Last week my manager asked me if I could give her a health food consultation at lunch because her doctor told her to go vegetarian. She asked me how the transition period was for me and funnily enough it was a little hard to remember all the details. Now that its organised in my brain, I thought Id write it down as it may be useful for some people. Personally, I love reading other peoples experiences.
You may think that someone who has a raw food blog must have grown up with that, or at the very least has been a vegetarian all her life. That couldn’t be further from the truth in my case! I experienced all the changes from level 0.
I was born in Uzbekistan (as a lot of Russian were back then) and moved to Moscow at age 3. I have very little memory of food from back then, I was very picky and only remember eating crepes, plov (Uzbek rice and lamb dish), manti (big fat Uzbek dumplings), Korean carrots, apple purée and pelmeni (Russian meat dumplings) in pure vinegar diluted with water (most people wouldn’t even know what that is, if undiluted it tasted like pouring acid down your throat lol). I also loved plonking bits of bread into fresh milk (my grandma’s sister had a goat) and pick them out with a spoon. Though when the fruits and veggies at my summer houses were ripe, I would sit up in the trees and eat them fresh from the garden. I LOVED lying under black/red currant bushes and just let those yummy berries fall in my mouth.
I had little interest of trying anything new until the age of 11-12, in restaurants I only ordered spaghetti bolognese. I often recall my grandma leaving me in the kitchen to eat something and I would give it to my friend out the window…or rip off the head of my toy horse and “hide” it in there (surprisingly it didn’t work..).
Introduction to fish
I moved to Spain at the age of 7 with my mum and grandma and got introduced to fish and sea food (the only thing I was familiar before was herring and caviar). I can’t say I was keen on it, I hated everything about fish; the smell, the taste, the bones. Prawns made me throw up and mussels made me run to the other side of the shop. For years I resisted eating the “smelly things”, but when you grow up by the coast, you cant help but fall in the trap. I ate fish and seafood because people told me it was good for me, even if my body thought they weren’t. Similar story with cheese – *yuck* that one took a while, it was only when I was about 15-16 that I started eating cheese (it was mostly the smell of things that put me off, I am highly sensitive to all smells, its my gift and my curse). I’m glad I was old enough to remember this.
Foods they served at school
How about school? I was just remembering the other day how at age 9 I would eat 1/4 of a frozen pizza with ham that the school microwaved for me in my plastic container (there’s to many things wrong with that I would rather not think of it) and then the year after I would buy pizza-breads every single day. Then came the stage of eating chicken-mayo sandwiches and brownies every day. Needless to say, I had little variety at school. Once in a while I would have a special, but not even one was vegetarian, our school didn’t care much about things like that back then (they changed the year I left lol). When my mum asked me why I don’t eat something better, I’d say that sandwiches cost 1.50 euros and salads were 3 euros and tasted like wet socks (it contained just salad leaves and tuna mayo).
What I thought of vegetarians at school
My opinions of vegetarians back then? Well just take a look at my surroundings! I had ZERO exposure to vegetarian food, no knowledge of the benefits or what kind of food they ate, I just thought they didn’t eat meat because they felt bad for the cows. I would openly express my negative opinions and tell everyone that I thought vegetarians were stupid (and I was very strong with my words, I actually HATED vegetarianism) and that we were made to eat meat. God knows how I got that in my head, but I was just a kid and didn’t know any better. My mum never said stuff like that, perhaps I got it from friends or my dad’s side of the family.
My health as a teenager
Ages 13-16 – I started putting on weight (no sh*t with all those pizza-breads!!!). I was 158cm tall and at my worst I was 59kg, ok that doesn’t sound like much but it wasn’t ideal. Since age 11, I also had awful skin, acne on my face, front, back and even the top of my head! I did no exercise besides PE class – that’s when I wasn’t skiving!! Cant say much about my digestion either, I went to the loo maybe once every 2 days and was constipated half the time – I thought that was normal. So did everyone else in my class though, I remember one random day in biology class when the teacher said “were not supposed to have hard poo, it should be nice and squishy” – deep inside I thought he was right, but everyone else laughed at him and screamed “eeeewwwww”…
Meeting my first vegetarian
I turned 16. I continued to eat chicken-mayo sandwiches *sigh*. However, now I had met my first vegetarian – the dad of my boyfriend at the time. My ex and I were both meat-eaters but whenever we were at his house, we were asked not to cook with meat too often, so I was actually eating a lot of vegetarian food for a change. It may not have been the healthiest things in the world, mostly consisted of pasta and home-made pizza, but it was a start! My ex would say that eventually he would go completely vegetarian and I was like nooo eeek whaaat?!!? After a year I got used to the idea, plus now I knew I could eat a meal without meat and actually live Also they were spiritual and told me a lot about the karmic side of eating meat, how we consume all of that animals karma, all the fear and suffering it went through. They would say, “you have enough of your own karma to burn from past lives, do you really want to add more on top of the pile?”.
Detoxing for the first time
They also introduced me to Japanese sencha tea – a very high-quality blend that does wonders to your body! It detoxifies you from the inside out and if you’re unhealthy, it makes you feel very very sick. The first time I tried it, I sat on the floor with shock, thinking I was going to throw up. My ex made me drink the stuff twice a day, first thing in the morning and 20 mins after lunch. I cant tell you how much I hated it, but at the same time, my body knew it was doing me good, plus I stopped feeling so sick. After 4-6 months or so I started noticing something funny – whenever I ate something that was bad for me, my body would reject it, it just made me feel ill. It seems that the tea had detoxified me so much, that my body was clean enough to start “fighting back”. Oh that was awesome! You can find out more about the tea online.
