At What Age Did You Realize You Were a Veggie Eater?

I could've called this post: "At What Age Did You Realize You Were a Vegan?" But the reality is that most people go vegetarian before going fully vegan. It is a slow drip for most. You experiment by cutting out a few easy to drop animal products. Foods that you never really liked anyways. Maybe red meat. Maybe eggs. Maybe dairy. Maybe fish. Then slowly, after reading more, browsing online communities like FindingVegan, chatting with friends, watching documentaries and just exploring in general, some people, choose to transition to a fully plant-based lifestyle. While others, stay vegetarian, perfectly happy in that space, because that is what works for them.

Diet is such a personal thing! We are all so different. Each of us has to listen to our guts (literally), our hearts, and our bodies. And see where we end up.

Today, I chat about my own early journey to realizing I was a veggie eater. And how a popular 90's movie about dinosaurs actually inspired me and greatly reinforced those feelings!...

"At what age did I go vegetarian?? I have pondered this question a lot, reaching back into childhood memories, remembering foods I ate and foods I snarled at. Why did I always order the vegetarian burrito at our fave spot? Why did I always say vegetarian lasagna was my favorite meal? Where did these habits begin? Well, last night, at a movie, I found a random clue.

I hope this post is beneficial for parents of veggie-leaning kids or those who are exploring their own veggie-eating status...

The First Clue.
When and why do veggie-eaters make a shift towards more plants? For me, the first clue was literally in my gut. As a kid, I heart-swooned over certain foods, foods that were naturally plant-based. My first loves were sweet potatoes, fruit picked from our backyard or from farmer's markets and my mom's kale with garlic, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. I even liked broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I loved veggie lasagna, guacamole, spinach enchiladas and all veggies on my pizza. I was still in grade school when these food heart swoons began. I also noticed that I was very picky and skeptical about meat, fish and even eggs. If those foods were not prepared 'perfectly' or if they had something quirky about them, I swung up my nose and shoved the plate aside. I gladly found every excuse I could to not eat animals. Plants, on the other hand, were just easy for me. I mean, I didn't feel physically angry if my apple had a small bruise on it. But a vein in my chicken or odd lump in my chicken nugget and I was DONE.

I also noticed at a young age that I loved animals quite passionately. My pets, and animals like skunks and raccoons in my backyard, tugged at my heart. Now I know most kids love animals, but for me, I do remember feeling especially sensitive towards knowing my pets and animals in our neighborhood were healthy and happy.

But, actually calling myself a vegetarian is something I have always reserved for my teen years. "I went vegetarian in my teens." I have always said. Until last night! When I realized that even before my teens, I knew fervently, what a vegetarian was, and that I wanted to be one (or was soulfully, already one.)

Enter, a movie... (btw.. There are a few minor Jurassic Park spoilers below..)

So, the inspiration for this post.. Last night we went to a 25th anniversary screening of Jurassic Park. I loved that movie as a kid! Perfectly scary in a 'this can't actually happen, but the idea is so freaking cool' sort of way. The music is absolute perfection. The scenery of Kauai is so lush and beautiful. And the story and special effects, so incredibly advanced for the early 1990's. That first T-Rex scene is the ultimate scary movie moment. The water shaking in the plastic cups, the roaring sound of the T-Rex, the terror in the child actor's eyes, that scene is one of my most vivid movie memories.

My trip to Kauai a few years ago brought on some serious Jurassic Park vibes..

Twelve. So I also realized that I was only twelve years old when I first watched Jurassic Park in theaters. And sitting in a dark theater last night, watching that movie on the big screen, brought on all the exact same emotions that I felt as a kid. I remembered all the strong reactions I had at certain scenes. And I realized that the first time I watched that film, I 100% knew I was a vegetarian, and weird, I was in fact just twelve years old.

