So am I vegetarian now?
September 18, 2017 3:18 PM   Subscribe

This sounds like a dumb question I know. Lately I've had more concerns about meat. Is this what it can feel like or how it started for you? I'm not sure how to sort my feelings.

This isn’t a question about factory farming though it plays a role. But please not lectures on that.

I have a lot of dietary restrictions due to health and stomach problems. These are being sorted and handled. Part of that includes an upcoming appointment with a dietician so I need a list of foods I want to eat.

Lately, I feel like I noticed digestive issues related to meat. I have also been feeling iffy about eating it ethically. I stopped eating it a few weeks ago.

Obviously if my body doesn't want to digest meat then it doesn’t matter, but it’s about wanting to try in the first place again. 

The thing for me is I couldn’t get out of my head that I'm eating a dead thing. It's like an intrusive thought. Even though from the outside I don't have a problem with the idea of eating meat - especially since humans wouldn't exist if we didn't eat meat or if I were in a pure survival situation. Which sucks because I really love bacon.

I don't have a problem with the idea of fish (not my fav taste though) - nor eggs or dairy or honey (though none are in my diet right now due to health issues but I would like to add them.) I’ve been off meat for a few weeks. I'm ignoring the times I eat gelatin but I don't know if I will going forward.

I have had tons of vegan and vegetarian friends and family, but never quite felt this way myself.

Again, I feel dumb for asking, but while I understood people not wanting to eat meat (I’ve never been stoked about bones or stringy bits or bleeding meat) I never had this sort of grossed out feeling. 

Is this what being a vegetarian can feel like? Did these feelings just start for you one day? Did these feelings ever resolve?

Was there a point where you didn’t think about meat anymore? I’ll have a moment where I’m like “Oh a burger sounds good I wish I could eat one” then it’s like “Oh wait that’s a dead thing, gross” a second later. 

How do I also deal with the feelings of being one of “those people”? I generally don’t care what people think but I’m already one of “those people” who deals with chronic illness and gluten/food intolerances. 

My spouse will likely continue to eat meat, though I've discussed all of this with him and he understands. His mom is a long-time vegetarian while his dad eats meat. So a good way to compartmentalize? We generally eat different things due to dietary restrictions anyway.
posted by SockWombat to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, the dead thing definitely. Especially when it comes to random cravings like when you mention bacon. I have had moments where I think of when I did eat meat and slightly have a nostalgia/reminisce moment and acknowledge the craving. But no matter how many times I try, it still goes back to the many many reasons why I don't eat meat in the first place.

Being one of those people doesn't really matter. People make decisions all the time that others don't agree with or understand. This is just one of those situations. I am so much happier being vegetarian. Again, for many reasons, environmental, ethical, health. Many, many reasons. For me, I started out thinking if I truly TRULY want to have a tiny bite or piece of something, I will. But I would immediately regret it and feel disgusted in a visceral way. I recently watched the documentary What the Health on Netflix and although I haven't followed up on the sources and whatnot, I do enjoy documentaries such as this and it's helpful to put things in perspective. Good luck on your journey. I personally think that you're overthinking this and I give you complete permission to do and eat what makes you feel good.
posted by lunastellasol at 3:37 PM on September 18, 2017

I'm confused by your question.

You don't have to ask for permission from anyone to not eat meat. You just stop eating meat. This doesn't have to be a political, ethical, or moral decision (although it can be). It sounds like meat isn't working for you. So, stop eating it. Perhaps you'll find that's the way you want to go. Perhaps you'll find you like to eat only ethically sourced meat (whatever that is). Perhaps you'll find that you want to stop eating animal products. If your view of eating changes, then you can immediately start/stop eating food as you prefer - your decision doesn't have to be indefinite.

How do I also deal with the feelings of being one of “those people”?

If you can make yourself feel better by changing how you eat, you doing yourself a favor and you should not worry about how anyone else perceives that.
posted by saeculorum at 3:37 PM on September 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I don't think I can answer all of your questions, but I can say that I did decide to become a vegetarian after meat started seeming grosser and grosser as I kept eating it.

