Friday, June 5, 2009

vegetarian, flexatarian, whatever...

What do I call myself, how do I label myself - vegetarian, flexatarian, pseudo vegetarian? What does this matter? Why do I need a label?

I stopped eating meat, foul and fish over 10 years ago - basically I became a vegetarian. I was always a picky eater. As a teenager meal time was always a bit difficult depending on the latest fad food idea I was going through. I never particularly liked meat. I ate it because it was served to me and I had to. When I went to college I had the ability to decide for myself what I wanted to eat. For years I danced with the idea of being a vegetarian. Much of the dance back towards the meat was due to difficulties in finding good vegetarian food in western New York and convenience.

When I finally stopped the dance it was mainly under the guise that it was healthier not to eat meat. As with many vegetarians once you become vegetarian you start to read & learn more. Your reasons become more ethical than health based. My reasons to date are both ethical and health based. I am an animal lover and truly believe it is healthier not to eat animal products. (I believe eliminating dairy is one of the healthiest things to do - however I LOVE CHEESE and need some vices.)

About 8 years ago I was going out to lunch with clients in Manhattan. In many instances my dietary choices would become a topic of conversation at lunch, much to my disappointment and avoidance techniques. Many NYC restaurants are extremely open and accommodating to vegetarians. Unfortunately, I have found that French style restaurants are typically the least accommodating and many of my clients at that time would choose French restaurants for meals. The menu rarely had a vegetarian entree on the menu. I would need to ask the server if they would make a vegetarian dish. The resulting meal was usually an extremely boring vegetable plate. The frustrating part of this experience was that my food preferences were brought to the attention of my clients and then it was inevitable that a conversation would start - can we say NOT FUN. After a number of these undesirable experiences I caved and decide I would order fish dishes. I could justify the fish in my mind because it wasn't on a farm, in a small cage, being tortured. I would have a couple bites of the fish, eat the sides and no one knew the better. But I did, and my body did (and my body rebelled). I did this for a year or two and decided to stop the fish again.

A couple years ago I decided to occasionally (maybe once a month) eat fish. I am not sure what made me decide to do this. I have struggled with this and struggle with this decision each time I choose to eat fish. I can eat it as long as it doesn't look like fish or look like flesh. I struggle with the fact that I am eating another living creature. It was killed to be eaten by me or some other person. Sometimes I can simply get past this because the King Tuna Roll TASTES SO GOOD! My body still does not like it when I choose to have fish - it rebels the next day.

I struggle with what do I now label myself. I am a vegetarian that occasionally eats fish. So does that make me a hypocrite, how can I say I am a vegetarian when I eat fish. How do I explain to people when they invite us over for dinner that I only occasionally eat fish when "it feels right." it could feel right at 4pm when I buy the tuna but by 7pm when I go to cook it I cant. Does it matter? Why do we need the labels? Why do we have to complicate life and put people into categories. We limit our experiences with people by creating images of who they are and limit our own experiences by trying to fit into this mold that we say we are. If we can just stop and pause, just be who we are without this idea of who we were, who we are suppose to be life could be so much sweeter.

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