Why I Stopped Eating Meat, Part One

This post could also be entitled “symptoms of being a youngest sibling.” Remember about a week ago when I introduced you to my family? Well, as you may have inferred from the introductions and photos, I’m the youngest of four girls!

From left to right: my sister Kelsey, myself, my sister Megan, and my sister Lindy. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be just like my older sisters, especially when I was younger. While I’m sure they were just as nerdy and homeschooled as I was, in my eyes they were the most beautiful, smartest, and coolest girls I could conceive of. If they cut their hair, mine was immediately too long. Their current pastime was the only thing I wanted to do, and whatever room they were in immediately became a desirable fortress.

I’m sure having a mini-me that constantly imitated them and followed them around was irritating, but for the most part they included their annoying lil’ sis.

Why do I tell you this? Well, because my sister Kelsey is the original reason I stopped eating meat. She went vegetarian, and shortly thereafter I swore off meat as well. February 2008, I decided to go vegetarian for a year, whatever that meant. I’d abstain to see what it was like, and I completely expected to be eating meat once the year was up.

This from the girl whose favorite foods were Wendy’s hamburgers and beef-laden tater tot casserole. From the ages of 8 until 13, when we got fast food (a somewhat rare occasion) I would knock back two junior hamburgers, ketchup, mustard, and extra pickles, an order of chicken nuggets, french fries, and a root beer or frostie if my mom would let me. I cringe to think of the type of food I ate, but I was growing up on a farm and growing fast! I needed a lot of fuel, with my mom’s home cooked meals supplemented by . . . “food” that I thought was delicious.

Since I did grow up on a farm of sorts, I grew up eating lots of fresh vegetables and good food, and knew my way around a kitchen. I could cook and follow a recipe and I enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t always a priority. Once I stopped eating meat, I started to increase my time in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting with different combinations.

It was after, and not before, I became a vegetarian that I started reading books like Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I began to discover a whole wealth of literature about our food system and its flaws, and the health, environmental, and social benefits of ascribing to a vegetarian diet. Once the year was up, I never looked back–I knew I wasn’t going to eat main stream meat ever again. Now, sustainable food is my passion and what I’m studying in school.

I guess it’s good that I’m a copycat who wants to emulate her big sisters so much. Even better that I have strong female role models that I can emulate and know that I’m aspiring to something wonderful. Without my big sis Kelsey’s influence, I probably never would have discovered my interests in what I am now pursuing as a vocation. So there it is: no breaking, philosophical moment that made me decide to stop, only a little sister wanting to be like the person she’d always looked up to.

She just graduated with a degree in Nutrition, and secretly (or not so secretly) I still want to be like my big sis. She’s my go to source now for nutritional wisdom, and a continuing inspiration to find out about the effect food has on my body.

Who has had the biggest influence on you?

 

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Meet My Family

To understand me a bit, and some of the stories that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks, I’d like to introduce you to my family!

Let me apologize for the week without posts–I am currently transitioning from one internship to the next, and this week has been a challenging one. It’s been filled with revelation, self-discovery, and some emotions and realizations that I’m sorting out. I’ll touch on that soon, and how this blog will begin focusing on the relationship between our spirituality and our physical health (while still featuring plenty of recipes)! I have a few of those to share with you that I’ve made, photographed, and devoured . . . YUM!

 My mom is above on the left, I’m in the middle, and my father’s on the left.

The entire family jokes that I am a miniature version of my father–we finish each other’s sentences, think the same way, have inside jokes, the same foot shape, and have a running competition (and have since I was about twelve years old) about who is “right” more often. I’m currently winning 🙂 My momma is a wonderful, dynamic woman that inculcated a deep appreciation of nature, plants, and gardening within me. She is a great lover of people–growing up, I’d often go into our basement to find someone sleeping on a bed that needed “some time to get back on their feet.”

My sister Megan and her husband Tim.

My oldest sister is my mentor, role model, and friend. She has been an incredible source of wisdom and joy in my life, and she currently has her own company, The Binding Bee, that I interned with last summer. Her husband Tim is witty, thoughtful, creative, and contemplative. I wish I could live with them always, and experience the warmth, joy, and happiness that emanates from within them. I love them both so dearly, and they have both shaped and fostered a good portion of my personal growth!

