Why Wednesday – Why I Sucked at Being a Vegetarian

If you’re a regular reader of my site, you see that I eat a lot of meat: chicken, turkey, bacon, turkey burgers, and even STEAK! But what you may not know is that I was a vegetarian for about 12 years.

Yep–it’s true. I went from being a vegetarian to a full-fledged meat eater.

Why? In short, I started working out and running. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t eat meat. But I found I wanted to suddenly. Running was the culprit for my sudden craving for steak. I went from never eating meat to drooling over a thick, juicy steak–medium rare at that!

What the heck?

In short, I sucked at being a vegetarian. I think it was part of the equation that became my weight gain.

Poor Eating Habits + Bad Vegetarianism + Junk Food Obsessions + No Exercise = Obesity. At least for me.

This post is not to discourage anyone from being a vegetarian and I am not trying to down play the benefits of vegetarianism. I’m just speaking of my own experience.

The biggest reason I sucked at being a vegetarian is:

I did not substitute my lack of protein with another kind of protein. I just didn’t eat protein. Stupid–I know. But I didn’t know anything different. I ate a lot of processed food. A typical dinner could very easily be a box of “Pasta Helper” of some sort and a salad (I was a vegetarian after all!). That’s not exactly a healthy meal–even with some veggies on the plate.

I would eat those MorningStar packaged foods which were protein but still not healthy.

I was always tired. I don’t attribute this entirely to not eating meat because I had a lot of other health problems as an obese woman. But I know now that not eating meat played a big part in it. I was always tired. I was also very anemic. I had to take iron supplements just to get some energy.

There are a lot of positives for being a vegetarian–IF you do it right. I did not. My cholesterol was skyrocketing even being a vegetarian.

I did not learn the proper nutrition requirements my body needed if I stopped eating meat. I just stopped eating meat.

A common misconception is that vegetarians are skinny–or that they will lose weight immediately for not eating meat. That did not happen to me. In fact, my weight increased enormously.

One of the things you can eat to add protein to your diet is nuts. Guess what? Nuts are super fattening. While a serving of almonds may be packed with tons of protein (6 grams) they are also really high in calories and fat.

Not only that, it turns out that I prefer my nuts to either be loaded with sugar (honey roasted) or really salty. Neither are a good option for healthy living. 😉

Eating out was a challenge. I didn’t want to eat meat but didn’t really know how to order a vegetarian meal. I just assumed being a vegetarian was ordering a salad. Then I’d also order some fried food (mozzarella sticks for example) to go with it. Eating out was a challenge depending on what kind of restaurant I went to. I think I’d have better luck NOW as a vegetarian because Portland has a huge Vegetarian/Vegan community here. The Vegan restaurant options are pretty vast.

A Strange Happening

I’ve had to take a break from running. 6-8 weeks probably. I’ve noticed not running has changed my hunger in a few ways.  First, I’m not as hungry as I used to be. Second, I don’t crave steak like I used to. Or any meat actually. I eat it for the protein but I don’t CRAVE it like I did when I was running. I’m curious to see if that changes when I can run again.

QUESTION: If you are a vegetarian, do you do it “right”? How do you get your protein?

19 Responses

  1. I sucked at being a vegetarian, too. My best friend asked me to do a vegetarian fast with her for 40 days. We learned that it is entirely possible to gain a pound a day if you just eat cheese pizza, pasta, and caramel sundaes.

  2. I don’t eat meat but I do eat eggs, so I make a lot of egg white scrambles. I also eat a lot of beans, lentils, quinoa and tofu/soy products. I think the most important thing about being a vegetarian is a varied diet…if you just eat salad and carbs/pasta/etc., then you run into problems.

  3. I was a bad vegetarian for 7 years… and took it a step further and became a bad vegan for the last 2 of those 7. I gained a lot of weight the first 5 years because I basically had an all starch low protein diet. (Never had any cholesterol problems though!)

    I did lose weight when I became vegan, simply b/c of the low caloric intake… but when I became pregnant, I discovered that McDonalds Happy Meals were the only things that “cured” my morning sickness… and that was the end of that. Ha!

    I haven’t been vegetarian since…. I’m not a big meat eater… so I probably eat half the amount of meat as the “average” person – however, I do feel healthier and more balanced as an omnivore than I did as a vegetarian – simply because I did not balance my diet properly.

  4. I loved seeing Beth’s pics and reading her story!

    While I definitely eat some vegetarian meals, I can’t eat soy because of my thyroid so I don’t ever think it’d be the right WOE for me. I also don’t lose weight very easily when I eat low protein so there’s that. Of course, I’m on the side of the animal rights issues, but I can’t make myself sick or unhealthy at the same time. Hey, life’s unfair like that.

    Meanwhile, my laptop is currently resting on no fewer than 3 vegetarian cookbooks so you can’t say I don’t try. 🙂

  5. I think I do it right – I have more energy then ever so something must be working. I do still eat fish occasionally, probably 4-5 times/month so I guess technically I’m a “pescatarian”.

    Anyways, I eat lots of the following for protein:

    – chickpeas and other forms of beans, lentils
    – greek yogurt
    – almond butter and peanut butter
    – cheese and eggs

    I don’t know if I could ever be Vegan because I LOVE cheese and yogurt. I could give up milk and eggs probably, but not cheese and yogurt…

  6. one of my brothers is a vegetarian. and he’s definitely the least healthy of all of us kids (i have three brothers). why? because he chooses to replace meat with carbs and fat (so for thanksgiving he has a GIANT serving of vegetarian stuffing that is full of butter, covered in gravy that is also full of butter). you mix that with low amounts of exercise? not good. (although, my youngest brother manages to both eat fast food to his heart’s content and run 8 minute miles. but he’s just an anomaly)

  7. It’s so interesting how different people develop healthier eating habits in nearly opposite ways. I was always a big meat-eater and never imagined–never–that I would become a vegetarian. Early this year, after doing some research, I decided to try it for a couple of weeks, and it felt like the easiest change in the world! I never imagined I would be able to stick with it, much less enjoy it.

    I cook a wider variety of foods now, including more vegetables and whole grains. I’m careful to include protein in the form of beans, nuts, and veggie burgers.

    Being vegetarian isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t synonymous with healthy eating, as you pointed out, but it’s been a wonderful change for me.

    Thanks for such a balanced, interesting post!

  8. I am NOT a vegetarian now, but I was for a few years when I was a preteen. I basically ate plain pasta. It was NOT a healthy time in my life. I probably had some sort of borderline eating disorder at that time in my life. I was scary thin and basically used being a “vegetarian” as an excuse not to eat. Bad stuff. Thankfully, when I started running in high school, I realized I needed to EAT in order to run well!

    How interesting about your steak cravings. I think I get them too – red meat and SALT – when I’m running higher mileage!

  9. I’m like you — I love meat too much to be a full-on veg. But I do eat veg more than meat – probably about 70/30. I consume a lot of beans, seeds/nuts and almond milk, yogurt, tofu, tempeh and nut butter!

  10. Finally! Another person whose attempt to go vegetarian when horrifically wrong! I gained 70 pounds going veggie back in college. Apparently pasta with cheese sauce, Taco Bell bean burritos, and candy coated peanuts aren’t healthy fair. Because there *is* this misconception of vegetarian = healthy.

    No… no no no. I”m so sorry we had to learn the hard way.

    I do think that being a vegetarian can be very healthy so long as you sneak in a B-12 supplement. So many more choices are out there now, and “clean eating” is up there on the trend scale. Keep it clean, and chances are you’ll do a body good. One thing I’m trying to incorporate more in my life is: if I know where it is from, the chances are it’ll be better for me.

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