I became a vegetarian at the age of twelve. At that time my family lived on the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean. There were always pigs and chickens loose on the island, so I would see them regularly wandering around Basseterre. Then I would go home and look at the pork, chicken or beef on my plate, and suddenly it was hard to eat them.
Shortly after my twelfth birthday, I announced to my parents that I was becoming vegetarian. They were not thrilled. They thought I was doing it just to be difficult (I was that type of kid), but I was serious. I loved animals too much to eat them. I couldn't do it anymore.
That was nearly nineteen years ago when there weren't that many vegetarians around, and even fewer vegans. Everyone I knew thought I was crazy.
"You're not eating meat anymore?!" most people exclaimed, eyes wide, shock on their faces. Among my friends and family, not eating meat was unheard of. Most did not approve of my choice.
My mom made it clear that she would not make special meals for me. So I only ate the sides that were served with whatever meat was made for dinner. My parents were worried about my health, so they tried to trick me into eating fish. I didn't like it and I was livid when I found out what they had done. Over time, my parents accepted my diet choice and supported it fully when they realized I had every intention of keeping it.
My vegetarian definition became 'nothing with a face'; I was still eating eggs and dairy. I was made fun of for my choice. My uncle told me that plants breath so I was killing them when I ate vegetables or fruit. Over the years I heard every vegetarian joke you could possibly imagine.
It took me a while to get the vegetarian diet right. At first I replaced meat with nothing but carbs and cheese. BAD idea! As a result, I went through years of stomach problems.
As I got older I learned how to be a good vegetarian. I learned where to find my protein and where to get my iron. I took vitamin B12 supplements.
Today I'm still a vegetarian and I am thrilled with the progress that has happened for vegetarians and vegans. I can go to a restaurant and have more than just salad as a choice! There are even vegetarian/vegan restaurants now! There are amazing vegetarian cookbooks, and it is becoming more common for someone to be vegetarian or vegan.
There are different reasons people choose the vegetarian/vegan diet. Some do it to be healthier, while some like me, do it because they love animals. Whatever your reason, I commend you for adopting this lifestyle. It's not an easy diet to follow, but it is worth it when our bodies feel better, our minds feel sharper, and we are supporting something we believe in.