The Day I Stopped Caring What Others Thought of Me
The road to eating a plant-based diet was not an easy one. And the reason why may surprise you.
Much of my childhood was centred around meat. Meat was eaten for most meals. Pastrami on the bbq for brunch, roast on the weekends, beef stroganoff and apricot chicken mid-week and shepherds pie for leftovers. My dad even snuck tongue into my school lunches and his gristly Irish stew which he would make on the farm when he was younger was on high rotation in the winter.
Meat was also a part of giving in our family. My dad was a church minister, a farmer who was also in our church would donate some of his sheep to church members in need who were struggling to buy their own food. It was up to my dad to go to the farm and do what needed to be done to get the sheep out of the paddock and into these people's kitchens. I would help him, it is not something you want to do if you are squeamish.
Our Values Change
So meat was very much a part of my identity and it wasn't until I had children that I cut back on eating red meat for health reasons and only ate chicken and seafood. Yet as time went on, I became more environmentally aware of the impact of chicken farming and the destruction to our waters from the fishing industry (watch Seaspiracy) that I stopped preparing meat at home except for the odd occasion.
My values had changed and I no longer wanted to eat meat. I wasn't craving it and I wasn't even enjoying it when I did eat it, yet I was still eating meat when I was invited to dinner parties and events. After a while, this started to trouble me. My values were not aligning with my actions. I felt like I was losing integrity but I didn't want to be that annoying guest that everyone had to accommodate.
My Children Showed Me the Way
Growing up I have never wanted to be the difficult one, although my older sisters may disagree with me here! I felt there was a stigma associated with being a vegetarian or vegan. Like you were trying to be difficult, a bit precious. I wanted to stop eating meat but I didn't want to tell people about it. It was more important to me what others thought of my actions than what I thought of them. For someone who has integrity as a top value, I was not prioritising myself.
Then my two girls became vegetarian without any influence from me at all. If meat was being served at the dinner table they would print off images of baby farm animals and put them on the table and refuse to eat their meal. If two young kids who previously would fight for the last piece of bacon are prioritising their own values and making a drastic change, then why wasn't I.
So I officially stopped eating meat. I haven't shouted it from the rooftops. I casually offer to bring a vego dish to a dinner party now, I pass on the prawns on Christmas day and people really don't care that I am not eating the meat dish at their dinner table. I don't feel judged and if anyone is judging me, I really don't care anyway.