breaking up with vegetarianism.
I became a vegetarian in the fall of 2015. It was a slow progression of not eating red meat, to staying away from chicken and turkey (Connor is allergic, and it made meal prep easier.) to eliminating fish as well.
In the beginning, I had no intention of this becoming a lifestyle; it was more something I decided to try on a whim. As I learned more about how a plant based diet was not only less cruel on animals, but better for the environment, (more information here, too.) I became more gung-ho about this new found lifestyle.
At first, I did rather well as a vegetarian. As time went on, though, I quickly learned that I was severely deficient on quite a few vitamins like Iron, Magnesium, and B12. This led me to feel lethargic and incredibly tired all the time. After consulting with my doctor, her suggestion was that I needed to eat beans at every meal and start taking an Iron supplement. (Additionally, I started taking a nutritional shake through Vega which is made with pea protein.) Like quite a few people, my body didn't handle the Iron supplement well.
The main issue started when I realized that my body didn't tolerate legumes and soy well at all. For quite some time, I dealt with severe bloating, stomach pain or general discomfort when trying to get enough protein and vitamins to my body.
After consulting with a nutritionist, she looked at my diet and food allergies and point blankly said "You're not getting enough nutrients, and we need to do something about it." It took me a couple of weeks to fully grasp everything she told me, but as I started to rack up how I had been feeling the last year and a half, a lot of items didn't add up for me: not feeling my best, anxious around meal times and meal prep, tired, moody, lethargic, and for purely vanity reasons: weight gain. I realized that I hadn't been listening to my body, and while my motives were completely pure, that this lifestyle wasn't working for me physically or emotionally.
So, I broke up with vegetarianism. In the past couple of weeks, I've added organic chicken and fish back into my diet, and I finally feel like my body is getting back on track. This lifestyle didn't work for me personally because of all my food intolerances, but I know it works well for quite a few others. The best advice I can give is that you need to listen to your body. If you start to feel different physically and emotionally, it's best to consult your doctor. (My doctor is internalist, so she's not one to nix a vegetarian diet, but does take everything on a case-by-case basis.)
Since adding chicken and fish back in, I've come across several studies that talk about the link between anxiety and vegetarianism. Right now, the research isn't clear as to what came first. Several studies believe anxious people are likely to be drawn to vegetarianism as a way to control things, but there isn't conclusive evidence. If you're interested in reading more about it, I linked some studies below.
Lastly, I think someone's choice of what they do and do not eat is completely up to that person. Some people are fine with dairy, legumes, gluten and meat while others are not. It's important to listen to what your own body does well with. Personally, I don't do well with gluten, dairy or legumes. And, while there is quite a bit of concrete evidence that going vegan or vegetarian can significantly improve the environment, I don't think we should shame those that realize this is not a lifestyle that works for them.