Not having eaten meat on purpose in more than 20 years, the visceral gross reaction you're talking about has actually completely disappeared for me. I don't really find the idea of eating meat gross because it's such an abstract thought (I know other vegetarians who have gone the other way on this and find meat increasingly gross the longer they haven't eaten it). At this point, I pretty much can't imagine deciding to eat meat again - it's been reclassified in my brain as not-food and I'm often weirdly surprised when I see someone eating meat as a result.

As for not being one of "those people" - I've just made the decision that being vegan means enough to me to make the social opprobrium worth it (and really, it's not bad at all these days -
most people and restaurants are much more vegan-friendly than they were even 10 years ago and I feel like being vegetarian is just completely normal now).
posted by snaw at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

i was you about 10 years ago, minus the meat-related food sensitivities.

my former partner had been a vegetarian for 20+ years when we met, and i was already eating very little meat thanks to his doing most of the cooking. it got to the point where i felt like i could no longer justify another being losing its life so i could have lunch, so i just stopped eating meat. i liked meat well enough most of the time, so my vegetarianism is definitely a matter of personal ethics.

i do miss meat on occasion, but the thought that an animal gave its life for me to eat its flesh when i can just as easily eat lower on the food chain has worked surprisingly well to keep me away from it for all of these years. plus there's the added bonus of feeling like i'm living my values, which feels pretty great.

welcome to the club!
posted by hollisimo at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2017

We stopped eating meat in mid-July, and yes, it really was like a switch flipped. We made the decision to stop for a variety of reasons, but once we did, I found it almost impossible to even entertain the idea of eating meat again. Like biting into something that used to be flesh is viscerally repulsive to me now, and I used to be a meat monster, dietary-wise.

I mean, I'm not going to say I'll never go back, because life is long and who knows, but for now, my health is better, I feel good about what I'm eating and more importantly what I'm not eating, and I haven't noticed any adverse reactions from friends/family/colleagues. I think culturally speaking, eating a plant-based (if not vegetarian or vegan) diet is becoming far more acceptable and even trendy, so it's easier to find foods that will accommodate this issue. If I don't make a big deal of it, other people don't, either.
posted by stellaluna at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Everyone's different, all the way from hardcore veganism to 'eh, I don't have to eat meat at every meal' flexitarianism. I consider myself a vegetarian (pescetarian really, but anyway) and I had a country ham biscuit sandwich for lunch, because I'm traveling, can't get country ham where I live, and food is a big part of the travel experience for me.

If meat's not agreeing with you right now, just choose not to eat it. It doesn't have to be a big pronouncement. Sorta like limiting sugar on a diet, or stopping drinking or something. No big.

My husband eats meat. 99% of the food we make / have in the house is vegetarian, and he happily lives on that. If we go out he generally gets a meat dish. It works out.
posted by Fig at 3:44 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and your thinking sounds familiar to me. I remember eating meat and enjoying it, but now I mostly feel bad when I think about doing it (though some foods still make my mouth water even 10 years later--I'm looking at you NC pulled pork--so it's a thing that happens).

My spouse and I transitioned to vegetarianism at the same time, so I'm able to not purchase/cook meat, which I think makes it easier. But my SIL cooks meat for my brother and nieces/nephews despite being a strict vegetarian herself for nearly 20 yrs, so some people make it work.

As to how it started for me, well, my spouse and I occasionally would say we would be vegetarian if we weren't so lazy--meaning, we thought the ethical argument had merit, but it was just easier to go with the flow, keep doing what we'd been raised to, and continue enjoying meat. There came a particular precipitating event where we became particularly sensitive to animals and their treatment, and my husband just stopped eating meat. I joined him a couple of weeks later with no specific declarations of "we're vegetarian now" but more like "this is a thing we'll try out to see how it goes". It stuck, so here we are 10 yrs later.

