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Howdy,

I've been a vegetarian for ten years (since age 18) this past January. After reading through a few posts on this board and the "health and nutrition" board I thought I would share a few thoughts on my experience.

First off, I've been a strict lacto-ovo vegetarian since I started. That is, I don't eat red meat, pork, poultry, fish, or any other seafood. Further, I don't eat dishes (such as soups) prepared with animal broth, stock, or flavoring. I do eat by-products, such as honey, eggs, and milk-based products. Over the last year I quit purchasing milk by the gallon, and I now drink soy milk instead. Frankly, drinking so much cow's milk didn't make much sense considering I get plenty of dairy in other sources (e.g., cheese, yogurt, ice cream).

I'm 28 years old. I'm 6 foot 2, weigh 205 pounds, and comfortably fit into a size 33 waist. Obviously, I have no problem building and maintaining muscle mass, and I do it without the aid of protein supplements. I eat lots of soy and other protein-rich foods, yet people who aren't anywhere as lean as I am still ask if I get enough protein! I average about 2500 calories a day, and 20-25 percent of that comes from protein. Since I don't eat animal fat I can eat all sorts of other good stuff (like nuts) that people avoid. I have tons of energy, rarely get colds, and I can't remember the last time I was so sick I had to stay in bed. Its funny that I never see non-vegetarians show so much concern over their own intake of fruits and veggies.

(As far as clothing and other products go, I do have a few leather shoes and belts. I try to treat these items with care so I can get as much use out of them as possible. Unlike a steak (which provides temporary satisfaction) a good pair of leather shoes or belt can provide many years of use. Otherwise, I try to seek out alternatives, such as the faux leather bag I use for my laptop and my canvas wallet.)

I can only think of three times when I accidently ate meat in the last 10 years. The most memorable happened just two years ago when a waiter brought me the meat lasagne by mistake. It had very finely ground beef in it, which I didn't realize until I was halfway done. I spent the next few days in the bathroom. On another occassion I ate a few spoonfuls of a Chinese soup before I realized it was made with chicken broth. On the other occassion I accidently ate a bite of casserole that had bacon.

I chose to become a vegetarian primarily for ethical and environmental reasons. Nutrition didn't really factor much into it (at first) although I chose to be lacto-ovo because I knew I could put together a well-balanced diet on a day to day basis without "cheating". Less than a year away from college, I was less certain about my chances at maintaining a strict vegan diet while keeping a well-rounded diet on a daily basis.

My reasons for staying a vegetarian have become balanced between health, ethics, and environmental. Indeed, few of us are vegetarian for only one reason. Having a balanced set of reasons addresses many of the criticisms of vegetarianism. Indeed, I think the criticisms of vegetarianism as a way of life only work when one singles out one of the reasons. For example, one could argue that there are no ill-side effects of eating meat in moderation and with a well-balanced diet. Although such diets don't seem to be commonplace, it is true. But that doesn't address the ecological or ethical reasons. One could question the ethical reasons by arguing that many field animals (and instects) are killed during harvesting. But, this argument makes the mistake of ignoring the counter-factual. That is, a reduction in the meat agriculture industry (and its waste by-products) would result in an increase in healthy land and water. The reduction in animal slaughter and increase in healthy ecosystems would more than offset the unfortunately deaths of animals associated with plant-based foods. Further, just because animals are going to "die anyway" (and "plants are alive!") doesn't mean we should totally give up efforts to reduce unnecessary deaths. So, such arguments don't fly with me because I'm not under the illusion that animals don't die because I don't order veal. However, I do believe fewer animals die since either way we would have to harvest plants. Again, this argument also ignores the fact that vegetarians have multiple (nearly inseperable) reasons for their diet.

Taken together, these reasons give me a mission statement of sorts: To maintain a diet that minimizes the meat processing industry, thereby reducing the unnecessary breeding of animals for slaughter and its environmental effects, primarily by eating as far down the food chain as possible, yet always tending to my daily nutritional needs.

If you notice, the above mission statement doesn't requre people to quit eating meat altogether. It doesn't stop somebody from fishing or hunting as long as they plan to eat the meat (and hopefully make use of the other parts). While some vegetarians are fanatics, I can make out a clear distinction between eating a Big Mac out of convenience (with no thought as to the source of the food) versus a person who eats fish after catching and cleaning it. The reality for the majority of us in the US is that we can eat a healthful diet without doing either.

Indeed, I would eat meat if I were somehow stranded on an island. That is, until I could figure out what plants I could cultivate. If those things could be grown and harvested in a sustainable way, and provide a good diet, then I would quit eating the meat of any animal I didn't have to kill out of self-defense.

The way I see it, one of the greatest advantages of modern society is that advanced agriculture and distribution methods give us the ability to eat a healthy diet without the unnecessary breeding of animals for slaughter. It is a sign of great cultural progress that we have overcome the obstacles of securing year-round supplies of nutritionally dense plant based foods, and a sign of sophistication in our willingess to live in harmony with our environment and other species.

