Vegetarian to Vegan and the Dreaded “P” Word

If you’ve read my bio then you already know that I’m someone who has battled with weight issues pretty much my entire life.  Getting into triathlon a few years ago forced me to take a good and long, hard look at myself and my eating habits.  What I found was that my cabinets were filled with tons of overly processed foods that were easily winning me over because they were “100 calorie packs” or “low fat”.  I also had plenty of boxed mac-and-cheeses, rices, and pastas.  You know.  The good ol’ carb-loading side dishes.  My freezer was stocked with “diet” frozen meals…every brand. Maybe the occasional carton of ice cream (contradictory to the diet frozen meals, I know).   You name it, I had it.  Oh, and meats.  What you wouldn’t find in my kitchen were fresh fruits and vegetables and definitely nothing that was natural or organic.

At the start of 2012, though, I decided to start following a vegetarian diet.  Why?  At the time, my main reason was that it was going to keep me from going through fast food drive-thrus.  If I couldn’t order that hamburger or 20-piece chicken nuggets, then there was really no reason for me to be eating fast food (which was absolutely a weakness of mine).  As time passed, being a vegetarian actually made me more conscious of what I was eating and I started paying more attention to labels.  I started replacing some of my old grocery store buys with more natural and wholesome foods.  And yes, I actually felt better and was slowly dropping the weight.  When people would ask me why I was choosing to be vegetarian my answer was simply, “I just feel better and have more energy.”  It was the truth, simple as that may seem.  Eventually, though, my heart caught up and I started to consider the animals that were involved.  Don’t worry, though.  I won’t get on my soapbox.


But then there’s always the “But where do you get your PROTEIN from?” question.  This is a question I have come to loathe.  See, I’ve come to learn that it doesn’t matter if I list out the amount of protein in everything I eat, people will still question me.  I never push my lifestyle on others, but I have found that people often want to question why I’m a vegetarian as if it’s some horrible thing that I don’t eat animals and I only eat plants.  If people ask why I’m not eating something at a party or social event, I typically answer with the short but sweet, “it’s a decision that has helped me become more healthy and I feel good knowing that I’m doing my part to save animals.”  This answer is usually followed by the….(insert cricket sounds)….and then the “P” word.  Protein.  “But aren’t you afraid that you’re not getting enough protein?  How do you race without protein?  You raced an Ironman without eating meat?”  Yes.  Yes, I get enough protein.  And yes, I have finished 2 Ironman races….powered by plants!

Moving on.  So about 5 weeks ago, I really started to consider the vegan lifestyle and cutting dairy and eggs from my diet.  And, in just those short 5 weeks of doing so, I have felt AMAZING!  I’m happier and my body just feels like it’s processing foods better and faster.  I was skeptical that I wouldn’t be able to stay away from cheese (another weakness) but I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything!  My Ironman training is going well and I’ve not felt any issues from this change in diet.  But….yes, there’s always a BUT.  This just means more awkward conversations at work lunches, parties, etc. because now there’s more foods that I won’t be eating.  And heaven knows that “P” word will certainly come up.  In that question.  I found this t-shirt over the weekend and love it:


So, for you vegetarians and vegans out there….how do you handle these questions??  I don’t want to push my lifestyle on anyone, but I also don’t want to feel like I have to answer question after question to defend why I choose to live this way.  I’m new to this whole vegan way of life, so I’d love to hear from some of you!


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