It’s been almost two years since I stopped drinking alcohol. As much as I enjoyed having a glass of wine with my dinner, not to mention champagne, I wasn’t enjoying the headache and bad mood that followed, so I decided to quit. It was a personal decision and in no way a moral one, yet I was taken aback by the number of people who seemed to take my no-booze policy as an affront to their own alcohol consumption.
“Go, on have a glass, it won’t hurt you,” they’d say when I declined a drink. It was as if my drinking would make them feel better about their own drinking.
As recently as last summer, I was a committed meat-eater, sometimes joking that if there’s only one lamb left standing on earth, I’ll eat it. “Because I need the protein.”
Yet, for reasons of personal health, combined with concern for the environment, I decided to give up meat a month ago. I thought it would be difficult, that the temptation to eat a juicy steak would be too much to resist, but it’s been surprisingly easy. True, it’s only been a month since I stopped eating meat but, without going into any intimate details, my digestive system has never been so happy.
But, just as people were provoked by my decision to quit alcohol, so some have been less than enthusiastic about my no-meat policy.
“Don’t tell me you’re going vegan and all,” some sneer, “where are you going to get your protein from?”
Actually, I get plenty of protein from beans and vegetables, and I’m already noticing the health benefits of not eating meat. That said, I make no judgement about those who choose to eat meat, including my children. I have no intention to moralise about the virtues of a meat-free diet; I’m merely doing what works best for me.
For years now, my health has been something I don’t take for granted, and as I grow older, I am finally learning to listen to my body rather than relying on the received wisdom of others. That is what’s ultimately behind my change in diet.
Just as I’m listening to my body, so I’m learning to listen to my heart. As a result, I’m beginning to question the beliefs, values and preferences that I’ve always assumed were mine, and I’m discovering that I actually don’t agree with all of them. Does this mean that I am not who I thought I was, who others think I am? To some extent, yes. For it would seem that underneath that posh, intellectual, liberal-minded exterior, lurks a rebellious radical who’s aching to come out.