My journey as a vegetarian began after watching  documentaries about the meat industry, covering its abuses and the fact that meat is not necessary for nutrition. I was quickly swayed and decided that I would make a change to better myself and the planet. Though it was a serious adjustment at first, when I decided to start eating meat again, I almost couldn't. But since my transition back to eating meat, my quality of life has significantly improved.

1. I can eat anywhere.

Lexi Shepherd

As a vegetarian, I often felt restricted as to where I could eat. Before joining friends at a restaurant, I would always need to look up the menu in advance. Often times, the only vegetarian option was as boring as a plain garden salad. I had to decide if I was willing to have an inadequate dinner and socialize, or miss out on interacting with my friends. This applied not only at restaurants, but at friend and family gatherings too. I would be stressed in anticipation of going to a friend's house for dinner, unsure if their proposed menu would permit me to eat. I always felt uncomfortable asking people to go out of their way to make a specific food for me, so often I was either left hungry or cooking for myself before. Now, I don't have to worry at all.

2. I feel my mental health improving.

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Julia Gilman

All this planning before meals was a burden on my mental health. Vegetarianism is inherently a form of food restriction, which can bear some consequences. The stress of meals away from home made eating an unpleasant experience. Rather than being excited to interact with others over dinner, I was worried about whether there would be food that I could enjoy. This translated into general anxiety that affected my day-to-day life. Eating meat has also given me a more positive body image — by focusing less on what foods I can or can't eat, I am able to be more in tune with my body's reaction to food. I find myself much more satisfied after meals, both physically and mentally.

3. I can bond over food more simply.

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Julia Gilman

Some of my best childhood memories involved cooking with others. I have always found joy in creating dishes with loved ones and then sitting down to taste our creation. As a vegetarian, this thing that I once loved doing became another stressor in my life. I would frantically run through ingredient lists for any trace of meat. More often than not, I had to turn down the invitation to prepare a certain dish or propose an alternative that others weren't too excited about. Even if we were able to find a vegetarian option, the restriction took away from the spontaneity and excitement of cooking a meal. My transition back to being a meat eater allows me to bond more easily over food again.

4. I have more energy.

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Caroline Ingalls

About a year into becoming a vegetarian, I noticed that on most days I would wake up with a complete lack of energy. I was sleeping 8 hours a night, and yet I never woke up feeling completely refreshed. As I started incorporating meat back into my diet, I noticed that I just had an overall increase in energy. I could now go to the gym first thing in the morning, even if I didn't have the time for breakfast, and know that I would have enough energy to make it through a workout. As a vegetarian, if I ever skipped a meal or had to wait a little longer than usual to eat, I felt like I had no ability to sustain myself. Although this may have been by lack of incorporating a diversity of nutrients, it is now simpler for me to ensure that I am taking in everything that I need.

5. I enjoy more variety in eating.

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Carolyne Su

By excluding meat from my diet, I felt limited in my food choices. My meals began to feel repetitive and I lost inspiration to come up with new ideas. I could only make so many tofu recipes until I could no longer stomach the taste of it. Many of the recipes I used to love were off limits because they included meat broths. I felt myself dissecting recipes to see if they were acceptable, and for the most part what worked for me did not sound appealing to the rest of my family. I was stuck with the same meals most days of the week, while those around me enjoyed a variety of foods. This lack in variety also contributed to a loss of enjoyment in food.

Transitioning back to a diet with meat was one of the best decisions I have made for myself. Not only have I felt physical benefits, but my mental health has significantly improved. Food will never again come between me and an opportunity to socialize and enjoy myself.