No need to eat meat if we’ve got vegetables
October 8, 2014
Imagine saving more than 8 billion animals a year, just in the United States, by shutting out the animal food industry which includes clothing, cosmetics and home goods produced by slaughtered animals. Well, during the summer, I came across a video on YouTube called “Why You Should Consider Being a Vegetarian,“ a video about people killing cows and pigs.
From that day on, every time I ate any kind of meat, I would remember the video and recall the unfair treatment that the animals went through. The video was a real wake-up call for me and made me rethink what food I put in my body.
A week later, as I was helping my mom and my aunt set the table for our out-of-town guests, my dad called me to grab a piece of kabob, which has always been a tradition: me eating a piece of xorovats before my dad takes it for everyone else. I quickly put down the napkins and walked out to where my dad and all my cousins were standing and chit-chatting. As my dad was wrapping the beef kabob in the pita bread, I remembered the video, and it was then that I knew I had to change the way I eat.
I started thinking that the only way of me giving up meat is starting it off by just eating fish. That night I decided to just eat salad and watch others enjoy the xorovats. I had to wake up at night and have a bowl of cereal because I was starving to death, literally. (But it’s not like I don’t wake up every night to eat a bowl of cereal…)
I was truly surprised my dad didn’t ask why I refused to eat the kabob, but I knew he wouldn’t like the idea of me completely changing the way I eat. The good thing was my sister was a pescaterian, and I was sure she would have my back on this. The next morning, as everyone ate breakfast in the dining room, I thought it was the right moment to tell my parents that I want to become a vegetarian.
“Dad,” I said, “do you remember how I didn’t eat the xorovats you gave me yesterday? Yeah, well that was because I decided I want to stop eating meat.” The reaction I got from my parents, especially from my dad, left me in shock, in a good way. He didn’t oppose the idea. “I was suprised how you refused to eat it,” he said. “But now it makes sense.”
“Yup,” I replied, “both of your daughters are pescaterian. Next thing you know, you and mom give up meat too, and we all become pescaterians.”
And with that discussion I had finally started this journey, a journey taken by many others.
In fact, a recent article in the Vegetarian Times quoted a study from 2008 which indicated that there are approximately 7.3 million vegetarians in the United States, and an additional 22.8 follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. Numbers of vegetarians seem steady, as an article from Gallup Well-Being shows how U.S. vegetarianism has stayed unchanged from the 6% who identified as vegetarians in 1999 and 2001.
This journey has definitely helped me realize that you are what you eat, and what you eat is how you feel.
— Elen Hakoupiani
Being a pescaterian is definitely less challenging than being a vegetarian or vegan. I used to eat fish twice a week, along with some boiled vegetables and hummus, and the other days I would simply tell my mom to cook quinoa or any type of grain that would give me the same amount of protein as fish.
I definitely felt a sudden change in my body, and most certainly in my mood. I was way more energetic and active compared to when I was eating meat.
Starting Sept. 1, I set myself to completely cut out any type of meat, including seafood.
Remembering James Gill, also a junior attending Clark Magnet being a vegetarian since eighth grade, I planned to ask him few questions about his experience through this journey. “The reason I became vegetarian is because I didn’t feel the need to eat meat, that’s all.” Gill’s mom and older sister are also vegetarians, he said. “You will of course crave meat at first, but you will later on get used to not eating it, and it will be a lot easier than it is now, trust me.”
Talking with James gave me the motivation to keep up the healthy eating, but my mom opposing the idea of me becoming a vegetarian did not. My mom believes every human being needs the protein content of meat that cannot be replaced with any vegetables.
For that reason, I found a nutritionist that my friend knew and I asked a few questions concerning the health benefits of being a vegetarian. Lilit Sargsyan, a private nutritionist in Glendale who has been advising her clients for three years, was happy to answer my questions.
I started by asking her if being a vegetarian at my age is the right thing for my health, and she replied, “Of course it is safe, but it does affect your growth hormones in some ways.”
My mom quickly gave me the ‘I told you’ look, but then Dr. Sargsyan added, “There are more benefits than people think there are. You can get the same amount of protein from eating vegetables likes avocado, peas, broccoli and other green vegetables.” She also said that becoming a vegetarian will cause mood swings at first, but then the body will get used to the type of food you put in. Dr. Sargsyan gave me a cookbook with more than 100 vegetarian dishes, saying, “I want you to enjoy take this journey and think of it as a lifestyle, not a temporary diet.”
After talking to Dr. Sargsyan, I definitely felt better about my decision, and of course I had a better idea of what type of foods I needed to prepare.
My mom was the biggest support system, even though it was hard convincing her at first. Every day I would go home from school, starving, almost on the edge of giving up and grabbing something with meat, but my mom would always have something vegetarian prepared for me on the stove or in the refrigerator.
A week later I got an appointment to go see my family doctor, Dr. Samvel Hamayakyan, for my yearly checkup. I knew exactly what I was going to ask him and I was sure he would be more than happy to answer me. After checking my height and weight, I finally had the opportunity to ask my questions.
“What do you think about becoming a vegetarian at my age and what are the benefits?” I asked. He first smiled and answered, “I wouldn’t really recommend becoming a vegetarian at your age, but I can tell you the benefits of it. The benefits are: it lowers body weight, and it lowers the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.” He advised me to take a lot of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and most importantly not give up.
My vegetarian diet certainly does get easier as days go by, and I feel less of the need to eat meat. It gets to the point where I can’t stand the smell of any type of meat, and actually have the craving for vegetables, as oddly as that sounds.
This journey has definitely helped me realize that you are what you eat, and what you eat is how you feel. I can proudly say that I’m planning to stay vegetarian as long as I have the strenght for, and encourage my parents to try eating some of the meals I eat, even if it’s only once a week.