Switching To A Meat-Free Diet: Why I Did It

I've never been a big meat eater, perhaps that derives from the fact that I'm just an obnoxiously picky eater. Literally, I'm that person who eats the same meal at each restaurant I eat at and if that one meal isn't on the menu, I struggle to choose anything else I want to eat.
My family aren't obsessive meat eaters either and it's never been difficult for me to eat a meal without meat. The odd chicken nugget here, a sausage there, the occasional cheeseburger and sometimes a cottage pie, and that was it for meat and I. Greasy bacon sandwhiches and legs of lamb have never been to my taste. However, 2018 was the year I cut meat out of my diet COMPLETELY! I am no longer a meat eater.

Turning pescatarian was something I had debated for a while and something I said I would do, yet I just never made the conscious decision to make that shift from a meat eater to a non meat eater. Actually, the shift began subconsciously and was a gradual thing to begin with. When at high school, cookery lessons had encouraged me to cook with Quorn a couple of times, so I had already tried this and knew I loved the taste. As I grew older, I began to introduce it more into my diet as a substitute for meat, the first thing being Quorn sausages as, over time, I realised I didn't actually like the taste of sausages and decided I would feel much better eating them if I knew they weren't meat. Once I was on the Quorn sausage hype, it became a food I started to experiment more and, this year, eating it became a regular occurrence as I began to substitute beef burgers for Quorn burgers, sausages for Quorn sausages and mince for Quorn mince.

Making my diet meat free mostly came as a result of becoming a lot more aware of what I was eating. As we grow and mature we, naturally, begin questioning things more and, as I ate meat, I began to question the taste and wonder if I actually enjoyed what I was eating or if I just ate it because I'd been conditioned to enjoy it growing up and because, well, everyone else was eating it so why shouldn't I? Once that seed of doubt had been planted into my mind, it grew more every time I ate meat. Every bite and chew began making me feel uneasy as I suddenly became much more aware of what I was actually eating. I wasn't eating something wholesome that had been dug up from the ground with no emotions or ability to feel pain. I was gnawing on a fellow sentient being who had been killed for my own sick satisfaction and had no say in the matter. Every time I ate meat, feelings of guilt and shame would flood into my mind as I began to feel terrible for essentially enjoying the results of torture on a defenceless, harmless being. I no longer wanted to be a part of that chain. I wanted to cut meat out completely, both for my own selfish reasons to make myself feel better about what I was eating, but also for the benefit of the animals I was eating and in protest against the cruelty they had endured prior to ending up on my plate. I didn't believe it was fair for me to be munching on a slaughtered animal or that they had died to ensure my tummy was full. Something about eating another creature, an animal, just didn't feel right in my gut. Seeing animals outside or on TV or online, running around, enjoying their lives, reminded me of how they should be and that me eating them, in my own opinion, was wrong. It also seemed only appropriate that, after switching to cruelty-free cosmetics to take a stand against unnecessary, horrific animal testing, that I also stopped eating meat.

After cutting the little bits of meat that I did eat out of my diet, I also became educated on the benefits this would have on my health from various websites, videos and documentaries, which made me question why I ever ate meat to begin with. A documentary titled What the Health taught me the detrimental impact being a meat eater could have on both my lifespan and quality of life. I learnt that processed meat was in Group 1 of carcinogenic, the same group as cigarettes! I learnt that diabetes is not caused by sugar, but instead is caused by a diet that builds up the amount of fat in the blood, like a meat based diet does. Diabetes can take 19 years off your life and eating one serving of processed meat per day can increase your risk of having diabetes by an astonishing 51%. Furthermore, I learnt that white meat is no more healthy than red meat after an American study of fast food restaurants found a carcinogenic sample in every sample of chicken tested. This documentary opened my eyes to the possible ramifications of eating meat, most of which society are unaware of because they are swept under the rug, which is understandable considering the impact eating meat has on the economy, however, no one seems to be aware of what meat has the potential to do to the body. However, I could potentially reduce my risk of things like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes all by making a simple change. People don't believe that what they eat can cause such ailments but instead assume it comes from their parents. But, even if I have a genetic predisposition, that doesn't mean it will manifest. Even if it were to run in my family, it doesn't mean it's inevitable that I would suffer too. By taking charge of the things I can control, such as my lifestyle choices, my environment and, importantly, my diet, I can determine whether or not it manifests. By making some small but significant switches, I can turn my whole life around, so why would I not want to do that? Why would I not want to reshuffle my genetic deck with diet by removing something I know I would not miss?

Since cutting meat out of my diet, I have felt so much better both within my health and within my mind when it comes to food. I have substituted sausages, beef burgers and mince for their Quorn alternatives. Quorn is almost 90% Mycoprotein, which has health benefits due to it being low in saturated fat, low in carbohydrates, high in protein and high in fibre. To me, it also tastes nicer because I know what I'm eating and, when I think about what it is that's entering my stomach, it doesn't make me feel remorseful or sinful.
Quorn is still only a small portion of my diet, however, and most of my food comes from vegetarian bits and bobs - seriously, the vegetarian aisle in the supermarket has become my favourite place! I've also found myself eating more vegetables as many vegetarian foods, like crisp bakes, vegetable fingers and more, contain lots of veg, such as cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes.

Since taking the step towards a meat free diet, my relationship with food has greatly improved and I look forward to what I'm eating much more. I feel better and more positive on the inside and often wonder why I didn't make this move sooner. I still eat fish on the odd occasion, (as well as never being a massive meat eater, I've never been a huge fishy person either) although perhaps that will change in the future. Now, I can't imagine myself ever going back to a diet that contains meat, especially when there are so many more alternatives which excite me and taste even better!

Everyone's diet is their own to choose and never would I judge anyone for eating meat or for enjoying doing so. Our different diets are what make us unique and us all having unique tastes makes the world more exciting. If someone wants to eat meat, or if someone has to eat meat for financial or health reasons, I would always respect that and would never force my meat free diet or opinions onto them in a bid to change them. For me, a meat free diet is the best, and perhaps I will continue exploring this avenue and venture towards veganism in the future, but for now I am comfortable and I look forward to experimenting with different meat alternatives and new flavours and exploring the places where I can get nutrients and vitamins from. If you eat meat, that's fine, if you don't eat meat, that's fine, if you sometimes eat meat but sometimes don't, that's also fine! I’m certainly not about to go all preachy on anyone, however, being meat-free makes me feel happy!

Do you eat meat? If not, what are your favourite alternatives? 

Love, Emily :)

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