Something that made the transition easier for me was thinking that even reducing my meat consumption would be a net positive in the world, so I didn't feel pressured to go "all or nothing" even though I was doing it for ethical reasons.

As to being one of "those people", I hear you. I've mostly dealt with this by trying to make my diet have the least impact on my friends and family. For example, I'll offer to bring a main dish to a potluck so I know I'll have one to eat, or I'll suggest some candidate restaurants when my friends want to go out to dinner, that way I can research menus and pick ones that have decent veg options, or I'll suggest a recipe to my mom so she can make an alternative to her standard fare that we can enjoy (making food for us is very important to her). Also, over time I've just become more comfortable with myself and this choice--what I eat is my business and I do what I can to minimize issues for anyone else, and that's enough.

Feel free to memail if you want a supportive sounding board.
posted by msbubbaclees at 3:49 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I seem to be in a minority of vegetarians in that I'm not, at all, grossed out by meat - I'm a little annoyed by cross-contamination, or if I accidentally eat something that has meat in it, but most vegetarians seem to feel that in a more visceral way than I do.

But the bottom line is that you get to choose what you eat, and you get to choose the factors that are important to you. If there's some combination of health concerns and ethical concerns and visceral "ew" that means it makes sense for you to stop eating meat, or to eat meat only occasionally - you don't need any more justification than that.

For not feeling like one of "those" people, I recommend having a one-line non-judgy answer for when people ask why you're a vegetarian. (I usually say "I'm not a huge fan of factory farming," but some people feel even that's too confrontational. "I don't like the taste" or "Health reasons" might be easier.) And over time you find a balance that makes sense for you for social situations - when to say "Hey, have fun at the barbecue restaurant, I'll catch you some other time!" and when to say "Huh, it doesn't look like they have much in the way of vegetarian options. How do you feel about Indian food?"
posted by Jeanne at 3:55 PM on September 18, 2017

Me too on the 'ew, gross' feeling. I've been a vegetarian for 28 years now and that's how it started. Actually, my baby book at 18mos says, "hates meat" so maybe it started earlier? (I'm 43 now.)

For health reasons I have wanted to start adding in meat or chicken on an occasional basis, but can't seem to get past that visceral reaction despite finding a family farm I like and doing hypnosis.

One thing to just be mindful of, is eliminating foods out of stress. If you've been having lots of issues around food, allergies, gut pain, just be really honest with yourself around WHY you're eliminating foods. It can be really easy to slip into disfunctional thinking around food, pain and control.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:56 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also: I have been vegetarian since 2009 and I STILL sometimes think longingly about fried chicken and cheeseburgers and tonkotsu ramen. But in the way that I think about happy memories from childhood - I don't have that much urge to try to recapture them.
posted by Jeanne at 3:58 PM on September 18, 2017

Response by poster: Just to clarify: I'm definitely not asking permission nor to "come out" as vegetarian or anything, though the label is helpful in certain instances. I'm very much in the "eat whatever you want" camp. (I don't understand why people get mad about people like myself that don't eat wheat.) But it's more about how to feel about it or approach it in the world or how it's felt down the road if you don't eat meat.
posted by SockWombat at 4:00 PM on September 18, 2017

I can answer how not eating meat started for me: as a process. I never liked eating it, but believed the (imo, falsely promoted) idea that people need meat as their main protein source. So for a while I switched to eating only organic meat. Then I met some people who never ate it, realized I could do without, and stopped eating meat altogether.

The point is, there was no moment when I decided to no longer eat meat. One day I just stopped and that was it. What I do know is that after three years of no meat, I feel repulsed by the idea of eating bacon, beef, chicken, etc.