Veggie Representation. Watching Jurassic Park in 1993 is probably one of the first times I ever noticed a young vegetarian girl so prominently represented on screen. The character Lex was about my age and a smart, confidant vegetarian. I related so much with how she was sad to watch the goat and cow get used as dino-food. And how she said, while perched up in a tree, "I like cows!..." after watching a cow-like veggie-eating dinosaur chomp on a mouthful of leaves. And her confidant reply of "I just so happen to be a vegetarian." When the lawyer asked her is she "ever had pork chops, kid." I remember relating strongly to all of that, at twelve.

So the memory I gave myself that I started going vegetarian in my teens, is actually inaccurate. Even though my conscious food choices may have gone veggie in my teens, I was clearly a vegetarian in my heart long before I turned twelve.

Bring on the fruit. One of my early food loves..

So now what? Or really, WHY? Why vegetarianism? For me, I feel strongly that I was inspired by my love of animals. And a somewhat hard to put into words feeling around eating meat.

But again, just look around at friends and fam, you can absolutely be an animal lover and not go vegetarian. I think the mystery as to WHY some animal lovers go veg and others don't is one we could debate for posts much longer than this one. But for me, being an animal lover, indeed pushed me towards fully embracing my veggie-eating ways.

Small creatures. Big ones. Furry ones. Winged ones. Little hearts and big ones too. Domestic, farm and park wildlife, like these guys I found in London. Animals have a special place in my heart..

At twelve, my heart absolutely ached when I saw animals like the cow and goat in Jurassic Park being used for food. Even though this was just a fictional movie, I knew that those were the same animals that humans use for food. At twelve, I realized that, and had strong feelings of sadness, anger and even confidence about the decisions I wanted for my own body and diet. But at twelve, I probably knew very little about nutrition, diet and wellness, so actually executing a full-fledged veggie diet never happened for a good few years.

So basically, two lessons today.

1) For anyone reading this who has kids. Listen to them when it comes to animal products. Veggie or not. For whatever reason, they may already have strong feelings bound up in their heart - feelings they may not know how to fully communicate, understand or execute yet. Luckily, there are SO many veggie-eating resources for kids and their parents today. Books, food products, organizations, videos. If you need any specific resources, ask in the comments and I will be happy to help the best that I can.

In my book Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen, I have a specific section on recipes for kids. And pretty much most of my smoothies in 365 Vegan Smoothies are great for kids.

And 2) Awareness, Representation and Discussion. Seeing a young vegetarian in Jurassic Park influenced me greatly as a kid. I felt like I wasn't so strange and alone, and the veggie-eating girl was actually pretty cool. And today, something I feel proud to be able to do as a blogger is to bring both awareness and discussion about veggie-eaters, veganism especially. To share my vegan life so that others can learn, become aware and maybe even feel inspired. And the thing about talking about vegetarianism or veganism is that you do not have to be preachy to talk about it! Just share your story. We all have the right to do that. Sharing can be a positive thing for everyone. And in turn, I hope we can listen to others food stories and journeys. Those whose stories are similar, and maybe even just as important, those whose stories are different than our own.

So thank you for reading this post and sharing a memory with me!

Discussion. So I am curious? At what age did you have your first vegetarian feelings or realizations? Have you had any interesting clues into when you started to feel like you only wanted to eat plants, and not animals?

It was such a joy to share at this event last year..

And a few years ago at The Seed with Gena..

Proud veggie-eater here!

Plant-based nutrition??? It is important to note that like every diet, eating plant-based requires its own set of nutrition know-how skills and tips. I won't go into that in this post, but some of my fave vegan nutrition resources include:

- Julieanna Hever
- Ginny's book Vegan for Her
- My friend Gena, The Full Helping
- Kathy Freston's books

Over the past twenty-five years, my plant-diet has widened greatly!..

Bring me all the nuts and seeds and good veggie things....

* Blondie Power Balls recipe

And in every city, all the farmer's markets..

If I can pick-my-own berries, I always will! In Maine..

Green things please..

Being vegan has brought me so much inner peace and joy and confidence..

Animals <3

Pin this post to share with others!..

PS. Thank you to Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park for including a vegetarian character in a 1993 film!
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