God knows us best. He is our greatest teacher and guides us the way.
Is it the calling from God that prompted me to give my diet a makeover?
Throughout the years, I struggled with my escalating weight. I tried many methods-from lots of exercising to 2 tablespoonfuls of food for my dinner. Yet, my weight did not seem to nudge. I weighed 80kg at my heaviest, i.e. early 2012.
I could not let go of the nice and tasty food-well, those chicken chops, pizzas, sweet and sour pork, etc. Having said these, my weight is NOT the main point. Nah, I was just babbling, he he.
It was not until I first entered college, where I began to consider becoming a vegetarian. Meat dishes were outrageously costly-RM2.50 for a measly piece of fried chicken, for example. RM2.50 was quite a reasonable price for fried chicken, granted. However, I could purchase 3-4 types of veggie dishes for the same price and they are way more satisfying, mind you!
The choice is pretty obvious. Hence, I thrived on veggies and rice for lunch in college. For an unknown reason, I began to feel uneasy while eating roasted pork (Also known as "Shao-Rou" in Mandarin Chinese) after just A WEEK WITHOUT MEAT in college! Why, roasted pork was juicy and crispy. I loved it. Now I felt as if I was eating something smelly and dirty. Why, oh, why?
"Probably your taste buds are no longer used to meat after a week. It's okay. I will cook all sorts of nice dishes when you return," Mum reassured. (FYI my mum is an excellent cook. She could prepare yummy dishes from the cheapest ingredients available. Even blanched veggies taste good!)
I used to crave for mum's Marmite chicken, Ayam Masak Merah (Chicken cooked in tomato gravy), Steamed fish with ginger, etc. (In short, all dishes with meat, that is) Astonishingly, I found meat no longer tasted that good any more. I even began to associate the meat on my plate with the human body parts, in my little head. Whenever I ate a chicken drumstick. I would picture myself eating my own thigh. While eating pig trotter, I imagined myself feasting on my toes. Well, am I not insane enough? Why was I imagining things?
"Mum, I want MORE veggies and less meat!!!"
Of course, mum was beyond surprise. Nevertheless, she prepared more veggies. Veggies indeed tasted better, and better, and BETTER. The leaves were sweet. The carrots were bursting with flavour. The plump tomatoes were juicy and flavourful- I must have them in my dishes whenever possible.
Okay, this lunch box has egg (Don't bash me up!) I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian and I'm learning. It costs only RM4.00 for like 4 dishes here.
I made myself a resolution to be achieved before 21: To become a vegetarian. That was further reinforced since I received the Triple Gem Refuge in November 2012. The triple Gem Refuge is a ceremony held to confirm oneself as a Buddhist, who has to take refuge under the Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
Buddha encourages compassion towards sentient beings. Being a Buddhist, I believe that I must show compassion and love towards every being around me. Thus, I should be just and avoid specisism, How am I to say that I love animals and want to have pets, when I am eating some other animals myself? That is pure hypocrisy.
However, can I survive on a vegetarian diet? Am I going to suffer from malnutrition or become weak?
Since the beginning of 2013, I chose vegetables whenever possible. A dinner of steamed fish, in fact, prompted me to go vegetarian. I was about to eat the steamed fish prepared by mum when I noticed the protruding eyeballs of the dead fish, which reminded me of sadness and anger. The fish was probably trying to say, "Why do you eat me? Why do I need to die here??!!"
I did not eat a single morsel of the fish on that day.
On April 3, 2013, I PLEDGED MYSELF NOT TO EAT A SINGLE PIECE OF FLESH. I was going lacto-ovo, since I needed some time to transition from a typical omnivorous diet to a vegan diet, which is going to take some time. Besides, it is almost impossible to avoid eggs and dairy. (The veggies in the cafeteria are often stir-fried with eggs, and the bread sold contains milk!) Anyway, I promised myself to go vegan as soon as I begin working, since I can cook by my own food and be truly independent. Cooking is forbidden in college, by the way.
My parents were of course worried. By going vegetarian, I would have to give up on many of my favourite food: chicken pie, Ayam Masak Merah, Sweet and Sour Pork, chicken chop, etc. One day, my mom asked me: "Why do you want to become a vegetarian?"
"I cannot bear to see the animals suffer. They need their families and deserve to live, just like us. "
"I'm glad you think that way. May Buddha bless you. I will cook more veggies for you, okay?"
Going vegetarian is not a smooth sailing for me. Let me break it down into several sections:
PART 1: WHAT DO YOU EAT??!!