Don't feel like you have to apologize for not eating it. Do get used to meat being everywhere, unless you live in a very vegan-friendly area. People will usually assume you eat it because it is so popular. Most people (most) are understanding and not offended when you tell them it's not part of your diet.
posted by Crystal Fox at 4:01 PM on September 18, 2017

I'm not pure vegetarian but I mostly eat vegetarian. It was a gradual process for me. I always found some things about meat gross but just took it as part of the experience. Hanging out with vegetarians, learning about food ethics and nutrition, and a song about meat were all part of the journey. You could say I was a reluctant omnivore. Then I spent time living in environments where the only food was vegetarian. It all came together. I realized I could have a satisfying food life while not eating meat. There was no need to be mildly disgusted by the textures or global impact of consuming meat. And once I figured that out, I decided to just... not start eating meat again.

So I would say the feelings started one day, where I looked at meat and thought, "That looks like stale death. I'm not going to eat it." But they were building on a process of years.

These days I eat some meat, especially if it's raised and processed in certain ways. I prefer not to put a hard and fast boundary around it. Bacon still smells good to me but it looks gross so I don't usually eat it. Occasionally I crave meat. I eat a hamburger once or twice per year. If I craved meat all the time, I'd probably switch my eating rather than try to force vegetarianism.

People had interesting reactions. I started out as a straight-up vegetarian and one of my coworkers was asking whether it was okay for him to get meat at a buffet, or did it disturb me. Some folks want to ask questions. I find if I just put it out there as my own thing, and am open to discussion, people are respectful. Vegetarianism is pretty common. You can also describe yourself as a flexitarian, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-ovo, or any number of variations. One advantage of labeling yourself vegetarian or vegan is that people might be able to remember it and plan for it and respect it when they're putting events together.
posted by ramenopres at 4:29 PM on September 18, 2017

My aversion to meat goes way back. My mom had a terrible time getting me to eat it when I was a baby - texture issues. When I was a little girl I watched my mom marinating chicken and told her I'd never be able to handle raw meat like that. As a child, I ate my vegetables quite happily and had to be told to eat my meat. There's also a famous story in my family about my refusing to eat a lifelike bunny-shaped gelatin.

I went vegetarian when I was 15, at the end of 1990. I got old enough to really comprehend what producing meat involved. I started feeling queasy after eating red meat, then a few months later I gave up everything else. My digestion felt better, less leaden, after I went veg.

I didn't miss meat; I'd never really liked it much, as is probably clear. I didn't even really like meat analogues/things-trying-to-be-meatlike when those started to be more available. There were occasions when I felt left out of mealtime conviviality, but nowhere near enough to make me want to eat meat in order not to feel a little set apart. People would ask me if I was offended if they ate meat in front of me, and I genuinely wasn't - it was so not something that I thought of as food for me that it was a sort of anthropological experience, like observing some sort of alien race that subsists on Styrofoam.

I was vegetarian for 24 years and had to start eating meat again a couple years ago (health problems not initiated by my vegetarianism as far as one can tell with such things; there's been clear evidence of benefit to me from adding it back, much to my sadness). I dread it every day, it never stops grossing me out, and I know I make terrible faces while I'm chewing.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:43 PM on September 18, 2017

I transitioned into vegetarianism about 3 years ago. I had tried several times in high school and college but it never stuck, and this time it really was just like a switch flipped. I did it for ethical reasons, though it did take a bit to truly stick. I approached it this time with an attitude of "one meal at time," and gave myself permission to eat meat if I wanted to... And found I basically never wanted to. I really truly adored eating meat before my ethical quandary sharpened; I absolutely did not give it up for lack of enjoyment. Just one day I told myself to stop ignoring the guilt I felt. And oh boy, what a weight off my conscience once I did.

