14 Things No One Tells You About Being A Vegetarian

Vegetarianism has become more mainstream, as we’ve seen in recent decades, from an increase in the number of meat-free options to TV shows involving vegetarian characters (e.g. Friends and the ever-quirky Phoebe). In spite of growing recognition, though, those of us who don’t eat meat still make up only a small percentage of the world’s population. As such, many meat-eaters still view us as an oddity, and there’s still a lot that people don’t know about what it’s like to be a vegetarian.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, we aren’t all up on a moral high horse and looking to food shame others. I won’t pretend I’ve never felt smug after reading a study about the dangers of meat, but being a vegetarian is about more than a superiority complex. We all have strong beliefs or preferences that make us forego meat, and as with any group of people, ours vary widely.

Whatever our differences, though, there are certain common aspects of the vegetarian experience that are rarely discussed. I’ll be the first to admit that they’re not all good; as with any practice, vegetarianism has its share of drawbacks that accompany the benefits. With that in mind, below are 14 things that no one ever tells you about being a vegetarian.

1. You’ll Need To Be Prepared To Answer Questions — Lots Of Them

Telling someone you’re a vegetarian can be a bit like opening yourself up for an interrogation. You have to be ready to share why you gave up meat, how long ago you did so, what exactly you won’t eat, what you do for protein, and more. No matter how many times you’ve given your canned responses, it can still feel awkward.

2. People Will Take A Sudden Interest In Your Protein Intake

Once you become a vegetarian, the amount of protein you eat will suddenly be of grave concern to your family and friends. While it’s definitely not an issue to blow off, there are actually plenty of non-meat protein sources. Still, it’ll take them a while to get used to the idea.

3. Eating With Someone New Involves “Outing” Yourself

If you’re eating with someone for the first time, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll have to explain that you don’t eat meat. Cue the barrage of questions and the concerns about your protein intake. Sometimes, you’ll feel like you have to defend yourself; other times, it won’t be a big deal.

4. People Will Be Surprised When You Stick With It

You’ll have to confirm that yes, you are still a vegetarian with surprising frequency. It can be hard for other carnivores to understand why anyone would want to follow a meat-free diet, so they’ll assume it is simply a passing phase.

5. You’ll Have To Define What You Do/Don’t Count As Meat

Vegetarianism means different things to different people, so I get that there can be confusion about what we do and don’t eat. (Fish, for example, comes up often.) Still, it does surprise me when I have to list literally every food that falls under the meat umbrella. Yes, I consider chicken meat. Is that really a question?

6. Your Body Will Feel Different

Changing what you put in your body changes how your body feels. As you settle into a vegetarian diet, you may notice your body doing both things you do and don’t like. Your own personal brand of vegetarianism will dictate what happens, but don’t worry, there’s definite potential for good.

7. You Won’t Miraculously Become Healthier

While a meat-free diet can be healthier, that’s not always the case. There are a lot of unhealthy vegetarian foods out there, so if you’re looking to improve your eating habits, vegetarianism on its own won’t offer a magical solution.

8. Ingredients Lists Will Become Your Friend (Or At Least An Acquaintance You Tolerate)

Depending on how hardcore you are about vegetarianism, you may find yourself becoming well acquainted with ingredients lists. Animal products find their way into a lot of different food items, so if you want to avoid them, you’ll have to be diligent.

9. You’ll Have To Worry More When You Travel

Both inside and outside the United States, there are places that are not at all vegetarian-friendly. It adds a little extra anxiety because you have to figure out what your options are and how to avoid offending people.

10. There Will Be Times When There Is Literally Nothing You Can Eat

As much as vegetarian options are becoming more and more commonplace in many areas, you won’t always find something you can eat. Luckily, you’ll learn how to anticipate situations and come prepared, among other tricks.

11. You’ll Have Moments Where You Miss Meat

It’s not easy to give up something you’ve eaten (and probably enjoyed) for years. At times, you may even feel a bit of nostalgia for your meat-eating days. The internet’s obsession with bacon and the smell of it still remind me of how much I used to enjoy it. Your willpower will get a lot of practice.

12. You’ll Have To Give Up Certain Restaurants

There are a lot of restaurants out there that will suit your needs, but others you’ll have to give up on. A lack of good options for vegetarians is obviously a deal breaker once you are one. Don’t worry, you’ll find new favorites.

13. Waiters And Waitresses May Sometimes Hate You

When you find yourself asking whether a dish is made with vegetable broth or if the bacon can be removed, you may cringe a little at your own behavior, but these questions sometimes have to be asked (politely, of course). On behalf of all vegetarians out there, I thank the waiters and waitresses out there who kindly accommodate us.

14. You’ll Learn New Recipes And Recipe Variations

Your go-to recipes from your meat-eating days won’t serve you well once you go vegetarian. The silver lining, though, is that it will force you to be creative. Vegetarian biscuits and gravy? Meatless meatballs? There’s a whole world of possibilities awaiting you.

Images: NBC; Giphy (14)