This post is about my decision to become vegetarian/pescetarian.
Here’s a list of common reasons why people cut out meat from their diet:
1) Ethical – Love of animals, stance against factory farming, respect for sentient life, belief in peace, etc.
2) Environmental – conservation of fossil fuels, water conservation, efficient use of grains, saving forests, etc.
3) Health – Obesity, gallstones, diabetes, arthritis, acne, longevity, etc.
4) Financially – health care costs, food costs.
Read more at: http://www.britishmeat.com/49.htm
When I chose vegetarianism, I didn’t do it for any of these reasons. Although when people asked about my decision, especially at fifteen, I did my homework and read up, memorising a list of reasons:
“I don’t believe in killing animals- I watched animal cruelty videos.”
“Do you know it takes 3 to 15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does plant protein? Detrimental to the environmental.“
It was a little weird to tell people I went cold turkey on meat (pun intended) because I suffered from a period of disordered eating. I mean, it takes a lot of guts to tell someone you barely know you have anorexia, or bulimia, or binge eating.
I’m not sure if people became vegetarian like me because of mental illnesses, like depression or bipolar or eating disorders. If you did, well, high five!
I keep digressing. Okay. Let’s get started on the nasty, something that I’ve never really shared with anyone.
I was a normal sized body as long as I can remember- 5 foot 3 inches, 53kg- pear shaped, but not that drastic. How drastic can you get at this weight, anyway. But I was always feeling some kind of pressure. My parents jokingly told me to watch it when I ate a little too much- and I knew this was about my weight, not to mention hanging with my friends who all seemed to have skinny arms and skinny thighs and could wear skinny jeans. I always knew my thighs were big and I was not in the best shape, but remained somewhat oblivious and never felt the need to address this.
Until the second half of last year- for drama elective class, the subject matter for my group working on a devised piece of drama was eating disorders. I was constantly researching and looking at websites (pro ana, yeah, this is where it gets nasty) and watching videos… And I was little sucked in (pun NOT intended) but still remained oblivious.
Then a new friend told me she had bulimia.
ANOREXIA: That’s when everything started spiraling. I was always reading about eating disorders, and trying to help my friend (she eventually pushed me away and I have no idea what to do). In November, I vowed to lose weight and be skinny. I didn’t really know anything about losing weight the healthy way… I mean, I never researched that. I ate about 800 calories and ran on a treadmill. I got skinny, and got compliments, which admittedly made me feel amazing and even more determined to lose weight. I kept doing this. I think I was aware of what I was doing, but I was obsessed and couldn’t stop. I knew the calories of everything going into my mouth and read every single thing on food, exercise, diets, and nutrition. Also eating disorders. But I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I was really screwing myself over until one day I had a fever and still went on a run. I had temperature of 38.6 degrees Celsius and I was burning up and I exercised. I was underweight- something like 44kg- never been so skinny before- and I was happy.
BINGE EATING: I wasn’t exactly sure when it started, or how, but it happened. In late January, in between crash diets of 600 calories a day, I binged on entire loaves of bread, Nutella, anything I could get my greasy mitts on. I ate and ate and ate and ate…. yep. Till I was up at my original weight.
I spoke to a counselor about my eating disorder but it didn’t seem to help- I still came out from every single session believing that I needed to lose weight. But I was really fucking in it. I was failing classes, I was failing drama, my drama teacher pulled me out one day and told me I needed to get my shit together, basically, and she suggested to me, “Why don’t you go on a healthy diet if you’re still obsessed about food and want to make yourself miserable?”
So I went vegetarian. I knew I needed and craved control in my life. I could still do it the healthy way. I persuaded my parents and told them I would still eat fish if they cooked it. Not ‘vegetarian’ completely, but no meat none the less. Things changed.
RECOVERY: I didn’t feel the need to binge as much as I cut out meat. I focused on meeting caloric needs: 1200 calories at first (which is ridiculous and no one should be eating 1200 calories only especially children/teenagers) then, slowly, I let myself go, and loosely counted. I had something new to focus on- a new ‘lifestyle’ that defined me, rather than just trying to be skinny, and I think that was fantastic. Not only do I not eat meat just for recovery/control reasons, I have really gotten passionate about vegetarianism/pescetarianism- I really believe animals are sentient beings and I did watch animal cruelty videos, fueling my desire to cut out meat from my daily diet. I know by not eating meat it’s better for the environment. I’m way healthier too- mentally, I’m stronger. I still think French fries are amazing. (I’ve realised French fries actually taste better than being skinny feels.) I really am so much better because of vegetarianism.
IT’S NOT FAIRY TALE PERFECT ALWAYS, THOUGH: It’s not a smooth road to recovery, that everyday you wake up wanting to meet the day head on, eating sufficiently (apparently that means 2400 calories and above, one website even said 3150 calories for teenagers), being happy and comfortable, striking a balance, exercising for enjoyment and not punishment, but what recovery is perfect? There are still some days I skip dinner or binge eat. I seem to have lost my hunger pangs. It’s going to be okay. You just have to be there for yourself and pick yourself up. Total ‘oblivion from food awareness’ is not going to happen any time soon, I know, but just breathe.
Okay, maybe I didn’t completely address things on this post- I addressed food issues on a very surface level. But I really hope this post inspires those suffering and those trying to help the suffering. You can do your own recovery, it dosen’t have to come in the form of going to a hospital, speaking to a counselor- although those are great options. Be open to everything.
If you’d like to discuss any problems on your eating disorder or mental disorder (that one, I haven’t blogged about yet), please don’t hesitate to email me at: sarahlwei14[at]gmail.com. I would love to talk to you and help and provide some form of support for you. Similarly, if you have questions, please shoot me an email too.