Vegetarian: Decision

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24 March 2008

(Continued from Vegetarian updates)

Well, yesterday was decision time. It came on me somewhat suddenly, when I heard on Saturday that Lent actually ended Friday. After some careful reading I decided that it really ended at sundown on Saturday, or maybe sunup on Sunday, so I just waited until Sunday as I had originally planned. Even then, I wasn’t really ready to decide – I had become comfortable as a vegetarian.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a bunch of downsides to vegetarianism! It’s just that there are also some upsides, so it becomes more of a balanced choice, rather than a restriction. I had acclimated to the vegetarian lifestyle, and I just didn’t feel like I really needed to change.

Without discussing the final decision, the preceding paragraph helps explain why I give up something for Lent each year – it’s an opportunity for me to jump a hurdle and see what is on the other side. Often it isn’t what I expect.

But back to the issue at hand. I did have one last vegetarian insight on Saturday, when I realized that my mother-in-law was going out of her way to make special food for me. It was the first time someone really had to make a special consideration for me, and it wasn’t a particularly pleasant feeling. I know that I don’t worry about it when I am making adjustments for my wife, and that other people don’t really mind, but it’s always been a mild concern with her, and I suddenly had a dose of it. It was rough. (Thank you, Agnes!)

I’ve also now completely un-lost the weight that I lost. My wife theorizes that it’s because I’ve been eating so much dairy, and I agree with her. Once I proved to myself that I could safely eat dairy, I started bingeing on ice cream and milk, and I think it accounts for the weight gain. Again, what a choice!

So… Sunday I made a hasty decision (or so it seemed to me) to eat a shrimp, based on my general feeling that I would probably go back to eating seafood. That ended my 46 days of meatless living (although there was that one incident with the caesar salad). It felt a little sad. I ate a few more shrimp that day, given that the ship had already sailed, but I avoided other meats until I had more time to weigh the options.

That time is now, so I’ve assembled the following pro/con list:


As a vegetarian, I:

  • can’t really eat at fast food restaurants
  • can’t eat most candy bars
  • have a harder time finding tasty food at restaurants
  • have fewer options with delivery (pizza) and takeout (Chinese) food
  • eat generally crappy food for lunch at work
  • can’t eat many cheeses
  • can’t eat in Lisbon
  • can’t eat steak!
  • sometimes feel guilty that people have to plan meals around me
  • generally have less interest in fancy food


As a vegetarian, I:

  • don’t eat fast food ;)
  • don’t eat candy bars ;)
  • eat less delivery / takeout ;)
  • can share all my meals with Kristina
  • am no longer lactose intolerant (confirmed!)
  • can eat ice cream!
  • have the same restaurant preferences as Kristina
  • eliminate the guilt that Kristina feels when I plan meals around her diet
  • lose weight (maybe – depends on whether the dairy theory is right)
  • eat smaller portions (I just generally don’t eat as much)
  • eat better airplane food (in coach, the vegetarian options are usually much better)
  • have better overall health
  • am doing a bunch of other good things for the planet


So, based on all that, I’ve decided on a compromise. I’m going to be a pescetarian (seafood as my only meat), plus I’m going to allow myself to eat all cheeses (even ones with animal rennet), but I’m also going to try to minimize my overall dairy intake. With that compromise, I hope to keep the best parts of both worlds:

  • I can generally eat with Kristina
  • I will hopefully remain lactose-tolerant
  • I can eat in Lisbon
  • I’ll have more choices at lunch in the office
  • I will hopefully lose weight
  • I’ll be healthier

I’ll miss steak and bacon, and many of the fancy flavors that come from meat, but I’m quite comfortable with the tradeoff. The healthier life, the small comforts with my wife, and the ability to eat dairy make it very much worthwhile.

So, yesterday began my new life as a pescetarian. I expect to have a hard time explaining it to people, and explaining why I’m doing it, but that doesn’t bother me much. I’m not sure how long it will last, although I expect it to last as long as the benefits keep lasting. Maybe for the rest of my life.

  1. Amitai Schlair says:

    And here I just (finally, after years of knowing about it) joined the Bacon of the Month Club. But your decision sounds well considered, based on experience and context, as always. I don’t think I could make the same choice, but one of the morals of your story is that you originally didn’t think so either! So I’ll keep my eyes open.

  2. Benjamin Schroeder says:

    Hi Nathan,

    I’ve been meaning through this whole thing to tell you about our favorite vegan cookbook:

    The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen – Donna Klein

    (We’re not vegans, or even vegetarians, but we belonged to a CSA last year and eat a lot of vegetables.)

    The recipes in the book are for the most part naturally vegan – that is, they just happened to be that way, rather than being engineered that way – and they are also for the most part really delicious.

  3. Veg over 4 years and loving it! says:

    Just a few suggestions….

    Rather than have people make special food for you, just ask them to make extra portions of the side dishes they are already preparing. These are usually vegetarian anyway. Examples: mac n cheese, spinach, corn, mashed potatoes, rice, beans, veggies, french fries, etc. Get VegNews Magazine or read some other lit about vegetarianism/veganism and learn to live the lifestyle and embrace it.

