The First Anniversary

By Lauren Belcher |
Graphic by Victoria Van Arnam

As I came upon my year anniversary of being a vegetarian this month, I couldn’t help but think about how much has changed in the last year.

Since September 18, 2009, I have changed in so many ways.

Starting Off

One day I got an e-mail from my uncle back at home. Ever since I decided to become a Communication major, he has sent me newspaper or magazine clips that he wants me to read to become an informed journalist. This time it was a Web site about chick culling.

Now, I have a soft spot for adorable critters so when I read an article about cute little male chicks being thrown into high-speed grinders and put back into their mom’s feed, it’s safe to say I was less than thrilled. I was appalled.

I spent the next few hours researching everything I could find on the issue. By the time I had sorted through page after page of disgusting, revolting information, I knew I could never eat meat again.

Just like that.

My Health

When I first decided to be a vegetarian, I didn’t think too much about food, strangely enough.

I thought of it as: Okay, now that I’ve read all this stuff, I can never eat animals. Period.

The rest would just figure itself out. Problem is, I was a meat eater. Everyday, all day. And the one thing I rarely ate — which wasn’t a problem as a carnivore — was vegetables.

I know what you’re thinking: A vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables? And you’re right. It was a deadly combination.

Within a few weeks of my decision, I decided, not only am I going to not eat meat, but I’m going to cut out dairy too. I’ll be vegan.

Now my diet consisted mostly of vegetable oil french fries (which I learned later are not vegan for other reasons) and Taco Bell bean burritos with no cheese. Not good.

After a few days of my further-restricted diet, I got very sick.

Vertigo to be exact.

According to Web MD, “Vertigo is a feeling that you or your surroundings are moving when there is no actual movement.” This is usually caused by an inner ear infection that throws off your balance.

For me, it was from extreme malnutrition. I was dizzy all the time and I felt like my world was spinning, not good for driving, walking and other basic functions. I also got sick to the point of vomiting every time I ate. Super not good.

My doctor told me I had to start eating meat again or become better at being vegetarian. Vegan was not an option for me. I needed to find a food that would replace my B12 and Iron deficiency. Both of those are high in meat and high in leaf dark green vegetables.

I had no choice, I had to do better.

Today, I’m doing a lot better. I’m eating a high concentration of processed foods that are highly genetically modified, but I found meat replacements that work well for me. I love tofu and tempeh and have even discovered some vegetables that I love. I’m also cooking my meals, a very important step in knowing what I’m eating and balancing it well.

My Reflection

Overall, even though I’ve been labeled the worst vegetarian by some, I made it a whole year!

This is quite the accomplishment for someone like me. It’s not often that I stick with a plan and follow through. Even my family members told me I wouldn’t last a week.

Now by the time I graduate in April, I’ll have another half-year under my belt and hopefully I’ll know what career path I’m taking to continue this incredible journey.

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