My coursemates were surprised when I told them I eat meat no more. All of a sudden I began getting attention in class. The boys stared at my plates and lunch boxes; the girls told me how unbalanced a vegetarian diet is, the guys told me to eat more meat, etc. I was like, if I want to eat more meat, why would I go vegetarian at the first place?
Most of them thought that I would be eating ONLY vegetables.
QUESTION 1: "Where do you get your protein without meat?"
Tofu, Tempe, soy and nuts of course.
QUESTION 2: "Going veggie must be costlier than eating meat, isn't it? Look at the nuts you had bought!"
Yea, nuts are expensive, so are fruits and vegetables. What I wish to stress that EVERYTHING IS PRICEY NOWADAYS. As in the cafeteria, I could eat more types of dishes if all of them are vegetables, sometimes even for RM3.00 for rice, tofu and 2 veggie dishes, rather than just rice, chicken and a veggie side dish for RM4.50. Now which is more worth? Plus, I do not want to pay for cruelty.
QUESTION 3: "You are killing plants too when going veggie! Farmers use pesticide, isn't it?"
Yes, farmers do use pesticide. In my humble opinion, farmers use pesticide for plants. The pesticide-laden feed is then fed to the animals, who are later sent to the slaughterhouse for meat. Now which diet kills more?
Somehow I was grateful that some of my course mates and friends understand me and respect my decision to go veggie. They made no negative comments on my decision and advised me to pay attention my nutritional balance.
PART 2: DON'T YOU THINK YOU'RE GETTING TOO SKINNY?
I apologize for the lack of pictures as evidence as I rarely take pictures of myself. Well, the pictures below are just some random pics of me. LOL
What motivates me to ditch meat from my plate at the first place is the blatant cruelty behind the meat industry. Watching "Earthlings" and "Food Inc.", in fact, reinforces and motivates me to continue being a vegetarian because I could watch the truth behind factory farming and the images of happy animals on the packaging of animal-based food products. Miraculously, I lost 3kg after just a month being a vegetarian, from 76kg to 73kg. It was unbelievable since I did not follow any fancy diets or exercise like crazy. I mean-I have tons of assignments and an hour of exercise is a luxury for me indeed. I simply consumed more vegetables and tofu as a source of protein. I avoided faux meat products because they are laden with additives and harmful chemicals to make them taste like real meat.
Some of my friends asked me: "What happened to you? You've become really skinny! That's unhealthy, you know?"
I do experience some body discomfort while initially transitioning into vegetarianism. My limbs often ached and numbed so much that I could hardly write. I often felt cold too-yes-freezing cold. Besides, hunger always took the better of me. My stomach became a bottomless pit. Probably, my body was still craving for the nice and tasty meaty dishes? Fortunately, these symptoms waned within two months.
Are these "illnesses" are due to detoxification and excretion of acidic proteins from the body? Well, I am unsure but I think detoxification is the case, based on my literature from this website.
What happened to me after becoming a vegetarian?
- I am 68.5kg today, at 172cm, which is a 7.5kg lost in weight since I turned veggie. 7.5kg is quite little, but at least I can fit in my old clothes and jeans. Thank God that I can save on clothes because I need not worry about clothes for Chinese New Year anymore! Best of all, I can actually fit into mum's old clothes, which means that her clothes will not go to waste, rather than being left unattended in her wardrobe!
- I no longer perspire excessively. I used to perspire even after walking a short distance or sitting outdoors. Now, I perspire only during extremely hot days or while doing exercise. That was a phenomenon indeed since I used to perspire excessively for many years, from childhood. Even the doctors claimed that there was no cure. Such condition had also left a negative image on me as being messy. In truth, I COULD NOT HELP IT! It was the case until I switched to a vegetarian diet.
- I feel more robust. I have more energy to exercise, rather than feeling very lethargic after class. Instead of sitting at all-times, I now find myself often in the mood for exercising. I particularly favour aerobics. Besides, I can focus better during lectures.
- I find myself feeling more peaceful and calm than ever. Probably, it is because I no longer rely on the sufferings of animals for food that much? At least, I avoid blood and body parts in my food. I do not eat the loved ones of the other animals. In lieu of this, I wish to quote American novelist, C.S. Lewis' quote: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
- I no longer feel cold easily.
Somehow I often feel dizzy. I think I have yet to master the theory behind smart eating as a vegetarian, since my blood pressure is slightly low. The last reading was 98/58.
Nevertheless, perspiring less often is among the major factor that encourages me to stay on with being a vegetarian, since there is no cure before this. I do not want to revert back to the cholesterol-laden, toxic cruelty-based food any more, no matter how tasty it is. Meat needs to be flavoured with plants anyway, but veggies and fruits need not be flavoured by meat. I am glad that my mum is convinced of my vegetarian diet.
