Adding a few more letters to the diet

By Brett Marlow

Pizza. Ravioli. Peanut butter cup blizzards. Sounds good, right? Imagine not eating them for four years. That was me-until a month ago.

When I was in my mid-teens, I decided that I had enough with meat and was going to stop eating it cold turkey, no pun intended. I remember walking into the kitchen and announcing my newfound lifestyle to my mother.

“Mom, I’m a vegetarian now,” I said. “OK … we should get some cookbooks,” she replied, and countless trips to the natural foods store soon followed.

Since then, she has been supportive of it and even went vegetarian herself. After less than a year, I went full-fledged vegan.

The family loved that one, but I stood my ground: not eating dairy, eggs or other by-products; not buying or wearing wool, leather or angora; not buying shampoos and soaps that had been tested on animals. I answered questions about my protein intake and where I got my nutrients. I skimmed the backs of packaging for ingredients and surveyed online menus and nutritional info, mentally making a list of where I could and could not eat, and if I could eat there-which items and under what circumstances. After that, it was fine. Being vegan, minus the annoying questions, was fine. Except one thing-I cheated.

When I got stressed, I’d sneak donuts, which are by no means vegan-they contain eggs and milk. If anyone ever brought them in, I’d sneak one behind a door so no one would see me or hold a bag in my hand and say, “It’s a bagel.” After eating it, in all of its deliciousness, I felt guilty. And the guilt would last long; it really tripped me up.

Months later, cheating no longer made me feel bad; instead, I came to a bigger realization. Veganism didn’t feel natural anymore; it felt forced. I’m just not one to make myself do something out of guilt. So, I stopped being vegan-something family, friends and whoever knew me never thought I would do. I never thought I would either, but then I grew out of the “I’m-a-teenager-I’m-going-rebel-like-crazy” phase.

Now, I’m vegetarian. But if there’s a vegan option on a menu, I still get it. I don’t do mayo, sour cream or cottage cheese, and Ranch dressing will never willfully go near my mouth. But cheese pizza? Bring it on.

Lately, it’s become overwhelming. I don’t know where to go to eat and I don’t know what to buy at the grocery store because I have so many more options. Going out to lunch is more of a chore than a break because my once-limited options have suddenly become plentiful and cumbersome. My grocery list and places to shop have suddenly become a non-issue. Day after day I realize other things I can once again eat, like candy bars and frostees and sherbet .

My sticky note of options has suddenly become a phonebook. And it makes me happy.

No longer do I have friends pondering where all of us can go so I can eat. Now, thanks to restaurants these days, there’s usually always a vegetarian option. They should work on having more vegan ones available, though.

It may come across as me being a sell-out and not wanting to take cruelty to animals into consideration, but if you think that, you’re mistaken. Veganism did teach me a lot, but for me to carry on, I’d be what kids back in the day called the wannabes,”-a poser.” So, farewell to my shorter dietary title.

My advice to you: If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it-whatever it is.

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