Earlier this week I was at a business meeting at which lunch was served. As usual, I was the only person not eating meat. With a smile, I told everyone not to hold it against me, to which one of the men snickered, “Don’t worry – you’ll come around.”
I laughed it off, because after 40 years as a vegetarian, I don’t think that’s likely to happen! I celebrated my 59th birthday on Friday and I stopped eating meat in 1974 when I was 19. My dad died from a heart attack that year at 47, and his poor eating habits had a lot to do with his early death.
I’ve now lived 12 years longer than my dad. Even back then, I knew that I couldn’t change my genes, and that I would be entering a high stress profession as an attorney. The only thing I could change was my lifestyle and eating habits. I attribute my good health to regular exercise and eating well. Seven to nine daily servings of fresh fruits and veggies are never any problem for me, and I naturally crave complex carbs, rather than simple carbs like sugar. I get about 45-50 grams of protein a day which is about the right amount for a women my age and weight. And speaking of weight – I still weigh what I did as a teenager.
I’m often asked if I “miss meat”. Heck, it’s hard for me to even remember what it tastes like! That’s why I rely on my two favorite carnivores (that would be husband Bill and son Nick) to test my meaty meatless dishes. Although I’m no longer “fooling” them (because they obviously know I’m not about to suddenly start cooking meat), they eat meat often enough outside our home so their feedback helps me perfect my recipes so that you can fool your family carnivores.
My birthday helped me clarify why I am writing this blog. It’s not just to sell more cookbooks (although God knows I would like to do that!) I’m writing to share my thoughts on how our decisions about the food we put in our bodies impact our physical and spiritual health, as well as our environment.
I think that the past 40 years have been kinder to me than many of my contemporaries because of my decision at 19 to stop eating meat. It was hard in 1974 to put my dad’s death into perspective because I loved him so much and hated to lose him at such a young age. Looking back, I know his early death was the catalyst that helped me make conscious choices about my diet, health, and lifestyle.
It isn’t easy being the non-meat eater – particularly in a business context. If you’re new to a meatless lifestyle, have strength in your convictions. Take it one day at a time – and don’t get upset when they laugh at you!