PART 3: JUST ONCE-IN-A-WHILE, OKAY?
I admit, I DO have diet slip-ups, being a vegetarian. Once, on a Sunday in May, my senior and I went out for lunch at a Western Restaurant. I ordered spring rolls and salad as they were the only vegetarian courses on the menu. (In fact, they were appetizers! I made it a meal) Meanwhile, my senior had chicken chop.
"Sharon, eat a little of the chicken. Once in a while is okay-lah."
I was reluctant. I went veggie for animal rights and I could not stomach the thought of eating a thigh. However, I did not want to be seen as being self-virtuous and prudish, so I gave in anyway. My oh my, the meat was tasteless and waxy. Besides, my throat felt irritated. I found it unbelievable-chicken chop was once my favourite food!
Subsequently, I suffered a bad stomach pain and was sick for the entire day. Probably if I eat a Mac Chicken on 3 April 2014, I will have rashes and fall ill for days, or a week? My body must be rejecting meat.
I was not assertive enough. Mum reassured me that it was okay to have some slip-ups, but I must remind my friends that I EAT MEAT NO MORE in the future.
There are even times where I eat animals unknowingly. Once, I took a dish of stir-fried spinach. To my dismay, THERE ARE ANCHOVIES IN THE DISH! That was the only vegetable course available, so I had to pick out the anchovies. Recently, my relative bought a mushroom pie and told me that it was vegetarian. Instead, I tasted CHICKEN in the pie. Oh okay, you lied to me, but I forgive you anyway. I don't think I will ever eat quiches again (It is difficult to find a veggie quiche in my country!)
PART 4: SHAME ON YOU FOR GIVING UP YUMMY FOOD AS A TEENAGER.
I noticed this funny situation: vegetarians just embrace various dietary habits but meat eaters often want to convince us to eat meat. Why?
During my first few weeks being a vegetarian, some friends came and showed off their lunches of chicken and fish.
"This tastes YUMMawesome! Shame on you for not being able to eat this!"
I received some other ridiculous remarks too.
"Sharon, life is too short for restrictions. You don't know how to enjoy life indeed."
"Are you sure that you can SURVIVE without meat??!!" (Then what about the Buddhist monks and celebs such as Jared Leto and Carrie Underwood? They are talented and vegan.)
"Sharon, you cannot survive without animal protein." (For now, yes, I still eat some animal protein such as eggs. However, I avoid them if possible.)
Vegetarian food are indeed delicious as long as they are prepared the right way. Of course, I do not thrive on salad and grass. I am grateful that there are delicious veggie courses in the cafeteria in college,and restaurants. Best of all, most of the veggie courses are prepared using relatively healthy methods, such as steaming, blanching and stir-frying. At the least, I can consume less calorie-laden, nutrient-poor roasted and deep-fried food, which is often the case in meats.
Did I mention that my mum is a great vegetarian cook too? She cooks for the nuns, sometimes.
Okay, I will show you some veggielicious foods that I had eaten... well, these are just a tip off the iceberg. These pictures are just my simple appreciations and tributes to Buddha and my mum for showing me how great vegetarian food is without needing to compromise on taste and nutrition.
Picture 1: Veggie "meat" dumplings made with glutinous rice and red rice. The "meat" is actually mushroom. It is juicy and healthy as less glutinous rice is used in place of red rice, which is rich in fibre.
Picture 2: Stir-fried vegetables with toasted cashew nuts. This is my favourite veggie dish all-time. It is a harmonious spread of broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflowers, etc. In fact, you can prepare this dish with any type of veggies that you fancy.
Well, sorry for uploading THIS little of pictures! The internet connection is too slow and I am doing my assignment at the same time too.
Praise to Buddha for showing me the path towards spreading the seeds of compassion and love to every sentient being around. Given the abstinence from animal cruelty for food, health benefits that I thus reaped, and increased inner peace. I would like to quote a Chinese proverb: "放下屠刀，立地成佛“. (Put down the butcher knife and be a Buddha) which means that we can become better people and make the world a better place if we can do away with the butcher knife. (In this case, the slaughtering of animals.)
Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.
PS. If every one of us inspired ONE person to go meatless imagine the difference we could make in ten years time. I am going to collect inspirational vegetarian/vegan stories to share with everyone. If you think your story will inspire others, please share with me by sending it to email@example.com. I will post your stories on this www.veglov.com blog. I believe everyone has his/her own story, I think it must be great when we can share our stories and inspire others. Let’s make the world a better place. ~ Xiao Kang.