My second sister, Lindy, and her husband Blain.

If I am a copy of my father, my sister Lindy could be a miniature version of my mother! She is about to have the first baby in our family (SO EXCITED!) and is incredibly intelligent, advice-giving, beautiful, and innovative. I appreciate her constancy, calmness, and laughter. Blain is the older brother I didn’t have growing up–playful, protective, sweet, and very diligent and hard-working. He’s also the only person I’ve ever met to be able to toss me over a shoulder and run around like I’m a child!

My sister Kelsey and myself.

Kelsey! Growing up, Kelsey was my constant companion. She is incredibly selfless and a wonderful sister, as well as being adventurous, spontaneous, diligent, creative, and having the appearance of a goddess. Growing up (and still) I undulate between desiring to emulate her as my kick-ass older sister and being jealous of her beauty, courage, and general being.

Who has impacted you most in your life? 

Greetings!

Somehow, though I love to write and this should feel more like an introduction than a chore, I feel like I’m about to begin one of the college application essays that plagued me last year around this time. Wouldn’t it be nice if my blog were already established, if you knew me already and I could just muse about the day or share some tasty tidbits.

But you don’t, so here goes! A sampling of sorts with more substance to come in later posts. 

My name is Michaela. It’s nice to meet you. As a college freshman meeting new people every day, I’ve pretty much gotten brief introductions with strangers down. This, however, will take a little bit more time. I’ll try to keep it from getting too wordy, but please forgive me if I do!

I go to school in South Carolina at a small liberal arts university that I love. I have not yet declared a major, but I am passionate about sustainability (particularly in relation to food and agriculture) and nutrition, but I am also enamored with the Spanish language. It was a twisty road that brought me to where I am (not only geographically—also spiritually, mentally, and physically!), but one I’m glad I ventured upon and emerged from whole. I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Growing up, I had a less than notable yet perfectly idyllic childhood placed in central Ohio. My family owned a little over 13 acres in the country, and I since I was homeschooled until sixth grade I had ample opportunity to roam the woods, play in the creek, catch tadpoles from the pond, and perform my allotted chores associated with our hobby farm. The youngest of four girls, my older sisters flip flopped between doting on me and teasing me mercilessly, but I even when I whined I loved the attention and affection. 

I’m the cute, slightly odd-looking baby with what appears to be a Mohawk.

When I was fourteen, the father changed jobs and up and moved us from the farm to the dismal, dreary place of his birth . . . Houston, Texas. I’m not going to dwell too long on Houston, except to say that I was not initially a very happy camper. Moving was good for me. It helped me to mature, but after the move I found that I missed the community that had been established for me in the Midwest. I missed my childhood friends, the church I’d grown up with, and the land that was my home. Friendships took effort, and as a slightly embittered teenager I wasn’t eager to reach out and abandon my claim to my home, to Ohio. This left a hole. I was no longer sure who I was, where I fit, and what gave me value.

My, this is turning out to be a bit longer than I expected! Hold on for just a bit longer, I’ll wrap it up soon!

 I’m pretty tall and somewhat slim, so I’d always experienced a litany of folks either telling me to model or asking if I did. When I saw an ad online for a casting call at my local mall, I tentatively approached my mother and father. Though rather ambivalent, my mother accompanied me on the excursion that was to send me sliding down an oily and perilous path. Naively, (or dumbly) I thought that modeling would somehow give me value and make me special. Instead, it led to a long battle with my body, isolation from my family and friends, a vacancy in my relationship with God, and a distorted relationship with food. Somehow, I forgot that I was already valuable, and already very unique. 

Whew. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at any of these photos. Well, that’s me—skinny, trying desperately to convince myself I wasn’t miserable. I’ll probably end up telling the whole story one post (or two or three or four, trying to contain it to one . . . that would be a challenge). I stopped modeling, I regained myself and my values, and now I’m on a journey, a pilgrimage if you will, to health. I desire health overflowing—mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

And I welcome you to come along with me.