Even though I would continue with a strict lacto-ovo diet, we would be better off if everybody simply ate less meat. In other words, if somebody wants to committ to eating less meat, then I think that is wonderful.

marxtacy



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Interesting post Marxtacy. In my observation, the trend to eating less meat seems to be growing. Granted there are still millions of people who eat meat a great deal and use it as their primary protien source, but I've also noticed that there are gradual changes. My observations naturally come from my contact with friends and family and business associates so it's hardly a decent cross-section, however, I've noticed dietary changes in myself, which is what I find most suprising (ince it's not something that I was conciously trying to do).

I'm not a vegetarian, but many of my friends are (which is partly why I read this board), but with my own health concerns, budget (meat is expensive!), and the fact that many of my friends eat strictly vegan/vegetarian diets, I've noticed that my diet is slowly changing. I likely will always eat some meat (I honestly enjoy it), but I've realized over the last 6-8 months that most of my protien comes from dairy these days and that my red meat consumption is down to roughly once/week. This may not sound like much, but believe me, these are major changes in my diet. The part I find so suprising (or maybe enlightening is a better word?) is that I didn't plan for the changes, nor did I even notice them at first.

After having a conversation with a few close friends (who aren't vegetarian), they've said that the same thing has been happening with them. People (at least in my world) just seem to be eating less and less meat, drifting towards fish and poultry (rather than red meat), or eating more and more soy derivatives.
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After having a conversation with a few close friends (who aren't vegetarian), they've said that the same thing has been happening with them. People (at least in my world) just seem to be eating less and less meat, drifting towards fish and poultry (rather than red meat), or eating more and more soy derivatives.

This is certainly the case for my older brother and parents. They eat far less red meat, and my brother and his wife are buying "vegetarian" products to get more soy. Indeed, I know more than a handful of people who (at least) buy soy milk and the veggie "chicken" patties.

(Personally, I often eat tofu cold out of the container, but I also enjoy the processed soy products.)

As a sidenote, my parents were very supportive of me when I decided to quit eating meat at age 18. My mom didn't fix me fancy vegetarian dishes, but she would cook my food (e.g., chili) in another pot without the meat. Like most of us in the U.S., I grew up in a "meat and side dishes" household. So, one of the biggest changes over the years for me has been eating fewer "side dishes without the meat" meals and more interesting meals that just happen to lack meat.

A great thing that vegetarianism does is "force" you to eat a wide variety of foods, which makes dinner a lot more interesting. When I have a family I won't have to worry about "meatloaf tuesdays"!

I would like to see "vegetarian option" or "vegetarian entree" used less. Since anybody can buy or order it, it is a "meatless entree" and not a "vegetarian entree". I have seen a few menus that do say "meat-free" rather than "vegetarian". I think that's great because it makes it clear that you don't have to be a vegetarian to eat a meal that doesn't include meat.

I'm not so sure it is cheaper to be a vegetarian, at least not compared to a typical meat dominated diet. My wife and I buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, no junk food (e.g., chips, snack cakes), very little processed food (e.g., frozen dinners), and occassionally we will buy a 2 liter of soda. Yet, we spend a little over 100 dollars a week at the grocery for two people.

marxtacy
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Marxtacy, welcome to the board!

Apologies for the late response as I don't lurk as much as I used to. I wanted to commend you for a fabulous introduction, 10th anniversary, and especially a terrific mission statement. Your mission statement sums up what I feel and addresses various ethical and pragmatic issues that I'm concerned about.

After all these years, I still consider myself an aspiring vegetarian, but I've found it has become much easier and more preferable to abstain from most meat options than in the beginning. I still have the occasional meat, poultry, or seafood meals, but it is becoming far less common. I've been ovo-lacto vegetarian for whole weeks at a time which, for me, is pretty good. I'm comfortable with the idea of being an ovo-lacto vegetarian, though with a strong emphasis on non-dairy when I can.

$IQ
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$Q,

Good for you. Working toward veg*ism is great.

I'll tell you about dairy though. I was convinced to completely give it up after I ate some cheese at a conference which thought a veg option must be drowned in cheese. But, I was thankful that they even thought about the option and offered something, that I ate it.

Bad choice, on reflection. I hadn't eaten dairy for over six months at the time. I found I had gout. I had never experienced it before, but over the next four months I learned that even the smallest amount of dairy can kick off the gout. Water is an issue with gout as well. But, the main trigger for me is dairy -- especially cheese. So in nearly four years I may have had a half of an ounce of dairy and egg.

My wife who is pretty much veg* will still eat some tuna, but shies away from egg and dairy. She and I have learned it has a terrible effect on asthama (we both have it) and she learned what I knew from earlier days and that is dairy can drag one down. I think it is the sheer density of the food.

