* The following is a personal account of my journey with becoming vegetarian. I am not suggesting that changing your diet in any way is a requisite to becoming or being spiritual or enlightened or whatever. Nor am I suggesting that everyone should adopt vegetarianism. This is simply one person’s story.
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my relationship with vegetarianism. My interest in a veggie diet was born out of a desire to lessen my environmental impact, to live a wholly healthier lifestyle, and to lessen the suffering of Earth’s creatures. It took a long time for me to fully go veggie and reverse years of omnivorous living. Moving to a place (Ithaca, NY) where a veggie diet is not only supported but encouraged made all the difference. At that time I started to ask around how others had gone veggie successfully and healthfully. What it came down to was that vegetarianism isn’t just about eliminating certain foods from your diet, but it’s about adding nourishing substitutes to your diet as well. As a result of making this switch, I became more mindful of everything I was putting into my body. Changing my diet also forced me to be more creative in the kitchen. I’m always looking for new ways to bring creativity into my life, and vegetarianism taught me to experiment with new foods and dishes I’d never tried before. Becoming veggie ultimately made me examine other areas of my life that needed my attention, and I became more in tune with my body, mind, and soul as a result.
With vegetarianism came a whole new perspective about everything that I consumed. I quickly learned that changing my diet made me more aware of my body and increased my sensitivities to certain things. For the most part I was eating lighter foods, and as my body adjusted I felt I could no longer eat many fatty, greasy foods. I would reliably get headaches if I ate super sugary foods, so I quickly developed an aversion to the saccharine. Really greasy foods like pizza, which I still enjoy from time to time, made me feel heavy and nauseated. No longer was I mindlessly scarfing down donuts or binge drinking on the weekends; vegetarianism changed my whole mindset. A shift was occurring where I couldn’t just cut out meat and call it good. I was slowly cutting out a lot of heavier things like alcohol and sugar because my body just couldn’t stomach it anymore (pun intended). It was the first time I really became aware of my body’s needs and I started to tune into it more. I learned to listen to what my body was telling me. A headache the morning after drinking was no longer just an annoyance, it was a message for me to take better care of my body. Weekend binges followed by intense daily gym workout sessions to compensate were now a thing of the past. It only took 22 years to learn how to be an ally to my body rather than constantly fight against it.
Before living in my own apartment, I detested cooking. In fact, I reviled anything that would make me look even remotely domesticated. Once I lived on my own, I had to quickly make peace with making my own meals. As it turned out, I actually enjoyed cooking and I was kind of good at it! Cooking allowed me another avenue in which to invite creativity into my life. I found solace in cooking and took pride in experimenting with new foods. Becoming vegetarian opened up a new avenue through which I could express myself and get to know myself better through cooking. Becoming vegetarian invited a certain amount of creativity, because suddenly I found myself having to meet certain nutritional requirements without my tried and true means of doing so. Now one of my favorite things to do when I go grocery shopping is to pick out one new thing I’ve never tried before and to incorporate it into my cooking. It keeps things fun and interesting in the kitchen as well as gives me a daily creative outlet.
The overhaul in my diet made me examine other areas of my life that needed cleansing and enriching. I began to explore spirituality, yoga, and meditation. You might be rolling your eyes at this point, but hear me out! Because I was eating better, I felt physically lighter and more balanced in my diet, and so I began craving balance in other areas of my life. I began to really examine certain attitudes and beliefs I held about myself and others, and I questioned all of it, throwing out whatever wasn’t working anymore and improving upon the “stuff” I kept. For the first time in my life, I was consciously choosing to live in harmony with myself instead of instinctively reacting to the external environment. My view of life changed almost completely. College Callie would have scoffed at anything remotely spiritual, but in reality that was the thing I craved the most: a connection. Through vegetarianism I created a stronger awareness of my body and that lead to craving a connection with that infinite part of me. I began to pore over many books about spirituality, anything I could get my hands on. I was healing and growing in many areas of my life and I developed a deeper understanding of myself as a result.
Changing my eating habits launched my spirituality in ways I could not have foreseen. It enriched my mindfulness and creativity and lead me to new spiritual avenues I wouldn’t have explored before. Becoming veggie was that first step in teaching me that my views don’t have to be fixed and that I can change myself accordingly. It has allowed me to become adaptable and able to evolve with my changing needs. Vegetarianism made me view my life as a daily spiritual practice and opened more avenues through which to constantly express myself and live in alignment with my personal truths. For this, I am grateful.