Yes, you have read it well : it actually took me five years to become vegetarian ! What happened to the hamburger-fan Mélo ? Why did I do such thing ? How ? Why did it took so long ? I’ll tell you everything about this long but rewarding process !
Step 0, year 2016 : « No way that I can survive without animal food ! »
To all the readers that are totally reluctant to stop eating fish and meat, I’ll write here the biggest confession of my life : in 2016, I was exactly like you. I remember perfectly the day a friend-colleague explained to me that, for religious reasons, she was not able to eat fish nor meat for 6 weeks a year. I thought right away : « How can she survive mentally and physically with this diet ? She will lack so many nutrients ! And it must be so boring to eat only carrots and salad for so long ! ». At that time, I wasn’t a huge meat-eater, but each time I went to a restaurant which offered a burger, some invisible force pushed me to take it. My beloved husband could also remind me that I was having fun of him when he was having a vegetarian steak.
That was my starting point. Long way to go from there, right ?
Step 1 : The rising environmental awareness
Why did I decide to become a vegetarian ? 100% for environmental reasons. But I didn’t even know first how tremendous would the collateral benefits be !
Everything started from this lunch conversation with a friend, who told the story of her cousin’s family who decided to become a 100% Zero-waste household. That meant stopping totally producing waste and feeding the trash-can (even the recycling one). No more plastic-wrapped products boughts, no more bottles of water, no more throwable baby-diapers (crazy, right ?), no more coton pads nor paper towel, and so on…
At that point, I couldn’t say why, but something clicked in my head. It became the day 1 of the new me, where I changed little by little my glasses to see the world with an environmental filter. But what’s the link with the vegetarian diet ? Well, I warned you in the title that it would be a long journey, so hold on a little more…
So my first reaction was right away : « These people seem a bit extreme to me ». But still, by curiosity, I started to make some deeper researches about this Zero Waste movement and what drove them so far. I found out many scary facts, for example about the famous 7th continent of plastic in the oceans, representing 6 times the size of France (here an interesting short National geographic article on the subject). I also discovered that each human being eats the equivalent of a credit card in plastic each week, and that the single-use plastic represented 40% of the total plastic produced each year. And final hit to my head, I learnt that only 9% of our waste was actually recycled, including what we put to the recycling bin.
Suddenly it appeared logical to me that I had to stop filling my trash-can with all sort of single-use materials, and start the journey to a zero-waste lifestyle.
Steps 2 and 3 : what could I do more ?
But after a while, having drastically reduced my family wastes, I realized that it only represented a tiny tiny part of what I could do to reduce my carbon impact to a sustainable level. So then I started the « Nothing New » challenge. The idea behind that was that our overconsumption of everything (clothes, hi-tech gadgets, kids toys etc…), has dramatic impact on climate, biodiversity, soil, air and water pollution, as long as social and health consequences. So I decided to reduce the purchase of new items to the strict necessary, and favour second-hand things (with zero production impact).
But this was still not enough. My personal environmental impact was still too high. My consumption dropped to around 8 tons of CO2 emissions per year, better than the average 12 tons in Europe, but was still way above the 2 tons-target set by the GIEC, which would allow us to stop the global warming and live in a sustainable world.
Continuing my researches, I had to face The Obvious from several scientifically approved articles : food represents 25% of our carbon print. And it could be divided by at least 3 by turning vegetarian ! I should have listened before to my husband and my passionately vegan colleague who gave constantly so many good arguments (that I wasn’t ready to listen) about the benefits from having a vegetarian diet !
Previously, there have been many times in my life when, after reading or watching documentaries on how cute little chicken were badly treaten in industrial processes, or the devastating consequences of the pork or beef industry on the planet, I went to bed thinking « I will never eat again a piece of meat ». And then had a burger the next day.
Nonetheless, all these informations were collected in a part of my mind. They just needed (a looooot of) time to be processed, accumulated, untill THE right moment happened. Now that I had all the cards in my hands, it was time to start my vegetarian journey !
Step 4 : how on earth can I become vegetarian ?
Nope. This wasn’t easy. At all. But after 6 months of hard battle, the rewarding time showed up !
My first big question was :
« Can I have a balanced diet without eating meat nor fish ? Will I lack some nutrients or vitamins ?«
I started to document myself (and also for fun I suscribed to a nutritionist school). After having cross-checked Novak Djokovic’s Grand Chelem performances (yes he’s vegan) with different worldwide scientific authorities’ papers, I felt relieved that, if well led, a vegetarian diet could be perfectly balanced and bring even more energy, nutrients and health benefits that a meat-based diet (for an easy introduction to the nutrition basics, I recommend the Yuka book « Le guide de l’alimentation saine »).
Then came the daily struggle :
« What will we eat today ? »
I bought a dozen of vegetarian cuisine books, and started the fight. There happened the real battles, and sometimes it was Waterloo (from the french side) in our dinner plates. It required a loooooot of efforts and time to change totally our eating and cooking habits. Sometimes toooooo much time in the kitchen.
But then suddenly, naturally, came The momentum, the Light at the end of the tunnel, when I found my new balance. It seems now easy and fast to plan the weekly meals, I’ve discovered so many new ingredients, tastes and combinations, I found my favorite plates which have a good ratio of « yumminness » / time of preparation. Vegetarian cuisine has so much hidden treasures that I don’t miss at all meat nor fish. Moreover, I never buy meat or fish for home-cooking, but as I don’t want frustration to ruin my journey, if I eat out, I don’t forbid myself to eat exceptionnaly animals products if there is no attractive vegetarian alternative.
Next step : will I become vegan ?
Hold on guys, I was born and raised in the country of the 365 cheeses, so please give me at least five more years to reach this milestone ! But what I really tried to say here is that if we want the next generation to live long and in proper conditions, we HAVE to do something and change our habits. It’s not easy, and it requires time. Time to know and understand what would really have an impact. Time to grieve over our old consumption habits. Time to transform our routines and enjoy what the nature gives us and can afford. But each step is important and meaningful, and as a friend told me : reducing our consumption from two steaks to one steak a day has the same carbon impact than reducing from one to zero. So the most important is to start the journey !