On October 7th, 2013, I decided to become a pescatarian.
In case you’re unaware of what this neologism of the Italian pesce (fish) and the more familiar term ‘vegetarian’ means, it’s basically a term that describes someone who eats seafood but not the flesh of other animals. Basically, it’s a step away from vegetarianism and two steps away from veganism – or so I’d like to describe to people.
I decided to make the conscious decision after watching a documentary entitled Food Inc. I know, I know; you’ve probably heard time and time again about that gullible child, wild-eyed, watching some terribly twisted ‘bad food’ busting sensation, but in all honesty the decision wasn’t made on a shallow basis. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Food Inc is a bad, or grossly ‘misinformed’ documentary. In fact, it may be one of the most insightful, impactful documentaries I have watched in my entire life. All I’m saying is that there is a general preconception that the media can distort many aspects of everyday life, and everyday foods and health are some of the things that can be warped so easily in today’s society.)
What I realized while watching Food Inc was not only how injustice is inherently weaved into our food system, jeopardizing the lives of both animals (that are raised and killed in incredibly horrific conditions) and humans (such as illegal immigrants, who work in meat-packing industries before being arbitrarily arrested on a systematic basis), but also that food is something we often assume to be absolute, and hence unquestionable. I never really thought about food before. I mean, food is food, right? I eat a box of cornflakes in a nation thousands of kilometers away from its country of origin… so what? But once we strip ourselves of that image and realize that there are so many layers beneath what we eat – which I eventually grew to do – I thought: if I’m only going to be living in this Earth once, and if the Earth is going to supply me with everything I need to make that life whatever I want it to be – why not assist it in the littlest way I can? And in that moment, my decision was made.
I hadn’t been eating much beef anyways prior to that point, and my primary meat was probably chicken. I decided to not go so far as to become a vegetarian because a) my meat-reliant Asian background would mean my mom would have a terrible time cooking for the entire family (which would have been quite insensitive of me) and b) I guess you can’t let everything go at once, and sushi was one of the things I really didn’t want to let go yet…
But anyhow, as I expanded my knowledge on how food works and how being conscious of what you consume actually affects your life, I grew to realize that becoming a pescatarian was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Why?
Firstly, being conscious of what you consume feels so good. Whereas before I used to mindlessly chug things down at parties like a malfunctioning machine, now I’m always aware of what I put in my mouth and what actually goes into those things. I ardently read nutrition labels with a passion, and that has allowed me not only to avoid meats but also avoid heavily processed goods – for example, noting high fructose corn syrup or unnecessary colorings and preservatives does actually deter me from consuming the amounts I used to consume of what may be considered ‘bad’ foods. I used to have a pastry every morning for breakfast, since the days of Primary to Secondary… and I never realized what implications that had to my mood, my health, and my body. But because pescatarianism has allowed me to think before I eat, as well as actively research nutrition in order to best complement my health, I’m definitely more aware and ready to face the world tackling the body baddies and embracing the goodies.
Secondly, being pescatarian means you have the best of both worlds depending on circumstance: you either cut down choices or increase choices for yourself, whatever you may please. When I’m at restaurants or buffets in which there are infinite chances to gorge on unhealthy goods, more often than not the majority of choices contain meat. Which can be a bummer, at first, but then again that leaves me less to choose from! Which means less stress and less of ‘oh I wish I’d gotten that’! And of course, healthier choices, because a lot of times people seem to connotate ‘vegetarian’ with ‘healthy’ – case in point: when I order a vegetarian meal on flights, the dessert is literally sweet tofu. And that’s in comparison with a fully fledged, chocolate-y brownie. Bingo.
When it comes to increasing choices, I’ve learnt so much about how to find substitutes for protein, minerals etc. I’m a massive consumer of non-dairy milk (almond milk, primarily), TOFU, quinoa, beans nuts (pumpkin, pecan, almond) and seeds (namely flax). I don’t feel ‘weak’ after not consuming animal-based proteins. In fact, I feel stronger, because I feel less lethargic when I eat a plant-based diet. My skin’s getting clearer too, so everything’s a plus.
When people say it’s perfectly worthwhile to try becoming vegetarian, even if it’s just for a week or incorporating it into your lifestyle every Monday, I agree wholeheartedly. Becoming more aware of what you consume and how it impacts your body is such a great change to introduce to your life, especially if you’re adventurous or simply want to rejuvenate and health-ify/detoxify your life.
So if there’s one thing I leave you with in this little post, it’s this: try something new and try the pescatarian/vegetarian life. You’ll enjoy it. A lot. And you’ll learn so much along the way.