I’ve always admired vegetarians. Foregoing an entire delicious food group is not easy. (I should know—I gave up candy for the first week of Lent this year.) But vegetarians put compassionate living above their cravings, and that is a level of selflessness and will power that I will always envy. As someone who has tried vegetarianism and failed—twice in the past year—I’m now gearing myself up for attempt #3. Third time’s a charm, right? Ideally, I’ll be able to leave my meat-loving ways behind me for good this time, happily driving off into the sunset, without a backwards glance at the bacon cheeseburgers in my rear-view mirror. But anyone who’s attempted vegetarianism before knows that it’s never that easy. Realistically? It usually goes a little something like this:
Stage One: Binge-Watching Documentaries
You sign into Netflix and decide to check out that Food, Inc. documentary everyone is talking about. Before you know it, you’ve also watched Hungry for Change, Food Matters, and Vegucated, and are now sobbing bitterly at the injustice of it all. You solemnly promise yourself you will never eat meat again.
Stage Two: Foraying into Veganism
If you’re going to try out vegetarianism, why not go full-out vegan? You don’t need eggs! You don’t need cheese! You are Gandhi. You are one with nature, and living on Larabars and lettuce will be a piece of cake. (A piece of egg-free, milk-free cake, of course—you are vegan now!)
Stage Three: Foraying out of Veganism, Because, Pizza
Fuck veganism. No human being should live like this. You are hungry. You are tired. You need protein. There are probably ways to get adequate protein from plant-based food, but you didn’t read that far in Skinny Bitch. Eggs and cheese, get over here—you are off the bench and back in the game! Because you need your protein, goddammit! And also, because, pizza. Yum.
Stage Four: Eating Delicious Garbage
Wow, cutting out a major food group like meat sure leaves you a lot of leftover calories to play with every day. You decide to use them wisely, on colorful fruits and leafy green vegetables. Just kidding! You fill up on delicious garbage like cookies, ice cream, and potato chips. Because these things do not violate your agreement with Mother Nature, and also because they are delectable.
Stage Five: Wondering Why You Feel Like Garbage
Ugh, you feel terrible. You thought this whole vegetarianism thing would have you feeling energetic and lean, but lately, it’s taking you two tries to get off the couch. You decide that maybe a diet of pizza and ice cream is not the way to go about this, and vow to find healthier alternatives. You can do this!
Stage Six: Eating Less Delicious Non-Garbage
You’re doing better. You’ve traded in your KitKats for quinoa, and pray you’ve been pronouncing quinoa correctly. (Key-noah? Keeny-wah?) You’ve found some healthy protein alternatives, you’re eating your fruits and veggies, and it’s…okay. Not the most exciting menu in the world, but think of all the good you’re doing and all the cute little chickens you’re saving!
Stage Seven: Envying Your Friends’ Meals When You Eat Out
You’ve been going strong, but when you head out to dinner with your friends, it’s a little hard not to eye their chicken quesadillas and sliders with envy. You could never return to that ignorant way of life, though. You dutifully return to your salad.
Stage Eight: Slipping Up
You’ve had a stressful day at work, and hit up the mall for some much-needed retail therapy. After a few hours of frenzied credit card swipes you’ll regret in a few weeks, you head to the food court to grab a salad. But wait, what’s that? The intoxicating smell of gyro meat envelopes you, and you gaze longingly at the Greek food stand. After a lengthy internal debate, you break down and order a gyro. Yes, you’ve slipped up on a food court gyro. You eat it hurriedly, casting furtive glances around you to see who is judging you for eating this “murder food.” When finished, you hastily wipe the tears from your eyes and the tzatziki from your mouth, and solemnly swear you will start anew tomorrow. This is just a temporary setback. You are still a good vegetarian. You can do this…right?
Stage Nine: Going H.A.M. at Chili’s
Wrong. CHICKEN FINGERS! MINI CHEESEBURGERS! BONELESS WINGS! Oh, rapture! Even the most steadfast of vegetarians has fallen from grace in the hallowed, grease-scented halls of Chili’s, and you are no exception. You resign yourself to the fate you always knew you were destined for: a life of beautiful, meaty deliciousness. Bliss.