It's National Vegetarian Week, folks! At first glance, an event promoting vegetarianism might seem as pointless as 'Wear a Warm Hat Day in December' might seem in Siberia. Because if there's one thing that vegetarians do incessantly, it's talk about being being veggie. It's not that we set out to do it; it's just that the opportunity seems to come up so often. Observe:
"Hey, did you watch Eastenders last night?"
"Yep. And I noticed they were wearing shoes. I wear shoes, too. Just not leather."
See what I mean?!
Personally, I try to mention it as little as possible. It's not that I don't have the capacity to be smug (dear god, no); it's just that I fell into the same trap once when I gave up smoking and spent an afternoon decrying the horror of nicotine to a smoker colleague on a business trip, only for that same colleague to discover me the next day in the midst of puffing on what must have been the world's longest cigarette. I don't think I'll eat meat again, but I am covering my bases by not saying too much.
In my case, becoming a veggie was a massive and unplanned inconvenience. I started doing yoga. I began to feel more connected to living things. I started to lose the ability to make the distinction between 'meat' and 'animal'. Then one day when I was travelling across the US, I was channel-surfing in a hotel room when I stumbled across a documentary about Lizards, of all things. With growing horror, as I looked at their funny, scaly little faces, I realised that my meat-eating days were over. Why horror? Because I was once about as Carnivorous as the entire court of Henry VIII put together. I come from a family where the men folk go out shooting at weekends in the winter. Once of my earliest memories is of trying a piece of pheasant that my Dad had shot and hung in our garage. My family were less horrified when they found out that about my teenage drug habit than about my adult conversion to a plant-based diet. I don't think my father has been the same man since.
But I have to say, that I have never been happier with my eating habits, for some of the reasons you might expect, and I few that you might not. If you've ever thought about becoming a veggie but worried you'll end up dressing like a contemporary of Jesus and throwing the word 'energy' around all the time (you won't), here are five unexpected benefits of making the switch:
1) You get to feel better about acting like a d**k
Did you just break someone's heart? Fire an employee? Scream at your barista because they served someone who came in after you? Feeling like a douche now? Well, take comfort in the fact that at least you haven't harmed a member of the animal kingdom today. #alwayswinning
2) You want to remember s**t, right?
Although there's no real evidence that eating a vegetarian diet alone prolongs life, there is evidence that a diet high in vegetables and low in saturated fats (especially from red meat) staves off Alzheimers. So at least when you're in your 80s, you won't think you're living in the 80s
3) It can get you out of awkward social situations
OK, this may need a little finessing, as there are too many good vegetarian recipes these days for it to really be an issue when invited to someone you don't like's house for dinner. But throw in a curveball ("I don't eat legumes, cruciferous veg or vegetables from the nightshade family either") and you need never waste time in unwanted company again.
4) You'll make new friends (and maybe more)
Being veggie necessitates buying more fresh produce. Buying fresh produce means going out more to greengrocers (remember them?) and farmers' markets. Opportunities, in another words, to meet people just like you. I live in London, where making eye contact with a stranger usually precludes a sense of impending doom, and I can happily report that the people I've met in the above places have so far been friendly and (best of all) not homicidal.
5) You may just bring down the Conservative government
OK, a bit tenuous, this: In spite of the need to shop more, you will spend a lot less on a vegetarian diet. Spending less=saving money! Saving money= austerity! Maybe if we all ate more salad, we could save cuts to the NHS and benefits. Maybe.