While the decision was clear to me about becoming a vegetarian, I did find it a lot harder to integrate it into my social life and public personality. I was worried about being one of "those people," as you said, and about the embarrassment of announcing I was a vegetarian only to have it not stick again. So, I didn't announce it. I told my boyfriend, but nobody else. I figured once I knew it was a permanent change I'd start telling people, but by the time I knew for sure it had been like 9 months, and then it felt weird to just bring up? So I've told very few people. I was flexitarian for awhile when we went to friends' and family's houses for meals, and finally told them maybe six months to a year ago that yeah this is for real and I've been doing it awhile. I think mostly I was worried about being inconvenient to others; several family members and many of my students are of the "how can you tell someone's a vegan DON'T WORRY THEY'LL TELL YOU" variety. So, I just... didn't. The clueless ones still haven't realized, which is fine. I do feel bad about some of my friends, who felt a little hurt I hadn't said anything. So overall I'm a big fan of the unannounced transition, though I do wish I'd told some people earlier. (Though once people know they do tend to treat me differently, often with an assumption that they have to work around my needs... Which I don't want.)

It took me about 18 months to stop making the conscious decision to eat meat. 3 years in and I don't miss meet at all. (The one thing I terribly miss is Five Guys hamburgers though.) I do still technically give myself the option to eat it if I want, and I'll have a bite of turkey at Thanksgiving, but I just never really want. Maybe you'd find some kind of flexible rule easier to incorporate into your life; I always failed and felt miserable when I was. VEGETARIAN (even when I was successfully not eating meat, I was still miserable), but the option of flexibility was enough to calm my fears. Perhaps you too?
posted by lilac girl at 4:59 PM on September 18, 2017

Oh, not me, but my mom! This is almost exactly what my mom described to me as explanation for why she recently went back to being vegetarian. She used to be one for ethical reasons, stopped for nearly 40 years, and picked it up again a couple of years ago--I think the sentiment "my body doesn't want to digest meat" and the idea of a general "sort of grossed-out feeling" would resonate really strongly with her. She describes herself more as "person who doesn't eat meat" than "vegetarian", so maybe that would work for you, at least for now?

And you're not One Of Those People until you start saying other people are bad people unless they agree with you. Knowing your personal preferences and being willing to stick to them is an admirable quality, I'd say.
posted by capricorn at 5:15 PM on September 18, 2017

There are very few situations in 2017 where you'd have to declare yourself a vegetarian so it's okay if this isn't right for you forever. I only do it if it'd be rude otherwise (like if someone is ordering steaks to grill and wants a count--and even then I would just say none, thanks instead of making a statement.) But at restaurants, parties, etc. I take care of myself.

It's pretty common for people to be jerky about it. I've encountered people mocking Those People more than I've encountered Those People.
posted by kapers at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2017

Hi, vegetarian for 19 years, here. I never had the meat gross out sensation, but there are lots of different and equally valid reasons so if that's how you feel, roll with it. For me it was a question of how could I contribute to the suffering of another creature when it wasn't necessary for my survival. Anywhere even remotely close to necessary.
I've been lucky to not get too much guff from others re my choices, people usually give up if you don't react to whatever shitty thing they try to bait you with.
Oh and yes I absolutely still miss meat. But the not needing it to live thing is still true, so here we are.
Best of luck with your dietitian and new lifestyle plans!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2017

I've been a vegetarian for almost twenty years. I am so horrified by the thought of meat that I don't think I could force myself to eat it even if I wanted to. As a kid I had visceral responses to any meat that was obviously meat (rather than finely ground whatever); as soon as I could cook for myself I just stopped entirely. My husband eats meat but we eat almost entirely vegetarian at home, because I do the bulk of the cooking and he's mentioned a preference (for ethical reasons) for eating less meat anyway.

People pretty frequently ask me why I am a vegetarian. As a policy, I demur twice: first, "Oh, let's not talk about that, it's personal", then "no seriously, you do not want to talk about this." I have no interest in judging other people, but a lot of folks reeeeally want to hear about why I don't eat meat, so if they keep insisting, I tell them. ::shrug:: ymmv. It's not a good way to make friends, let me tell ya.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:20 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I stopped eating meat for ethical and environmental reasons. I had long eaten very little meat, but I would describe myself to others as "almost vegetarian." I would keep track of how many times a week I ate meat. I would give myself a pat on a back after an especially long stretch without meat. It was so hard to keep track of what was ethically sourced and what wasn't. I felt guilty every time I ate meat.

