Growing up means really starting to live a life more true to yourself. Over the past 6 months I have changed one area of my life that I think is really representative of this definition of growing up. And it has to do with food.

We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” and recently I actually started to understand what that could mean for myself. What we eat expresses who we are just as much as what we choose to wear, or the things we do in our free time.

That’s why back in April I decided to more closely align who I am with what I consume: I became a vegetarian.

I want to make a disclaimer for all of the meat lovers out there. Please don’t stop reading this post. It isn’t going to be some kind of animal rights campaign to get you to give up steak. If you’re heart lies with a New York strip, then by all means, you have my blessing, I’ll pass you the A1.

This is simply my story and a little insight into my vegetarian lifestyle.

How I realized I was meant to be a vegetarian

One day I was having a conversation with a coworker and she was telling me about how she raises her own meat. She would buy a cow, name it, and then later enjoy him or her between two buns with some ketchup.

That’s the moment I realized I had some major moral issues with eating meat. Sure, I loved a good cheeseburger, but am I the kind of person who could kill my own pet and top it with cheese? No, no I’m not.

By being a meat eater, I wasn’t being true to myself. I would never want something to die for me to be able to live, so why was I making that happen? I have always been a person who both loved animals and who never really understood the meaning of violence. So why had I been consuming in a way that went against both of those principles? I don’t think I ever asked myself those questions before, but I have answered those questions now with my conscious decision to go veg.

How have things changed?

I have noticed I cook and grocery shop a lot more frequently than I did before. See, being a vegetarian is not always a diet of convenience. When I ate meat, I pretty much had my choice of any quick meal I could pick up through a drive thru when I was too busy or too lazy to whip up my own meal.

That’s not really as big of an option for me anymore. Most quick service chains or restaurants are based around meat products, and as a vegetarian I find I have to search a little harder and be a little more creative if I am looking to get a meal on the go.

Losing the ability to drive through McDonald’s for dinner has really forced me to keep staple items around the house, where I am now cooking most of my meals myself. A real benefit of this as well is I find I am eating a lot healthier than I have in the past.

What am I cooking?

People might think vegetarians eat tofu for every meal, but I actually find I have a lot of variety in my diet. Way more variety than I had before when I pretty much just ate a different form of chicken every meal.

My favorite food is eggs, so I tend to make a lot of omelets with tomatoes, cheese, spinach, and pretty much any other vegetable I find in my kitchen. A nice side of avocado toast is always good too. I LOVE AVOCADO TOAST!

I am also a big fan of meat substitutes and soy products. I really enjoy veggie burgers, fake chicken sandwiches, nuggets, and substitute sausage. These kind of products are good, because it makes me feel like I am not missing out on things I have enjoyed for so much of my life. I will say substitutes are not meant to taste exactly like the meat they are replacing. That doesn’t mean a veggie burger isn’t delicious in it’s own right. It’s good in a different way, but I feel like that’s something people always get hung up on.

I also enjoy a whole lot of fruit and smoothies, and I can make a mean variety of trendy grilled cheeses that would blow your mind. And although I did start this section with a statement against tofu, I do make a tofu and stir fry vegetables that puts P.F. Chang’s to shame.

What I hear a lot

I think the way people react when they find out I am a vegetarian is really funny sometimes. The big question: WHY? WHY? WHY? I simply respond with some variation of the reason I mentioned above. Sometimes people are just being curious which is fine, and other times people ask the “WHY?” in a slightly condescending tone. To them I have to say, I don’t ask you why you don’t like cottage cheese, or black olives or ketchup, so the fact that you are so concerned with my dietary choices is a little confusing.

That leads me to the next thing I hear a lot. “But wait, where do you get your protein and iron from?” I have never had people so concerned with my health until I became a vegetarian. Well, I probably get those things from food just like you do. Honestly, I’m not sure where those nutrients were coming from before, and I am still not that worried about it now. I never said I was a healthy person. I’m just a person who doesn’t eat meat anymore.

How do I feel?

The past 6 months as a vegetarian have made me feel really great. I feel both morally freed by my decision to align my consumption with my mindset, and physically nourished by the variation in my diet.

I would definitely recommend vegetarianism to other people. If it’s something you’ve considered before, give it a try for a week or so and see how you feel about the experience. Giving up meat isn’t as difficult as you may think. You simply have to get creative and reinvent some of your favorite recipes as meat free culinary creations.

Are you a vegetarian or considering giving up meat? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.