I still do. But I am so sick of it. I feel awful about eating meat. Deep down I don’t believe it’s healthier or it’s the only way to get fit. But I want to prove this all to be bullshit.

I stopped eating beef and pork almost 2 years ago because I couldn’t bare the idea of eating 4 legged creatures. I actually hate the idea of eating any creatures but my doctor insisted I at least eat some meat so I picked chicken and turkey. I don’t know why. The only  meat I actually enjoy from time to time is shellfish, but I actually don’t eat it that much anymore. I can’t remember the last time I had it? And it honestly isn’t worth it to me to harm any living creatures anymore. I feel awful for being a part of the cruelty for so long and at such an alarming level. I don’t even want to think about how many dead animal carcasses I’ve consumed. It’s appalling.

I wasn’t raised as a vegetarian…not even close. Chicago is all about meat… some of the best steakhouses in the world are in Chicago. And let’s not forget all of the hot dogs, burgers, Polish sausages, brats, deep dish sausage pizzas. You name it. That was what we ate. I admit I feel fear about being criticized and ridiculed about not eating meat. I have already felt that the few times I’ve gotten unwanted attention for trying unsuccessfully to discreetly avoid meat. If I cut out every animal product there is, I often wonder what I’ll eat at restaurants. I wonder how I’ll politely decline meat dishes when I’m at someone’s house or a party without being rude or seeming pretentious or picky. I don’t know how to react when people say things just to piss off vegetarians. Because they do. All the time.

What I do know is that I love animals. All of them. Volunteering at the animal shelter has really showed me how much I love them. And reading so much about the meat industry has really opened my eyes. They are wide open all the time now. I don’t think most people have any concept of how awful the meat industry really is. I know no one wants to know. We all want to think it’s not happening, or that the cruelty is somehow rare. I lived in that denial for too long.

I am far removed enough that I’ve never had to consider how my food ended up on my plate. It’s a luxury of being middle class in America. I never had to kill my own food or anything even close to that. I never had to hear it squeal in pain. I didn’t have to watch it bleed to death. I just went to the store and bought it perfectly packaged just like everyone else and pretended like the meat on my plate came from a cow who died in its sleep. We all do that. And that’s why people can live blindly and enjoy a steak. They tell themselves crazy things like the cow was gently put to sleep first. At times I could convince myself that the meat on my plate didn’t actually come from an animal at all. Seriously. Most of us live in complete denial because recognizing and accepting the reality is too much for us. If we did, it would be too painful and sad and weigh heavy on our consciences.

I guess the point of this is, sometimes I feel super empowered and motivated. I want to have such an impact that I convince the whole world that killing animals is totally unnecessary, cruel and appalling. And other times I just feel guilty and angry and frustrated…all over what I eat or don’t eat.

Knowledge can feel dangerously overwhelming at times. The truth is, I can’t pull the proverbial wool over my own eyes ever again. I can’t un-know everything I know, or un-see everything I’ve seen. I actively seek out information and then I am horrified when I find it. I can’t pretend this isn’t a part of me. I want to accept it and tell the world to fuck off if they don’t like it. But I just struggle for some reason. For many reasons I guess. Because the world is judgmental. Because we are all imperfect. Because change is hard. Life is hard.

It has been over 2 years since I first toyed with the idea of cutting out meat and just as long since I ate a corned beef sandwich as my last 4 legged animal meal. The first 30 years of my life I never fathomed cutting out meat. I lived for a good steak. Vegan was a dirty word in my world. I thought vegans were hippies who smelled bad and didn’t have jobs and wanted everyone to hold hands and eat grass. I was decidedly judgmental and blissfully blind to it all….like so many people. Back then, I had no idea what I didn’t know about my food. I didn’t realize that I was guilty by association. I didn’t even realize there was an association. But now that I know, I feel compelled to do something about it.

And so, I will.


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