As a 20-year-old college student, food is life. I have my fun with food, cleansing my palate with late-night taco binges followed up by early morning steak and eggs. But my relationship with meat started to become toxic when it began to make me sick.
Surprisingly, I decided to become a vegetarian this year. (In all honesty, it's a flex!)
Here are my reasons for becoming an omnivore, and my go-to recipes that helped the new diet stick.
Why I Went Meat-Free
In being vegetarian only for a short couple of months, people have asked me at least 500 times if I stopped eating meat to be healthier. "Girl No!" The truth is, I never planned on not eating meat, but I started to get sick every time I ate it.
I'm a city girl, born and bred in the Bronx, so chicken patties, oxtails, and carne asada were all regularly in my belly.
But, as soon as I started to eat the meat in my college town, I felt nauseous, fatigued, and irritable. My symptoms caused me to take a step back and look at my food choices.
I realized my diet had no balance of fruits, veggies, and protein, so I cut out the meat for a week to see if my symptoms would change. To be honest, my symptoms went away, and I started to feel better than I had ever imagined.
Changes I Saw Once Going Vegetarian
Usually, when I finished a hefty meat-heavy dinner, I would feel stuffed and ready for a nap (or two). But now that my meals consist of mostly vegetables, I have so much more energy.
It's easier for me to sleep, I can actually run up two flights to my apartment, and I feel energized in the morning instead of grumpy.
As a 20-year-old, I never knew I could be more energetic. But, since going vegetarian, I'm more productive, wake up earlier, and find myself in a better mood than ever.
Things I Did Wrong When Going Vegetarian
When I first stopped eating meat, I was excited to experience the benefits I heard most vegetarians talk about like weight loss, clearer skin, and more energy.
Blame it on teen hormones and my undying love for McDonald's Caramel Frappe, but I only experienced two out of the three: more energy and clear(ish) skin.
At first, I was discouraged that I didn't lose weight. In fact, I gained 15 pounds. I was ready to order buffalo wings and throw in the towel, but I started to do some research about my diet concerns.
Through research, I realized that my diet although meatless, consisted of mostly processed foods and carbs.
On a typical day, I would eat pasta with lemon butter sauce, cookies with hazelnut butter, and nachos. Although those options were meatless, there was no way in hell this was the road to a healthier me.
Where I Am Now In My Vegetarian Journey
I shifted my focus from getting a flat tummy to creating realistic goals according to my body.
With the help of a nutritionist, I make sure I have some form of protein every day, at least two cups of greens, and incorporate yummy fruits into my daily meals.
Now, I do have linguine alfredo with buttery garlic bread, apples and hazelnut butter (some things never change), and a huge kale salad with cilantro-lime dressing.
Since going vegetarian, I diversified my options and my meals taste so much better because I eat a variety of foods.
In no way am I depriving myself. Now, I'm less bloated and losing weight after focusing on whole foods. It's so important to research your diet choices and speak to a professional to make sure you are getting the most out of your new diet!