Eventually, I just gave up meat altogether, and it was really freeing not to feel guilty about my diet all the time.

Meat itself doesn't gross me out, but I do associate it with consumerism, the rise of processed food, unethical and environmentally devastating factory farming, chest-thumping aggressive carnivorism (is that a word?), human arrogance over nature... the list goes on.

What is it like to be labeled as a "vegetarian" in society (I'm in the US)? I feel like a bit of a curiosity. People often ask, "But what do you EAT?" But honestly, I feel so liberated, not having to be chained to meat with every meal (there are SO MANY people out there who can't even understand how to construct a meal without meat). I feel really healthy. I eat such a varied and colorful diet, full of the single constant piece of dietary advice: eat lots of fruits and veggies.

Admittedly, I do get frustrated with others' closed-minded reliance on meat, especially friends who vehemently refuse to try the great tofu dish I just cooked, or friends who refuse to try a vegan restaurant (but will gladly drag me to a meat-heavy place with few veg options). But it makes me appreciate my flexible, considerate, open-minded friends even more.

Not gonna lie, I do crave certain meat dishes occasionally, but it's happening less and less over time. Now that I've admitted that eating meat violates my ethical standards, I can't comfortably go back. But there are SO many vegan alternatives to meat nowadays, you don't need to miss it.

I know that that's a bit different from what you're currently experiencing. But I hope that, as you cut out meat, you can eliminate the foods that make you feel ill, while also feeling physically better. I also hope it expands your culinary palette, so you have a lot of fun in the process. Best of luck!!
posted by aquamvidam at 6:41 PM on September 18, 2017

I've always been mostly grossed out by meat. Even as a baby. I think I've taken a total of two bites of hamburger in my life under duress. That being said, I'm not a vegetarian. I eat poultry, seafood, (and bacon and pepperoni ) maybe a few times a week? It requires no small amount of mental gymnastics to prepare even a boneless, skinless chicken breast. As a kid growing up in a small town in the Midwestern United States, this meat aversion made me a freak of nature. Definitely 'broken. Possibly also a communist. Now, it hardly comes up. If it does a general "I don't eat much meat" or "I don't care for ham" is more than enough explanation for most people. I would think "it disagrees with my stomach " would work fine,too. So, yeah, being grossed out by meat is A Thing, eat whatever you want, and if somebody asks, a short , polite response should be fine for most people who aren't jerks.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:57 PM on September 18, 2017

There are a billion shades of reason why people don't want to eat meat or can't eat meat or simply dislike meat. Your feelings are your feelings and there is nothing "wrong" with how you feel about meat, because it is after all factually correct: that is a dead thing. Thinking about it hard enough, eating something that is dead in order to remain alive is kind of a weird concept, because surely life feeds life?

I went through the whole plethora of thoughts and feelings and emotions when I was vegetarian, then vegan, and now I am back to being an omnivore, though I always strive to be as ethical as possible about it. And from time to time I'll still stop myself from getting a meat thing because I know it isn't necessary and is ultimately Wrong.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:47 PM on September 18, 2017

I'm friends with a guy who is vegetarian except for the very rare bucket of KFC. I also know a guy who is vegetarian except for pepperoni pizza, and a vegan dude who loves honey. You can be a vegetarian who occasionally eats bacon, or maybe just someone on a very restricted diet with a wide variety of go-to foods, most of which are plant based. Really it's all about what works for you on a personal and public level - what makes your life simpler and healthier and happier?

