Many people ask Swampy about his years as a vegetarian. Swampy, you see, gave up meat when he was 8 years old. When he was 38, he started eating fish again. Swampy always ate dairy products and eggs.
This paper summarizes his answer to questions such is "Is being vegetarian right for me?", or, "How do I avoid eating meat, I love the stuff!". It also tries to answer the rather patronizing question, "why were you a vegetarian?" to which the response should be "why should I have to justify my diet to you?" but is normally more polite.
The answer to the question if vegetarianism is right for you is actually quite simple. Are you happy not eating meat? Judge happiness based on the totality of your circumstances. After eating dinner, what do you want to do? After your exercise, what do you want to eat? Do these things make you happy?
Many begin with the wrong question. They state their diet in terms of what they want to eat -- no meat -- and not in terms of how they wish to feel, what makes them happy.
Happiness is your body's way of telling you that it is content, taking in the right amount of nutrients and the right balance of nutrients.
To come up with a specific health goal, think about how you feel in relationship to when you eat and what you eat. At first, don't try to pass a judgement on what you eat, just try to be descriptive. I felt _____, then I ate ____ and afterwards I felt _____.
This is a much harder exercise than it sounds like, because many people, probably most people, do not think of why they crave a particular food.
Once you have gone though the exercise, and want to start eliminating meat, think about how the elimination of meat will change your diet. Start by eating vegetables that you like. You should also, at this point, see if you can come up with a way to eat vegetables you don't like. Experiment with cooking them more or less, and cooking them with different spices.
You will need plenty of beans and tofu to substitute for protein. Your body most definitely can survive on these, but the balance is different than a meat diet.
Try not to overdo sugars and starches. When you eliminate meat, your body knows its missing something and may crave them. Meat diets have such concentrated protein for which starches are a good balance, For vegetarians, eat a little higher volume of legumes -- or whatever you are using for protein -- and decrease your starch level.
If you find yourself craving sugar, this could be a symptom of low protein.
If you find yourself feeling mildly depressed, this could be low B vitamins. B vitamins and iron are the most difficult nutrients from meat to replace, in Swampy's experience.
If you are a woman, you may need iron supplements. Yes, it is possible to eat enough green leafy vegetables to get the iron you need, but it is not always easy.
Finally, if you are planning to become pregnant, or are pregnant, consult with your doctor about your diet. A few considerations are weight gain -- for a single birth you should gain more than 15 lb but less than 40 lb (CDC recommendation), proper calcium, proper folic acid, and the ability to hold food down during periods of nausia. All of this is possible for some people, but not all.
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