|Why I Became a Vegetarian & Ended Up a Pescetarian|
Since I became a vegetarian at the age of 12, the question I’ve gotten asked the most is, why did I decide to become a vegetarian? I’m not going to lie…over the years the questions annoyed me. I would give quick answers glossing over the reasons. My answer varied depending on who I talked to and the amount of energy I decided to expend on an answer. Sad…I know.
Lately I’ve been even more concerned about my diet, and I decided to revisit the question while I research what my next steps will be. No, I’m most likely not going to become a vegan or remove bread or another food from my diet, but I may take drastic steps for my health. I’ve been a pescetarian (fish-eater) for 3 years now, and I’m happy with that decision.
So the real reason. From a young age, I chose to fast and observe lent. The fast had to be parent approved, of course. My parents fasted, but never really observed lent. In 2003, my sister-in-law (at the time) and I decided to fast from meat during lent. During the time, my mother cooked vegetarian meals for me and incorporated tofu into the dishes she cooked to ensure I had adequate nutrition. Over time, I found it very easy not to eat meat, and I felt led to give up eating meat. I know the Lord led me to the lifestyle. Shortly after lent ended, I lost an aunt and an uncle to heart disease. After this, I knew I needed to be more aware of what I ate and take care of my body the best I knew how.
My mother made it very easy for me to become a vegetarian at home, despite being the sole vegetarian in my family. My mom cooked delicious meals for me to ensure I got the right nutrients to grow and develop properly. My dad also supported my efforts, but was more critical of my eating habits in the early stages. When I went to restaurants with few vegetarian options I would get extra sides to fill me and always get a healthy portion of bread. For years, my dad called me a “carbotarian”, and he had a right to do so. It took me many years to learn how to eat correctly at restaurants and how to cook the right foods to fill myself without loading on carbs.
Despite the amount of carbs I ate, I lost weight when I became a vegetarian. I remember at my aunt’s funeral, one of my cousins commented on me barely getting any food and getting slim (I’ve never been stick thin). Her honest feedback was the first of many comments and questions I got growing up. I remember at a family reunion on the other side of the family, a distant relative could not understand how I (a black female in her family) could not eat meat. I’ve always treated it as my decision, and my confidence grew in that decision as I grew older and educated myself on how to eat the right way for my body.
I became a pescetarian the spring of my senior year at college. I noticed that my hair and nail growth was slowing and that it had to be something internal slowing the growth. I realized stress was part of the culprit, and it was also the lack of protein in my diet at the time. I prayed about it, consulted with my mother, and decided that adding fish to my diet would be helpful.
Around this time, my mother found out that she had colon cancer. Colon cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. When I found out my mother had cancer, I spent countless hours on the internet researching ways to minimize the cancer, the foods to eat, and what to do to decrease effects of chemo. During that time, I also started making small changes to my diet. I would send my mother care packages with foods, tea, and other products that would hopefully make her life easier.
I later learned that my late grandmother had colon cancer as well. Then I put two and two together and decided that I needed to do everything I can NOW to ensure I prevent the disease in my body. Colon cancer can be prevented if caught early, but as told by my mother’s doctors, once it spreads, colon cancer is not treatable. I do not believe that fully. I’ve made sure to ensure that I do not fall into any of the known risk factors: low physical activity, smoking, heavy alcohol, diet high in red meat.
Now my focus is filling my body with healthy foods and staying away from junk. Food is medicine, and I’ll treat it as such.