I'm an omnivore who loves talking about food, so I've had great conversations with the three folks I mentioned above. All of them expressed something similar to you - that meat just started to or always seemed gross, so they stopped eating it. A lot of lifestyle diets have tinges of religion, where you build big obvious guidelines to keep yourself from the "bad" stuff. But diet doesn't have to be like that. You can have nuance. You're already being nuanced because of your health challenges, so this can just be another detail in that.
posted by Mizu at 8:36 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think I'm in the I don't understand the question camp. I've been vegetarian for about 20 years because I feel bad for the animals. That's what I say when people ask me why I am vegetarian: "I feel bad for the animals." But I very, very rarely am asked. In my experience, no one cares. Yes, if it comes up in a discussion on the internet you get some incredibly assholic statements, but in real life it almost never comes up.

I have no feelings about it. It was not a journey or anything like that.

I don't particularly like meat and don't miss it, but it's not something I ever think about.

I'll add that it's much simpler to be completely arbitrary in deciding what you will and will not eat. If you have to decide every time if you will eat something or not it's just a pain in the ass.

On a rare occasion when I have been invited to dinner and the host served chicken, I just ate it so as not to be rude.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 9:49 PM on September 18, 2017

I was a vegetarian for 15 years and I just didn't like meat. I don't think I ever had a really STRONG visceral (heh) response to it, but just found it kind of gross overall. I changed my mind a few years ago and started eating meat again, for no real reason other than I wanted to. I eat vegetarian at home quite often (I learned how to cook as a vegetarian and meat is expensive to mess up! And vegetables are delicious!). I don't only eat organic meat but I do my best to buy as responsibly and sustainably as I can. And barring that, meat prepared with care. So, like, I will buy sausages made in-house at my local grocery store or BBQ from the local family-run place, but I will not eat meat at Taco Bell.

If you feel like not eating meat, don't. There's a wide world of food out there. Maybe someday it will appeal to you again, maybe not. And seriously we're all "those people" in some way; if you aren't trying to tell other people what to eat or that they're doing it wrong, no one will care except jerks (see: telling people what to eat or that they're doing it wrong).
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:56 PM on September 18, 2017

Hi, newish vegetarian here! (a year or so)

It sounds like you're sort of where me and my partner were 12 months ago. It's a funny limbo, isn't it? You don't really want to eat meat anymore, whilst possibly not ruling it out forever? And you're also not sure if you should like, announce it, so that the people whose food you sometimes eat stop making meat for you. And can you even call yourself a vegetarian if there's any chance you might eat meat again at some point?

For us, it was about figuring out our boundaries. For us, they're moderately soft. I already have dietary requirements, so when we go to someone's place for dinner I've always reminded them that I can't eat that particular thing. So now we add "and we're not really eating meat much lately" to that too. But if someone doesn't get the hint and cooks meat, or if it's someone we know that would upset (older relatives particularly) we've decided we're not interested in dying on that particular hill. You might decide otherwise! In which case, it's ok to own that and stick to it - it might take people a minute to adjust, but they will, however grudgingly :)

The other thing is to remember that labels are there to help, not to constrain. So if you find it's easier to say "yes I am vegetarian" when someone is asking what pizzas shall we get in tonight, then you can do so. Even if you ate your mom's roast chicken yesterday! It's just a really quick, easy way to convey that you would really rather not eat meat tonight.

I hope this helps, take your time figuring out where your lines in the sand are, and use labels in ways that work for you. Anything that helps you eat a bit less meat is good, so any vegetarian objecting to you using the label in a way that helps you set your boundaries would be getting their wires rather crossed!
posted by greenish at 2:38 AM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the "ew gross dead thing" reaction is normal. I also think that the reason most people who eat meat do not have this reaction is because eating meat is normalized, it's a cultural assumption that people just eat meat, and most people don't really think about it. Kind of how eating people or dogs or cats is not normalized in American culture, so most Americans think eating those things are unacceptable and gross, but think nothing of eating a cow--because they've always eaten cows, to the point where sometimes the only available entrees at restaurants contain meat or eating a meal without meat isn't a consideration.

When it comes right down to it, though, eating a meal without meat is just...eating a meal.

