vegetarian salad Fotolia_41286893 © Marco Mayer -

Me and Meat is a blog series that hopes to inspire people to rethink their diets as I share the stories, struggles and successes of becoming a vegetarian. 

Over the course of my journey towards a vegetarian lifestyle, labels have always been confusing. I thought that there were these unbreakable rules and codes of conduct I have to follow if I wanted to classify myself as vegetarian. That made the transition from a meat-centric diet to a completely meatless diet difficult. As a native of the Philippines — a country with a cultural infatuation with meat — the shift proved to be even more challenging (but I’ll save that story for another post). I had to make changes and reintroduce seafood into my diet when I had no other option.

To non-vegetarians, I classify my diet as vegetarian and becoming vegan is my goal. I often feel that saying I stayed away from meat but will occasionally eat fish would receive the same result as ordering a “decaf soy latte, non-fat with extra whip cream and an extra shot of espresso.”  It’s simply easier to call myself a vegetarian, even though I don’t necessarily fit in either labels. To other vegetarians, I introduce my diet as pescatarian, to the frequent remark that pescatarian’s aren’t “real vegetarians.”

I often feel that saying I stayed away from meat but will occasionally eat fish would receive the same result as ordering a “decaf soy latte, non-fat with extra whip cream and an extra shot of espresso.”

So what’s a real vegetarian?

Being a vegetarian means abstaining from meat, fish and poultry. Vegetarians may consume grains, vegetable, fruit, nuts, seeds etc. and typically dairy products and eggs (this is called a lacto-ovo-vegetarian).

Other types of vegetarians include:

Similar to lacto-ovo-vegetarians, they abstain from meat and consume dairy products such as milk and cheese but avoid eggs.

Similar to lacto-ovo-vegetarians, they abstain from meat and consume eggs but avoid dairy products.

Vegans abstain from meat, fish, poultry and all other animal by-products including eggs, dairy and honey. In addition to diet, vegans generally will not wear or use products that are derived from animals such as fur, silk and wool. 

There are some diets that are not as restrictive on the consumption of meat. Often called semi-vegetarians, “flexitarians,” or “weekday vegetarians” those who adopt this diet reduce their meat consumption and mainly follow a vegetarian diet. Slightly more restrictive diets include: Pollo vegetarians who abstain from read meat but will consume poultry and Pescatarians who abstain from red meat and poultry but will consume fish and other types of seafood.

Then there are other mainly meatless diets that can be extremely restrictive and are relatively uncommon:

Raw Foodism
Although not completely meat-free as some opt to eat raw eggs, meats, and fish, the adopters of raw foodism consume uncooked and unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains. The idea behind this diet is that when food undergoes high temperatures, they lose most of their nutrients and enzymes.

The Macrobiotic diet is about achieving balance and health through diet. Main staples of this diet include whole grains such as brown rice and oats, local and in season vegetables, beans and sea vegetables. Occasionally white-meat fish such as sole, halibut or trout can be consumed. This diet emphasizes moderation and suggests that adopters avoid processed foods, meat, tropical fruits and spicy food.

Currently there are many different definitions to what a fruitarian diet consists of, but commonly it’s been defined as a diet consisting of primarily fruits. Some people choose to consume only fruit, while others try and aim for 75 percent fruits and seeds. Others can go as far as only eating fruits that naturally fall from a tree and are not harvested, as to prevent damage to the plant itself. Famous adopters of this diet include Apple founder, Steve Jobs.

This is more of a lifestyle as opposed to a diet. The breatharian philosophy is that it is possible that humans can live without food and water.  In constant fast, they try to survive on sunlight and air.

There are many different reasons why people adopt a meatless diet. Some people become vegetarian for the health benefits and others for ethical reasons. At A\J, we’ve countlessly covered the environmental benefits of quitting meat (which can be found here, here and here) and will continue to do so in the future. Whatever the reason, and whichever label you identify with, the effort should be celebrated.

As I continue my vegetarian journey, I’ll follow the advice of the highly quoted and “seek first to understand, then to be understood”

Eunize Lao is the Editorial Intern and a third-year Environment and Business student at the University of Waterloo. 

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