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I am going on five months strong as a vegetarian, and this lifestyle change couldn’t feel more natural or aligned with my values and beliefs.

However, along with it has come some people misunderstanding my choice to become vegetarian, and these are the things I want to clear up today.

Misconception #1: I will be upset if you eat meat around me. There have been times where I am sitting with friends at a restaurant, and upon hearing I am vegetarian, suddenly apologize for eating meat around me. The thing is, it’s totally okay. I am not going to judge you for eating meat because I once ate meat too. I believe that people have the right and freedom to eat what they desire and it is no ones place to tell them otherwise. I understand that not everyone can be vegetarian, and thinking every person on earth can is a little unrealistic. People love meat and I get that. Even though I am a vegetarian does not mean I miss the taste of it sometimes!

Misconception #2: I am healthy. Here’s the biggest misconception for me: when you are vegetarian, you’ll suddenly be super skinny and healthy. That’s not true. You can be totally unhealthy and put on a little weight even by cutting out meat. There are so many foods out there that are ‘bad’ for you and can make you unhealthy but don’t have meat in them: fries, chips, chocolate, white bread, soda. I think people get surprised that I’m not skin and bones! However, being a vegetarian does make you choose healthier meals at a restaurant and forces you to be creative with vegetables in the kitchen.

Misconception #3: I am an angry, ‘plant-basher’ ready to give a lecture at any moment. Sometimes I get the vibe that people are stepping on glass around me or perceive me to be this elite do-gooder. Maybe that’s just me. But something I need to get off my chest is that choosing to be vegetarian is no different that choosing to go to a gym or choosing to quit smoking or choosing to cut out alcohol. It’s a lifestyle change that you believe will improve your life. I accept and love people who eat meat. And I also love people asking me why I am vegetarian so that I can tell them what I have learned. I do not, however, love initiating why I am vegetarian and getting into arguments or lectures with them. I believe in respect for everyone’s choices, period.

Misconception #4: I have a hard time not eating meat. Sometimes people ask me if it is hard to cut out meat. I’ll admit, sometimes I do miss Filet-o-fish burgers and seafood. Oh God, how I loved seafood. But most of the time, it’s really not difficult at all. Why? Because it’s something I truly believe in. I believe in compassion, sustainability and integrity for all animals and for our planet. And if it means choosing to cut it out of my diet, I’m happy with that. My actions align with my beliefs and that’s amazing for me. However, it is more naturally easy for me because I never did eat much meat beforehand anyway (I couldn’t stomach it knowing it came from a living animal), and I happen to love vegetables and fruit!

Misconception #5: I am vegan. A friend once said to me, “I don’t get vegetarians who eat egg.” Fair enough, but there’s a whole other label for those who don’t eat animals and anything that comes from one: vegans. And boy, I admire them. It takes true dedication and commitment to become one. I just don’t think I am personally at that stage yet, and that’s okay. I don’t feel the need yet to stop eating egg, milk or butter because I am not inspired enough to. One day, I may stop feeling comfortable with vegetarianism and veganism may be the next natural step, but until that day comes, I will respect where I am at.

Misconception #6: I still eat seafood. When I say I don’t eat meat, people sometimes respond with, “Not even fish?” Even though seafood is probably the hardest meat for me to give up, I still feel strongly about it. I believe that just because a fish can’t scream, doesn’t mean it’s not in pain. I believe that an ant, a dog, a cow and a fish all have feelings. Feelings of fear is one of them. Also, studying about vegetarianism and animal welfare has also opened my eyes to how we are over-fishing our seas in an unsustainable way and I personally don’t want to be a part of that. However, there are seafood brands who are now going sustainable which is great news.

Misconception #7: I only eat salads. Or, in other words, my diet is bland. Very much, totally, completely, nope, not true! The great thing about becoming vegetarian is that I was forced to be creative and experiment with flavors in the kitchen. I have cooked many plant-based dishes that were tasteful and mouth-watering, meals that even my meat-eating family loves, all thanks to the countless vegetarian recipe websites and cookbooks out there. The great thing is that almost all of the restaurants I go to accommodate me so well, plus my favorite foods like pizza and pasta have vegetarian options. Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean deprivation whatosever.

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