I don't think you will ever stop being grossed out by the idea of eating meat. It's a normal, empathetic response. But I no longer think about or want to eat meat. And while I guess I've been a vegetarian for 22 years or so, I don't really think of myself as one, I just don't eat meat. I don't think anyone needs to eat meat so people calling themselves vegetarian/herbivore/omnivore/carnivore does grate on me (we are all omnivores, we can all eat animals and plants, but most of us do not need to eat animals to survive) but the vegetarian distinction can be useful to communicate dietary needs. I'm also not strict with the labeling but think more of it as making informed choices about what I am putting into my body. I would never cook anything with meat in it myself but if a friend is serving me dinner, for example, I will tell them I don't eat meat when the whole "do you have any dietary restrictions" conversation comes up. If they then serve soup without any discernible meat but that I suspect may have been made with chicken broth, I don't question it and just go with it.
posted by Polychrome at 4:00 AM on September 19, 2017

Everything you're saying sounds very familiar. It sounds to me like you're probably ready to stop just thinking about it and give it a try.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:53 AM on September 19, 2017

I've been variations of vegan for about five years -calling myself semi-vegan or 90% vegan or vegan at home. I decided to go completely vegan about three months ago, though I'm not even sure if that's accurate because I still haven't decided how to handle visits to out-of-town relatives.

I still love the taste of meat and sometimes crave it, but I have "ew gross" feelings about milk. Ovo-lacto vegetarian never made sense for me personally because I think milk is worse than meat from a health standpoint and eggs and dairy are just as bad ethically. So I would occasionally eat meat but not dairy.

The thing is, there's really no need to label how you eat at all unless it serves a purpose for you. That purpose could be communicating with other people more easily or, if the ethical factors are big for you, saying that you have an absolute moral stance. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with just being a person who generally doesn't eat meat but also doesn't go by a label.

As for "those others." I've never run into an obnoxious vegan or vegetarian in real life, though I'm sure they exist. In fact, if you look at comments on any mainstream article about vegetarianism, the obnoxious anti-vegetarians (which I'm differentiating from nonvegetarians) seem to outnumber the vegetarians. So I think a very small number of vegetarians/vegans have sort of caught the public imagination and made other people look bad.

It does bug me when people use labels incorrectly. I have no problem with someone being or calling himself a "vegetarian except for fried chicken," but when that person just calls himself a vegetarian and then eats fried chicken, he/she opens up all vegetarians to charges of hypocrisy. So I'm not comfortable calling myself a vegan (and actually, I'm really not because I just bought some leather shoes and veganism goes beyond diet). I still say I'm mostly vegan or I eat a mostly vegan diet. But usually, there's no need to call myself anything, so I try not to get caught up in that.
posted by FencingGal at 7:12 AM on September 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I stopped eating meat within the last three months or so.

I've always enjoyed the taste of meat and I felt strongly that people who eat meat should acknowledge that it comes from living things and come to terms with that. I've read books about slaughterhouses and animal rights. I'd describe myself as, 'Animals have feelings, but meat is delicious!'.

I think my subconscious mind must have been working on the topic because one day I just looked down at my plate and was like, 'This doesn't feel right.' And by right I mean moral. It was still delicious. Suddenly my attitude flipped to: 'Meat is delicious, but animals have feelings!' For a few days I tried to keep eating chicken because chickens are pretty goddamned stupid but then I was sitting down to a plate of delicious chicken stir fry and I was like.... nope. Can't do it.

I still feel pretty comfortable eating fish and invertebrates.

I was cautious about talking about it for a while because I honestly don't know if I'll switch back. But then I just starting telling people, hey, I'm not eating meat right now. It hasn't been a big deal. I actually found out about a secret mostly-vegetarian in my family.

I would probably eat a little meat if I got invited over to someone's house and I felt it necessary to be polite. But mostly when we're eating with other people it's at a restaurant and it's a strange restaurant that doesn't have a vegetarian option of the menu these days.
posted by bq at 1:43 PM on September 19, 2017

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