    Vegans are actually the new foodies! There is some seriously gourmet food out there for us. Your options may be more limited depending on where you live. Also, try mock meats, they are fabulous and healthier than real meat. “May Wah” is an amazing faux meats company and is sold online if not in your town. This is a great otion if like you, you miss steaks, etc.

    Do some research! Changing diet with little info will leave you feeling like your options are limited—NOT so! Vegans nowadays eat everything from donuts, to cupcakes, to cheeses, to faux fish, candy bars, chicken, hams, etc to reuben sandwiches. So as a vegetarian, there are even MORE options!

    Open your palette to exotic foods too. Indian, Thai, Nepalese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Japanese, Spanish—there are tons of veg foods you can add to your menu or cooking repertoire.

    By the way, if you eat 90%-100% vegan cheese and vegan dairy alternatives in lieu of milk, you won’t get fat. Milk is designed to fatten up babies. Try limiting real dairy to emergency use.

    Good luck and don’t give up!

  4. Nathan Arthur says:

    Wow, quite the batch of replies!

    First, Amitai, I already miss bacon. Damn you!

    Second, Ben – hello! I didn’t realize that you were a reader. It’s good to hear from you :) Thanks a lot for the recommendation, I’ll check it out.

    Third, Veg, thanks for all the support! It helps to have the cheering. Your comments also made me realize that I should clarify: we do eat a lot of faux meats, and we love eating different types of foods. (In fact, we ate Indian tonight.) Both of those make this easier.

    Thanks, everyone, for the feedback!

  5. Beth says:

    This has been a learning experience for me from afar… I read a lot of the wikipedia article/s… thanks for the education! Somewhere along the line I read someone’s commentary about people eating “decaying animal parts” and the next day couldn’t bring myself to eat the chicken in my soup. That stunk. I think the furthest I’ll get though is being a “flexitarian” (a term I didn’t know existed until now) which sounds to me like I’ll eat what I want. But maybe re-think whether I want it to include meat quite so often.

  6. Nathan Arthur says:

    There have been a few questions, so I want to clarify: my intent is to be a vegetarian, except in cases where there aren’t any other options. So most people should just be able to assume that I’m vegetarian all the time, even though I will break the rules occasionally. Example rule-breaking situations include my trips to Lisbon, and if the lunch vendor at work doesn’t provide a vegetarian option.

  7. Matt says:

    Nathan – I’m quite sure that there are other vegetarian/vegans at NetJets. And didn’t you say that the lunch vendor isn’t there exclusively for you guys, but for the whole bloc of offices over there? Maybe you could find some folks with a similar bent and apply some friendly pressure to the vendors to provide veggie alternatives. If they refuse, then take your business elsewhere and let them know you’re doing it.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you’re a vegetarian only when it’s convenient, will it be something you’re actually able to stick to? I know I personally don’t stick to life changes if I leave myself a wide open “out” for whenever the new thing isn’t convenient. Just a random nickle when you didn’t even ask for the customary 2 cents…

  8. Nathan Arthur says:


    The vendors are there exclusively for NetJets, but they only come once a day, and my questioning leads me to believe that there is only one other vegetarian, and the vendors are rotated out every 3 months whether they are good or not. It will be a large hurdle :) The easier (and less expensive!) answer would be to pack my lunch, but I’m too lazy for that.

    You make a good point about blurring the lines, but I think I’ll be ok. I do have one hard line: no land-based meat. And I’m not personally thinking about seafood as an “always-available escape route” – it’s actually not hard to be a vegetarian, once you convince yourself that that’s just the way things are. I don’t go pining after meat every time I think about what to eat; I just don’t consider those options. So I don’t really feel much of a pull out of vegetarianism, and I’m not worried that I’ll give up. If it was hard to be a vegetarian in the first place, I probably wouldn’t have tried to stick to it :)

  9. Noel Hurtley says:

    I became a Vegetarian about ten years ago and I haven’t regretted the decision since. I think that even as a pescetarian you’ll be surprised how much better and more energetic you will feel.

    It’s a huge step towards leading a healthier lifestyle. Good luck!

  10. Nakia Prejean says:

    my family doesn’t want me to be a vegetarian because they don’t think that it is right can someone please help me?? how can i get them to except that i am a vegetarian and that i don’t want to eat meat…they don’t listen and even if i’m only 15 i think that it is wrong to eat animals that haven’t ever done anything to you! and i really don’t like the way meat taste either because it makes me feel like a bad person when i eat it and then i always feel really bad after everything that i did to the animal thats life i just took part of!

  11. Nathan Arthur says:


    Two brief, high-level thoughts. (I don’t have time for more – I’m sorry.)

    1) As a 15-year old, you probably don’t have control over how your parents treat you. Hopefully they respect your ideas, but that’s going to depend on them and on your own belief in the importance of your own opinions.

    2) If you really feel guilty when you eat meat, then you should probably not eat meat. It’s not a good idea to associate guilt with eating. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with eating meat. Animals eat each other, humans were designed to eat meat, and death is a natural part of life. If you really feel guilty about eating meat, you might want to carefully think through why you feel that way.

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