Why do people seem to have such all or nothing attitudes? We live in a complicated world in a complicated society, in complicated times. Everyone has their own lives where they are permitted to make their own decisions.
Food has become strangely political, and what we eat is somehow now a statement of who we are. There are the health nuts, the junk food junkies, the meat and potatoes people who just want a basic meal. Some people are vegetarian, some people are vegan. Many are omnivores. Some people pay attention to what they eat, while others do not.
Nobody is going to change anybody’s mind about their eating habits and desires. It’s one of those strange topics where people can get quite preachy and opinionated, even though they should know full well that harping at acquaintances is going to do nothing but hurt their case.
If somebody wants to enjoy a steak on Sundays, they are going to look at vegan propaganda as, “something for other people, not them”. Their eyes will glaze over and they will scan right by, no matter how interesting the information might be.
This is where I think the people behind the “Meatless Monday” movement are truly onto something.
We all know how dreadful meat production is for the environment. According to one website, producing one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. Grains and vegetables require the least amount of energy to produce.
Think about the resources and energy used to pump, clean, and process water. A pound of corn takes about 107 gallons of water to produce, vs. wheat bread at 154 gallons, rice at 403 gallons, eggs at 573 gallons, and beef at 2,500 – 5,000 gallons. (Global figures vary wildly for beef production.)
While we all know this to some degree, many of us aren’t going to just change our entire diet. But it does not have to be an all or nothing situation. Imagine how much it would help the environment if most of Canada had one meatless day a week? Or even two?
Imagine how good it would be for the planet if we learned a couple of vegan recipes. Really, do you require animal products for the average breakfast? Most people simply eat oatmeal. Perhaps once in a while we could try some scrambled tofu and veggies instead of scrambled eggs. Trying a new recipe certainly doesn’t sound like a hardship, does it?
Restaurants are a great place to try vegan and vegetarian dishes, since you don’t have to worry about purchasing ingredients or learning how to cook something new. Test drive it. If you like it, learn how to make it at home. If you don’t like it, you’ll survive one meal that doesn’t thrill you.
There are a ton of recipes where you could use a little olive oil instead of butter. Maybe you could have your tea without milk a couple of times a week. Maybe instead of turkey, you have an avocado sandwich for lunch now and then. Yet when you go to your Grandmother’s Sunday dinner, you eat whatever she made for you.
Many days we’re eating what I consider “utility food”. It’s just lunch. Fuel. You’re consuming vitamins and energy to go on with your day and be productive. Expecting every single meal to be electrifying is a bit unreasonable.
Instead of an all or nothing, meet or no meat lifestyle, what if we looked at our animal consumption on more of a weekly basis? If we’re being taken out to a fine steak restaurant Friday night, we eat vegetarian Wednesday and Thursday. Simply cutting down on the consumption of animal products could help the environment quite a bit, help spread awareness, and take away some of the judgment.
Perhaps making the declaration “I am vegan” is helpful for some, but for the average person, perhaps stating, “I’m cutting my meat consumption down by a third” is good enough for now. Something is always better than nothing. Forming new habits takes time, and being gentle and patient with ourselves will go a long way toward promoting health and environmentalism in an easy, experimental way.
People who suffer from anxiety can easily be overwhelmed by big decisions that change their routines. Small changes can have an impact without the worry, and without the stress.
Food is fun. Food is enjoyable, and trying new things should be an adventure, without any restrictive attitude.
For the moment, those of us who consider ourselves health and environmentally inclined could easily do one meat-free day per week. It’s a start, it’s a symbol, and it could be a good shift in thinking for all of us.
Really, is a giant bowl full of rice, corn, beans, and avocado for lunch such a terrible sacrifice? I think not. Help the planet without making a stressful, final decision, and altering your whole life. Just start with one step.
– Try not eating meat on Mondays, or whichever day makes the most sense for you, for one month.
– As an experiment, see if any of your favourite recipes could be made vegetarian or vegan.
– Replace a couple of “utility meals” with a vegetarian option, to cut down on meat consumption a little this month. See how you feel, and how much money you save.
If you’d like help with other life decisions, shaking up your world and trying new things while working through anxiety and stress, click here.
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