"Are you a vegetarian?" The question is almost inevitable when I go out to eat with someone for the first time. Whether alone or with the family, as we order our food you can see the expression on their face change. Watching from across the table, the gears are turning. And then, usually after the veg-friendly appetizers arrive and I/we dive in, they can't help but ask.
My answer is always the same, "No, I just don't eat meat." Then I smile. Sometimes that answer is enough but most of the time further inquiry is made. I choose that response because the answer is a complex one and if the listener isn't really THAT interested I'd rather not waste my breath trying to explain it to them. For those of you who are curious or maybe even flirting with vegetarianism yourself let me share...err....try to explain my stance. I know that it is one that will probably elicit criticism from both sides of the omnivore/herbivore isle but I'm OK with that.
Okay, here goes nothing...
Growing up my mother was a second generation butcher. Meat was a huge part of our lives! Not only did we eat it but other people eating it helped keep the lights on and put food on the table. Meat was a part of who I was. I have childhood memories of watching my grandfather and his crew processing dear, watching him trim the fat off of steaks, make hamburger, etc. They are fond memories and to be honest, made me more aware and appreciative of where meat comes from and what it cost.
Yet if you read our Meet Us page you saw that we eat a 95% plant based diet. We say 95% because there are exceptions. You see, we are not morally apposed to eating meat or animal products. Being plant-strong athletes is a choice that we made because we realized that the more plant based food we eat the better we feel and perform. I have learned that there is a difference between feeling "full" and feeling heavy and tired. And that plant based protein sources are absorbed by my body faster leading to faster recovery without leaving me feeling weighed down by a big burger or steak sitting in my belly.
But I am more than a plant-strong runner. I am also a Kid's Pastor, Camp Counselor, Missionary, and Business Man and I refuse to let my running aspirations affect any of these other areas of my life negatively.
Here's an example of what I mean...
As a camp counselor, meal time is a tremendous opportunity to bond with the kids in my group and so if they are only serving pepperoni pizza for lunch I am going to eat it. (*brief pause while all the vegetarians gasp*) Why? Because my job is to connect with those kids, to find out where they are in their lives and to speak positively into their lives while they are at camp. The last thing I need is for them to be distracted by what I eat or don't eat. Instead I may choose to only eat one piece of pizza and later, back in our cabin, I will pull additional food out of a "survival kit" that I bring along containing trail mix, dried fruits and vegetables, granola, Cliff Bars, etc. This helps me to maintain that the focus remains on the children and not on my diet. That is my range, what I have decided is an acceptable deviation from my diet in advance. If I slip up once in a while, it's okay. It doesn't change who I am. Tomorrow is a new day and I will start it with a clean slate.
If you are newly plant-strong (whatever that means to you) let me encourage you. If you slip up, you are not a failure. If you find yourself in a position where you have to choose between eating something you have sworn off and being miserable and you choose to eat it, it's okay. If you are a vegan and find out the restaurant cooked you veggies in butter, it's okay. Tomorrow is a new day. Forgive yourself and start with a clean slate. Decide in advance that certain deviations are acceptable from time to time. As long as you are successful most of the time you are a success. Don't let yourself be defeated by the other 5%