A couple weeks ago I posted about coming out at as a vegetarian. Since then I’ve had a few conversations with people about being a vegetarian and questions that I thought I’d address.

At church there was a luncheon after service and somehow (as usual) the topic of discussion was how I’m vegetarian. People always seem surprised to find that there’s a vegetarian among them. Really. I mean, you could be a token (the only Black, Asian or some other ethnicity in a crowd of predominantly white people), homosexual, a Southerner among yankees but the one thing people are always taken back by or surprised to hear is that you don’t consume meat. Oh, and be a vegan on top of that (no dairy) and you’re like the 8th world wonder! When I first decided to go vegetarian a year or two ago, I tried not to make a big deal about it. So what, who cares? I don’t eat meat. WELL, I found that by keeping it to myself, I would be inclined to ‘blend in’ by not always adhering to my vegetarian lifestyle. It happens, which brings me to this post …

If you’re a vegetarian, TELL THE WORLD! The biggest mistake I see vegetarians or vegans making is that it’s kept a secret. Who is going to be hurt by you eating vegetables or staying away from meat and dairy? Are you going to be disowned, thrown out on the street, strung up in the town’s square? People, you don’t need to feel guilty about eating healthy. Anything that’s worth keeping a secret usually isn’t worth it in the end. You need to tell your family you’re vegetarian. You need to tell your friends and co-workers you’re vegetarian. Why? Because these are the people and groups you spend your time with and by telling them and making them aware of your dietary needs, you’re taking the shock value away and letting them into your circle. In most cases, after the usual ‘that’s unhealthy’ and ‘what’s not good for you’ speeches, they’ll concede. You’ll be their uber-healthy eating friend and you’ll be just fine.

It always gets me how people turn food into a private and secret act. This is what leads to food abuse, obesity and eating disorders. Think about it. You have the one group who sneaks junk food (cookies, candy bars, cakes) into their homes after proclaiming a week before that they’re going on a diet. Then behind closed doors or when they’re alone, they pig out and go overboard. Or you have the people who so desperately want to look a certain way or be viewed as skinny that they engage in unhealthy and dangerous acts to make sure the food they eat doesn’t lead to a single pound on their body frame. And really, where does being a vegetarian or vegan fit into either of those situations?

It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. Yes, if you don’t educate yourself in regards to the vitamins, minerals and nutritional needs your body requires to stay healthy, then even as a vegetarian you’ll slip into dangerous territory. But if you fill your fridge with a wide range of colorful vegetables, whole grain, fruits and increase your fiber and water intake, you’ll  be fine. Want to be even safer? Then take a multivitamin. It’ll fill in the gaps for what you don’t consume with regular food.

I get asked if it’s hard to be vegetarian. No. The hardest part is usually deciding to do it and then breaking it to those I encounter that I don’t eat meat. Also, as I said a few weeks ago, there are different levels of vegetarian. I am not a fan of extremes: meaning, if you’re a practicing vegetarian and every once in a while you want some grilled chicken or turkey or just want a McDonalds big mac … then by all means, indulge, treat yourself! The point of vegetarianism is to weight down your eating with vegetables rather than with meat. I know some vegetarians will jump on me for encouraging meat eating but as I said, some people go at it hardcore and eliminate all meat and dairy from their life, some just eliminate meat and keep the dairy, some will have meat once or twice a week … there’s variation and to tell you that once you go vegetarian you must never let a piece of meat touch your mouth again at the risk of execution is foolish.

So, there’s no national coming out week for vegetarians and vegans. So don’t wait for any special occasion to arise to tell everyone around you that you’re vegetarian. Coming out as a vegetarian and letting those around you know about your switch to vegetables will help keep you accountable (say you’re vegetarian and the next time you’re out with your buddies, someone will remind you ‘Hey, I thought you didn’t eat meat!’ when you’re eyeballing something unhealthy in the food court. I promise you, they will). Plus, being vegetarian or vegan is nothing scandalous or worth keeping a secret. For the sake of your health, say it loud, say it proud, “I’m a vegetarian!”

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