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Becoming Veggie by Nina Airey

This month we are focussed on feeling good and nutrition, and as this week is #nationalvegetarianweek I thought I would share my journey to giving up meat and how I have found it. It's a personal perspective and I think it is really important to say, its only my approach to food - which I often don't share on social media too much as I don't want to seem preachy, or give them impression that I think everyone should eat as I do. On the contrary, I think everyone should eat as they see fit, and for what makes them feel healthy in mind and body.

I always hated the touch of raw meat, and if I handled meat raw, I never enjoyed the meal I cooked myself - what a shame! So the signs were always there that I did not enjoy it. I did enjoy the taste though if someone else cooked! Which always felt like a cheat.

We had moved to plant based eating in 2013 at home. Nowadays plant based is sometimes seen as an inter-changeable term with vegan, however many believe that vegan is vegan, and plant based means just that - that your diet in based mainly in real, unprocessed, whole plants. For us, this included meat for a while, and then just fish, which my family still eat and on the odd occasion, so do I.

We had become really interested in the journey the food goes on from its source to your plate, so initially we started at home having organic meats. However the handling of it was still an issue - to me, it was still flesh, and if it was fish/shellfish - it still had a face!

We both love to cook at home, so it was a natural next step to experiment with different recipes that did not compromise flavour or nutrition but reduced our intake of meat, which I then gave up in 2017. I had stopped drinking milk in 2015 while I was breastfeeding, after reading we are the only mammals to drink another mother's milk and I just couldn't get my head back around that one although I do still eat cheese and eggs. Who knows if that will change at some point too.

Why did I become vegetarian?

- Health benefits of reducing red meat in particular for the heart, but also reducing the pressure of meat on the digestive system.

- I had suffered from IBS and a gluten intolerance for a long time, and was keenly interested in improving my overall gut health (as well as its impact on my mental health).

- I come from a family with high levels of heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I wanted to do everything I could to break this cycle, and to have optimal health to enjoy my young son.

- The impact on the environment of the meat industry.

- For me the feeling that I did not enjoy handling it, that I felt guilty when eating meat that someone else had prepared all ultimately affected the energy around the meal! I was literally consuming negativity and guilt when I ate, and always hated any reminders that it was an animal - bones, faces!

- Ahimsa is one of the practices of yoga, non violence. So from a values perspective I felt that it was an important lifestyle choice to follow, for me personally.

This was a very personal decision for me, and one that I did not push myself in to. I just said, I'll give it a go, and reduce meat and when I want it, I will have it. So I did not feel like I was depriving myself - instead I offered myself this whole spectrum of new recipes and ways to eat. To me its not really a thing to share on social media, or to overly photograph but maybe its of interest! I just think "its just my dinner!". I also work with an Ayervedic Nutritionist, Varsha Khatri from Illuminated Health, who was able to support my transition to ensure I had enough protein in my meals. (Don't get me started on the myth that meat = protein!)

The crux point of the decision to give it a go came after a BBQ we had for my husband's birthday where there was so much meat, it made me feel sick. My fridge had some platters of meat left over and something just clicked inside my body - a literal physical response, and that was it. My body spoke so I made the decision in alignment with my values and body, that's how it felt.

My one piece of advice if any of this resonates, is sit with it for a while, read around it and gather as much well researched information as possible before making a choice that is right for you! This article is a good one and the internet is full of resources to balance both sides of this subject.

It can be a really fun exploration of food, nutrition and family time if you let it! We have loved it, its added joy to our family, and taste buds and continues to do so.

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