South African LD Triathlete of the Year 2011/2012


I only eat carrot sticks – or so the myth goes! Nobody ever questions the contents of the plate of an Omnivore, or Carnivore for that matter, but heaven help you if are a Vegetarian! I have been a “full – on” Vegetarian for 18 years now, yes, that’s right folks, no animal, fish or chicken flesh has entered my mouth or digestive system for nearly two decades now. I have been questionned and ‘advised’ more times than I remember, and can only but sigh when asked “You must be lacking something??” or “How do you manage to do all the training you do and you don’t eat meat??”. And of course my favourite (usually softly spoken as if referring to a terminal illness) “Why don’t you eat meat?” – funny, no-one ever asks meat eaters why they EAT meat?!

Anyhow, for the pleasure of my readers, I have decided to try and dispell the myths without reverting to any sarcasm :).

1. Why I don’t eat cow, fish or chicken  –  Vegetarianism has always been in me. I have never liked meat since childhood. As an adult, I do not approve in any way of killing any creatures for food – I believe it is intensely cruel and barbaric, and completely unnecessary. Humans can survive perfectly well without it. To top things off, ‘meat production’ (here we could never refer to animals, capable of feeling emotion and pain, it would make us far to uneasy), has a hugely damaging impact on the environment….so we put our blinkers on and pretend that what we do not chose to see cannot possibly affect us.

2. I only eat carrot sticks – Or salads for that matter. Go to any regualr restaurant as a Vegetarian, and ask for the available options, the first response is almost always “Oh, er… (stunned expression), we have some lovely salads!”. Yes thank you, after a 6 hours training day, a salad is exactly what I am looking for ;)! The ladies in the gym changerooms are also experts at this one – “Eish! You must be eating only salad to be so slim??” *sigh* it could never be the hours of training that could be the contributing factor to ‘slimness’?. Ok, so put the myth to rest, I actually do love carrots (my favourite veg), I am an expert in salad preparation, but I do eat lots of carbs and proteins (the type without eyes 😉 ).

3. I must be lacking something – Of course Vegetarians are lacking in everything, except a conscience ;D. We are pictured as pale, hippy like people who wear crochet and tie-dye :D. Naturally, if you ever happen to have a sniffle or a bad race, it has to be because you are ‘lacking’ something! Vegetarians are not allowed to show any form of physical weakness without being lambasted by the ‘normal’ folks. Interestingly, the ‘something’ that we are lacking is never quite defined. To prove this theory wrong, I submitted myself to a series of blood tests after feeling a little ‘off’ after my travels to China last year. The Doc had absolutely no idea that I am a Vegetarian, and on the return of my blood tests, he revealed that I was in fact in excellent health, not lacking in ‘anything’ and that I merely had picked up a little stomach trouble from eating food I was unaccustomned to. To prove the point, I specifically asked for my protein and iron results- and guess what? Wasn’t short of any of those…

4. I do not belong to any strange religious sect – This one makes me giggle :). I do not abstain from flesh for any ‘religious’ requirements, though, if I were not an Aethiest I would probably be rather supportive of any religion or cult that condemned flesh eating!

5. I am not offended sitting at a table with meat eaters – I cry tears for every animal that is killed to satisfy human greed, maybe you don’t! I do not care what is in your plate, the guilt is yours to bear, not mine. In the same breath, do have the decency NOT to analyse my carrots!

6. Yes, it is very possible to be a competitive athlete and not eat meat – Just ask Dave Scott.

I do not wsh to lecture anyone, or promote Vegetarianism to anyone with a penchant for a Sunday Braai, but I do wish to eliminate the myths!

Now being comfortably in my thirties, I, like many others my age, have started to realise that I do have to pay attention to what I eat (actually, how much I eat). Gone are the days of my youth where I was able to eat a whole pile of junk after training because ‘I deserved it’. Nowdays, it is quite possible that my jeans can feel a little tight in the post-race season ;D. 




2 Responses to “I only eat carrot sticks”

  1. M'Zanne on October 31st, 2011 9:37 am

    Hi Bean
    This is a stunning and well written article.
    I eat meat. I am what I was created to be the guy with the meat eating teeth and all of that. As you know, I love and care for animals to the point of self destruction.
    What is important to me is how the meat gets onto my table. Other than the autism, I see myself as a version of Temple Grandin… Animals need to live a quality, stress free live, in a safe and cared for environment. When it is “time for them to be slaugthered”, it has to be done in a stress free, humane environment.
    For 18 months, I did not eat any meat and I picked up so much weight! It was awful, so, I started again. I can only contribute this to ignorance and not being educated in a healthy veg diet. Clearly that is what you are on. You look magnificent and I envy you.
    How about sharing your diet with me, specifically the protein alternatives and I will do my utmost to stick to it.
    I would love to NOT eat meat.
    Lots of love x

  2. Brian Pivo on October 31st, 2011 5:18 pm

    Thank you for a delightful article Caroline. (You knew you were going to get a response from me.) I share almost all of your views and feelings on this topic.
    Having an enquiring and philosophical mind I welcome genuine curiosity. Sadly, I have to admit that in the 30 years that I’ve been vegetarian, I have seldom, if ever, encountered a real interest in my choice of diet. However, I can relate to the challenging and sometimes belittling stance that questioners often assume since, before becoming vegetarian, I found vegetarian threatening and non-vegetarianism very difficult to abandon.
    The truth is that the reasons for meat-eating are not health, humanitarian or environmental. They are simply based on a combination of conditioning and an addiction to the taste.
    Yet, it’s interesting that the debate continues into the 21st century. Surely in this age of enlightenment we should not expect the “odd one out” to explain his choice especially when it is so obviously the sensible one? Surely, with the heightened levels of awareness for health and the environment we should not need to justify ourselves?
    I’ve noticed that my children (17 and 20), who have been vegetarian since birth, take no interest in the debate. This seems to confirm that it’s the departure from what we consider normal that is questioned (and which is found threatening) rather than its merits.
    For this reason, I’m afraid that as a small minority we will always have to answer for our choice and explain our views. A wise friend once said “the majority is always wrong”. Although in this case it’s certainly the true, I’m sure that, being a generalisation it can’t always be so. But I haven’t yet thought of an example to disprove it. Can you?

    By the way, some words of advice for would-be vegetarians: you can as easily be unhealthy as a vegeratian as non-veg. Take care to eat fresh food daily and small meals frequently. Stick to whole grains as far as possible (much of the protein in rice and wheat is stripped away when they are refined into white). If it’s glutinous, it’s got protein (such as oats). [My dad who wasn’t vegetarian said that the protein “myth” was started by beef farmers in the UK after WW2 when people discovered they had healthily and cheaply survived their meat rationing.] Incidentally, brown rice and brown lentils cooked together make a delicious and complete protein combination. Active women apparently should watch their iron levels. If vegan (no milk) take care not to neglect calcium sources (sesame seeds in tahini). Above all do a little reading and be sensible.

    And, lastly, if you’re not really vegetarian, please don’t confuse restaurant staff by calling yourself one and then ordering fish and chicken or beef stock gravy or soup. Technically there are three types of vegetarianism: 1. Vegan (no animal products at all, not even milk or honey); 2. Lacto-vegetarian (honey and dairy are taken but no eggs); 3. lacto-ovo vegetarian (take dairy and eggs). Beyond lacto-ovo, it’s called omnivore.

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