1. Everyone wants to know why, and not because they’re clueless about the fact that people do this for the sake of animal rights or health or anything in between. They just don’t understand how you could willingly give up meat.
2. You have to learn to shrug it off, to gently remind all those who seek answers that this just a personal preference, that it just serves you for whatever underlying reason it is that caused you to raise that little green flag of yours.
3. Some people will accept it, and some will stare at you as if you just spoke in tongues. “But. Meat. How?!”
4. The farmer’s market becomes your most frequented location, because it supports local agribusiness and puts the ‘veg’ in vegetarian. You’ll even get a cute little tote. (Bonus points if it features a vegetable on the canvas.)
5. Your refrigerator turns into a storage unit for ten pounds of kale, fifteen beets, and an assortment of varicolored fruits and vegetables most people have never heard of (and sometimes you’ve never heard of, but you go with it).
6. Admittedly, you’ll realize you over-estimated your ability to eat vegetables. You get used to that vaguely ripe smell is emanating from your fridge. You didn’t realize exactly how good roughage is at filling you up.
7. Holidays and family gatherings become points of contention over whether or not you’re going to eat that super-special stuffing so-and-so made from scratch. Not to mention: your vegetarian side dishes go largely untouched (but hey, you did your part).
8. Everyone will suddenly take a wild curiosity in whether or not you still eat certain food groups. “But you still, like, eat sushi, right?”
9. And after you define exactly what you do and don’t eat, people will try to muster up the ‘proper’ title for you. “So… lacto…vegetarian, yes?” (You eventually learn that other people have no place in defining you.)
10. People become really, really concerned about where you get your protein. “What about calcium? How are your muscles going to survive?!” But with enough practice, you have the answer down to a two-sentence explanation of the legumes, dairy, vegetables, and grains that have protein.
11. That there is a lot of trial and error involved when trying different “natural” foods. Between all the different substitutes available at any grocery store these days, there’s a lot of choices. (Thankfully, a lot of stores are pretty understanding when you bring something back, especially when your dreams and hopes forever dashed in regards to what “cheese” is “supposed” to taste like.)
12. You’re going to bargain with yourself to see how many times you can justify pizza as a meal. Pizzatarian is a thing. And it is a glorious thing.
13. You’re going to burn out on pizza. That’s not a fun thing.
14. “Okay but like, if you were on a desert island and all there was to eat was bacon…” Personally, I would really, really like to see this magical island where eating bacon was some evil genie’s twisted final hurdle, and my absolute last way to ensure my survival stood between certain death and getting off of this godforsaken strip of sand. Please, show me the flight tickets on Expedia. I would genuinely love to know where this place is.
15. (Please don’t put me on this island.)
16. You start missing things you didn’t even realize you’d ever miss. … Like Chef Boyardee canned ravioli. There is no rhyme or reason to this. It will just exist in the back of your mind, like an itch you’ll never be able to scratch.
17. You become a pro at scanning restaurant menus and ingredient lists, and you have a mental file of all the places in any given neighborhood that are vegetarian-friendly.
18. You’ll develop burn-out on french fries and pasta, because these are most often your “safe bets” in restaurants that are foreign territory.
19. You’ll live in a constant, minor state of fear that Nabisco might somehow un-veganize their Oreos.
20. The assortment of specialty vegetarian cookbooks you bought in a fit of gung-ho enthusiasm still sit on your bookshelf, untouched and unopened, despite the fact that yeah, you really, really need to start making a dent in all that chard.
21. Breaking the news to someone that actually, you would rather not eat at a steakhouse because you’re a vegetarian is going to feel weird the first few times you do it. Like, what if that’s their dealbreaker? What if they decide you’re great and all but they refuse to date a vegetarian? (But if your relationship really comes down to the wire over this, was it all that strong to begin with?)
22. People grow suddenly curious as to how much — if any — weight you’ve lost. On average, vegetarians tend to weigh less than their meat-eating comrades, but not everyone adopted a vegetarian diet for the concept of “dieting.”
23. People will love to guilt-trip you on all that fried chicken you used to love when you were 15. But you know what? This is you now. You decide what you eat. (Besides, deep-fried cauliflower slathered in barbecue sauce is pretty tasty in its own right.)