Bird flu – I stopped eating chicken
2005 – first bird flu case in Europe! Eek! I was deeply disturbed by that and decided it was a great excuse to give up chicken. I did it to see if I could live without some meat, and also I really didn’t want to get ill. That was easier than I thought…until I went to TGI Fridays…they had like maybe ONE thing on the menu that didn’t contain chicken. That’s when it first hit me, that I won’t be able to eat in places I was used to. I don’t think I was too happy, but I stuck with it. For many months I didn’t eat chicken, and after some time I didn’t even miss it! Then I went hiking with my friends and Sarah’s dad brought the food. Yup I bet you can guess what it was – chicken and mushrooms. I told them I didn’t eat chicken – they told me not to be silly and that there was nothing else. I wasn’t happy about it but had no choice, I may have eaten chicken a few times after that, but not much.
Giving up alcohol
I also gave up alcohol around this time (sounds like a funny age for some, but in Spain everyone starts going out at the age of 14). Why did I do that? Well I never liked the taste, plus my whole body would go numb at the first sip of alcohol – I thought that was normal but then realised its not, so I figured thats just not right. Plus my ex also started giving up drinking so it was just logical to do it together (being with someone has a HUGE influence on you with things like that, if youre with a vegetarian now, I can guarantee you will become one too). Funnily enough I had the biggest peer pressure about this…from my mum! (sorry mum, I know youve changed now but this did happen!) She would tell me I should be more outgoing and drink with people coz thats what kids my age do. Nah I wasnt having it, I was quite stubborn plus after 2 years of going out every weekend until 4am was getting boring for me, I got it out of my system already. That part of being “social” wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. *Im trying to find a pic from Facebook to put here, but I don’t have a single one with alcohol in it!!!!*
Ready to give up meat – how to convince my family?
2006 – I’m 17 and at the stage of being ready to give up meat but at home everyone still eats it – what to do? I slowly integrated fishy or veggie dishes (I made a killer salmon spaghetti that substituted our weekly bolognese forever). My mum was more open to the idea, her boyfriend at the time liked his lamb chops…a lot! At Christmas we all went to Bali and thats when the universe did something incredible – it gave my mum incredibly bad food poisoning. It may sound like a bad thing, and it sure felt crap back then, but it was a life-changing moment for everyone. My mum couldn’t eat anything (especially meat) for a whole month, and pretty much lived off rice and veggies. When she came back to Spain after the month away, she felt so healthy and clean that she didn’t want to put the heavy, poisoning meat back into her body…and so came the rapid decline of meaty dishes in our kitchen.
Two vegetarian people out of three in the house is a lot easier, especially since we were the only ones who cooked in the house. My mums now ex didn’t complain, he liked the food and if he wanted meat he’d just shove some lamb chops in the oven. He had (and still has) no intention of giving up meat, but at least he eats a little more vegetables now.
Well, at least I called myself vegetarian, I ate fish once in a while until New Year’s day 2012 – just couldn’t give up the sushi!
Being a vegetarian student
September 2006 – half-moved to study in the UK and with the awful quality of fish (apologies to people who like it, it’s just my opinion, when you come from Spain, fish from anywhere else just doesn’t come close) I never ate fishy things in Brighton. Being vegetarian was also very cheap for a student life. I didn’t have a problem with peer pressure, mainly because I didn’t drink and get along with anyone there, so I never went out to eat with other people. That time was great to establish that this is what I want and like, helped me build up my confidence about what I ate. Although I was never too strict on myself, if I really felt like eating fajitas, I would eat them (but that didn’t happen often).
2008 – I went on a uni trip to Vietnam and was officially sitting at the vegetarian table. I was happy to see 3 other girls sitting there with me – none of us got sick then, but some (meat-eating) guys did suffer from food poisoning. Straight after I went to China to stay with an old friend of mine. On the first day when she heard Im vegetarian she told me, and I quote: “if you don’t eat meat – you’re not my friend”……. O.o ………. talk about awful peer pressure! Though I did plan on eating meat on that trip anyway (I love trying new exotic foods, I had everything from jellyfish to duck tongues there), it made me feel really bad. Also very sad that there are people out there that can be so cruel. I didn’t let it bother me though, I just enjoyed my stay.
What did I eat after I gave up meat
For the most part, I was surprisingly un-experimentative (is that a word?) with my food. I had very basic things like rice with tomato sauce and cheese or vegetarian shepherds pie. I didn’t care much for variety, but I did love my spice rack! This was the first time I really started eating cheese, since people kept saying “you need protein” – bla bla, wish I knew what I do now about protein, could have skipped out on the extra dairy. As I have now learnt – variety is very important in any diet, not just vegetarian.
Jan 2012 – I don’t know why people who eat fish consider themselves vegetarian, but I don’t care too much about being accurate – it just sets limitations. I only really became properly vegetarian on New Years Day 2012. I felt I didn’t want fish anymore, so went out for “my last boqueron” – big mistake. I felt soo sick right afterwards…my body just didn’t want it anymore.
Going from pescetarian to raw vegan
March 2012 – pretty much went straight from pescetarianism to raw veganism, having been officially vegetarian for like 2 months and skipping veganism entirely. It was the best thing I’ve ever decided to do, the change in my health and mood was so impressive that I got my mum and grandma eating mostly raw food within a week! Cooking has also become a lot faster and a lot more fun. I wake up an hour before I need to leave for work, I have time to shower, get dressed and make some lunch to take with me! My plates have also become more colourful and fun and I couldn’t be happier to have my family on board – we share recipes with each other every other day! But this is a whole new topic, I guess that concludes the story of how I went vegetarian.
Oh and of course, how can I not show you what I eat now!! Let the drooling begin. P.S. get my book with all the raw vegan recipes here now!
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What an inspiring story, thank you for sharing!
~ Bernard Sleijster