I’m going on seven months of having a flexitarian diet, and I’ve never felt healthier or happier.
A flexitarian is someone who primarily maintains a vegetarian diet, but will consume meat in moderation. Flexitarians value all the moral and health benefits of a vegetarian diet, but also value all the practical benefits of eating meat every now and then.
I started the year as a strict vegetarian after spending most of ages 17-20 as a vegetarian. I was an “ethical vegetarian,” someone who doesn’t eat meat because they believe it’s immoral to eat animals.
I still believe that. Most of my meals are vegetarian. But I now also believe the occasional fish taco or pulled pork slider doesn’t change my ethics.
Here’s four reasons why the flexitarian route was the best option for me.
(1) Being vegetarian without a partner is hard
My first crack at vegetarianism as a teenager consisted mostly of cheese pizza and curly fries. My second attempt earlier this year was slightly healthier, but it came at a cost to my time and energy.
I was having to stop at Whole Foods a bunch for fresh veggies, spend evenings meal prepping and packing lunches and scrolling through my Pinterest feed looking for vegetarian recipes that wouldn’t bore me to tears.
Having a partner to share the load on grocery shopping and cooking makes things a lot easier.
Plus, you always have a cheering section. I’ve found people tend to actively root against other people who are trying to make a change in their life. Having someone else to keep you encouraged and hold you accountable is a big plus.
Adding the occasional meat dish to my diet helped to take the pressure off. Now if I’m too tired after a day at work to shop and cook, I know it’s no big deal. I’ll just find a veggie meal the next day, and if I can’t, I have no problem slamming a BLT from Rhino Market.
(2) I’m an active explorer in the city
I love going to new restaurants. It’s my favorite part about being in a city like Charlotte where churn and turn always bring new dining options to the food scene.
It also sucked being the wet blanket in the group chat for social outings. I got sick of hearing the annoyed groans when my friends would suggest a spot to eat out and I’d whimper, “But I can’t eat anything there.”
By going flexitarian, I’m able to add meat into my diet not as a primary consumption choice, but as a cultural experience. I’m not going to pound oysters at The Waterman every night, but now I get to experience their rooftop without concern for how it violates my diet.
(3) I’m sick of everything having to be an identity
When I eased into flexitarianism, my DMs on Instagram got lit up.
“That doesn’t look like a vegetarian dish to me. I thought you were a vegetarian.”
I started to be embarrassed about what I was eating. I was shamed for calling myself a vegetarian. I used lighter phrases like meat-free or plant-based. I’d go six weeks without eating any animals, but if I had one cup of clam chowder, people felt the need to point out some kind of moral hypocrisy.
Why do I have to be A Vegetarian TM? Why can’t I just enjoy a vegetarian diet?
And that’s not the only instance of food choices becoming a culture. Just look at the phrasing. People say “I am gluten-free,” or “I am keto,” or “I am vegan.”
The old saying goes you are what you eat. I’m sick of that. I’m not what I eat. What I eat is just one of many small choices I make throughout the day. It doesn’t define me. My ethics on animal rights don’t suddenly shift because I eat one slice of chicken parmesan pizza.
(4) I love being a flexitarian
Most people don’t get it, but what you eat shouldn’t be about appearances. It should be about what makes you feel happy, healthy and responsible. For some, that’s vegetarianism. For some, that’s eating 30-50 feral hogs worth of bacon every day.
For me, it’s being flexitarian.