Ethical concerns are a big deal for me, but the health concerns are important as well. Some folk can handle the dairy with little or no ill effect, but some like DW and I have a far more difficult time of it.

Anyhow, those are our experiences. I think all have different experiences. But, I'll tell you the gout came out of the blue and knocked me upside the head like a ton of bricks. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. Gout pain is right up there with ulcer pain. And ulcers and ethical concerns are what sent me away from meat. As I've noted before, I nearly bled out and decided I wouldn't see anything else die that I could live.

Well, this is my third shot at closing. I hope all finds you and everyone else well. I can't get here as much as I would like to these days.

Frolix8
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I do eat by-products, such as honey, eggs, and milk-based products. Over the last year I quit purchasing milk by the gallon, and I now drink soy milk instead. Frankly, drinking so much cow's milk didn't make much sense considering I get plenty of dairy in other sources (e.g., cheese, yogurt, ice cream).
. . .
Since I don't eat animal fat I can eat all sorts of other good stuff (like nuts) that people avoid. I have tons of energy, rarely get colds, and I can't remember the last time I was so sick I had to stay in bed. Its funny that I never see non-vegetarians show so much concern over their own intake of fruits and veggies.

Congrats on ten years. In addition to soy milk (make mine with vanilla) as a dairy substitute, there are great soy-based ice cream substitutes, including ersatz ice cream bars, chocolate bars, etc.
There are even soy-based meat alternatives, including hot dogs and burgers, although apparently they are not necessarily the healthiest form of soy foods.

You say you don't eat animal fat on this diet, but you do, as ice cream, yogurt and cheese (even the reduced fat types of these) have it. Even so-called non-fat dairy products have trace amounts of fat.
I gave up dairy more than a decade ago, and have had far fewer colds, flus, etc. than in my brie and ice cream eating days.

I do it for health reaons only, as I don't believe in animal rights.
As a libertarian friend of mine put it, "I'll grant rights to my dog
the minute he stands up and asserts them and starts paying for his room and board."
ValueSnark
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On why I'm a vegetarian... This sums it up nicely.

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=21170098
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There are even soy-based meat alternatives, including hot dogs and burgers, although apparently they are not necessarily the healthiest form of soy foods.


Oh, no. Can you elaborate on that statement? I have a wrap for lunch nearly every day. I use a whole wheat tortilla spread with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and wrapped around some Yves™ Veggie Ground Round (Mexican style), romaine or mixed greens, tomatoes, sliced black olives, and whatever else comes to mind. If I'm making a poor choice with the ground round, I'll try to mend my ways - a little at a time. I've made bean loaves, nut patés, etc. from time to time, so I could use something like that in my wraps. I just Really Like the veggie ground round.

Sandra
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Can you elaborate on that statement?

My information comes from a more knowledgeable friend, who is out of town for a couple days. I'll get back on this by the end of the week (or maytbe she will).
VS
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Can you elaborate on that statement?

My information comes from a more knowledgeable friend, who is out of town for a couple days. I'll get back on this by the end of the week (or maytbe she will).
VS


Thank you - it occurs to me that I really do take in a lot of soy these days, in the form of soy milk, tofu, veggie ground meat, veggie chicken strips, and more - so if there's a health hazard, I would really like to know about it.

Sandra
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Sandra,

I don't think there's necessarily a health hazard in consuming soy in all the forms that you do; it's more a matter of some forms (e.g., sprouts) being better than others. Hopefully you'll have a better answer in a few days.
VS
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When I was a young vegan, the news on soy was only eat it fermented, e.g. tofu, miso, natto, tempeh. The problem (which is small, unless one is eating fake meat etc. more than daily) is that many of the flavorings are neuroexcitants which are mildly toxic (similar to the problems w/fake sugars like aspartame). The rule of thumb is eat only one protein & only one starch daily, & never at the same meal. It's very hard to digest protein & starch together (this is why cooked beans give you gas unless they've been sprouted before cooking). If you're eating a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables, you're already getting loads of amino acids (the building blocks of protein); the "need" for complete protein is largely mythical. An adult only needs 25 grams daily (less than an ounce!) & many veggies are high in amino acid content (broccoli is 22% aminos, asparagus is 25% etc.). In any case, the stuff from Yves, Light Life, etc. is safer than meat consumption. My problem w/a lot of this stuff is that so many items contain canola oil, which is a definite no-no if you want vibrant health. Your best bet is to buy a roll of pH paper & check your saliva pH at least a few times a week. Ideally, it will be between 7.3 and 7.4. If you're acidic (under 7), you need to adjust your regimen to get more alkaline (drink more pure water, eat more veggies, consume non-sweet fruits). All the healthy fats are raw plant fats (avocadoes, coconuts, olives & olive oil, soaked nuts & seeds, raw nut & seed butters & oils). If you need more info, post again (I'm ValueSnark's friend who was out of town). Health & peace.
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