A Question from a Reader

Every once in a while I enjoy answering questions from you guys. Here’s another.

I’m a 17 year old senior in high school. I have been vegetarian for almost 2 years and vegan about 9 months. I am a dancer and I do barre, so I’m very conscious and knowledgeable about what I put into my body. I chose this lifestyle for the ethical reasons. The health benefits were just a bonus. I don’t know why, but these past two weeks have been really hard for me. I know that I could never go back to eating meat, but I have been getting the feeling that I need to just be vegetarian now instead of vegan.

AndrewMagill

I love being vegan and I think of it as something that defines me but lately, I have had that little voice inside my head telling me that it would be so much easier and more convenient for me to be vegetarian. I’m going on a school trip next week and I know it’s going to be hard, if not impossible to eat. Prom is also coming up and everyone eats dinner from the catering company at the dance. I am going off to college next year without a car and without much money to buy food, so cafeteria food is basically my only option.

Please help me with my doubts. I am forgetting what it feels like to love being vegan and I don’t want to stop. I just feel like I’m so restricted and need some answers. Also, can you explain more in debt how being vegan is beneficial for the animals and for the consumers. Sorry, this is a bit lengthy but thank you so much. You guys are inspirational. Lots of hugs, vegan hugs. Kayla.”

I too did dance and barre from age 5 to 22. I did dance 5 or 6 days a week and barre at least 3 hours a week. That’s the reason my degree in college was going to be in performing arts instead of chemistry. I understand the challenges that go with being very conscious about what goes in your body. You become aware that what goes into your body is closely connected to how well you perform.

When there are a lot of outside forces dictating what you can eat, it’s not always possible to maintain a strict diet. This can happen in school. It can also happen out of school. I know someone who travels for her job as a life coach and she’s very concerned about her diet. When she’s on a plane or speaking at a convention, she doesn’t have a kitchen or place she can go to get the food her body needs to be healthy. It’s a major source of stress for her.

I haven’t been in her situation, but speaking from experience, you have to decide what’s right for you at this moment. If you really want it, you’ll find a way. If you’re not in the right place in your life, vegetarianism might not be right for you at this time.

Pear

For example, being in school without a car, could you use a bike instead? If you have a bike, you have a lot more options for finding food for your preferred diet.

I feel like there’s always a way to do it, if you’re determined enough to make it work. You need to be careful and make sure you’re soliciting the advice of a certified nutritionist, because it’s easy for vegans and vegetarians to become deficient in vitamins and minerals. Iron deficiency and anemia is one of the most common. Anemia also makes workouts ineffective. You can’t build muscle or increase stamina when you don’t have enough red blood cells to supply the energy for your exercise. A simple blood test can determine if you are iron deficient or anemic.

The reader also mentioned that her family doesn’t share her view of fitness and nutrition. It must be so discouraging to share your home with people who don’t support you, or don’t take health seriously.

The message I hear is, “Oh, I’ll just be vegetarian because maybe it’ll be easier.” In her particular case maybe it would be. It might also be healthier if food sources aren’t in her own control. No one should be made to feel badly or like a failure when they aren’t in a position to control their diets.

Look. I have a good job and I make good money and I live right next to San Francisco. I can go to a vegan restaurant if I want to but I do technically rent a small space where I can have a mini kitchen. In my home, I really just have a microwave and a mini fridge. I have to say, I have not had any challenges being vegan without a way to cook. You would think that would be a major challenge but I’ve found a way to overcome it.

I decided to make it work. In fact, it never even occurred to me that it would be a challenge. I was like, “I’ll be fine. I’ll work it out.” And I have worked it out. It hasn’t been a problem. You just have to believe that you’re going to make it happen, that it’s going to be fine because it is.