Volume 8

Sometimes a part of us says “Yes!” to new habits, but the sneaky mind swings in with an obstinate “No!”. That’s what is happening to a couple of friends who are toying with the idea of going vegetarian.

Learning that I had written “9 Easy Tips to Going Vegetarian” in Volume 6 of bodymindsoul, a friend expressed a heartfelt wish to become a vegetarian because she disliked watching animals suffer. Her block is her extensive travels to many parts of the world where people are absolutely unfamiliar with the concept of vegetarianism. Basically she feared not being able to cope in such situations. Understanding her situation all too well, here’s what I shared with her.

Lessons In The Wild
Years ago, I went on a camping trip into the Malaysian virgin forest with a bunch of nature lovers. Thinking it would be difficult to arrange for vegetarian fare (this was after all a group of hearty meat eaters), I broke my practice of going vegetarian on Saturdays, something that I had been doing for some time. However, I came away regretting my decision.

At each meal, I observed how a fellow camper stuck fast to his vegetarian lifestyle. He accepted whatever vegetables were served, without a single complaint. For many years Alan, a widely traveled photographer, has been doing that on both local and overseas trips. He was living proof that anything is possible when you set your mind to it. Rather than viewing the problem as a no-win situation, I should have talked to the organizer and worked something out.

Patience When Ordering
At times I still have to repeatedly explain my vegetarian orders in major Malaysian towns. For example, due to cultural practices, some Malay restaurants are totally unfamiliar with the concept. That was the case at a beach side restaurant in Kuantan on another trip. Fortunately, once the chef understood our needs, she cooked up the most tantalizing vegetables delicately flavored with ginger. She herself was amazed by how good it smelt! I would like to think that we had inspired her to dish up more purely green fare.

I have had similar problems at some Chinese restaurants too. This was unexpected as I do have a fair number of Chinese friends who are vegetarian or go vegetarian during full moon and new moon days. It goes to show that you should not make assumptions.

As a side note, it’s also during conversations with stumped cooks, chefs and waiters that I discovered that some Malaysians think that “shrimp” and “fish” are okay for “vegetarians”. So do make an effort to explain your diet to the waiters clearly!

All these are part and parcel of being a vegetarian, no matter which part of the world you find yourself in. Over time, you learn to become patient and detailed in your orders. It’s a habit that can be successfully cultivated over time.

Age & Diets
The other question that my friend was concerned about was if it is okay to start a vegetarian diet later in life. She had been told that the older the person is, the more difficult it is for the body to adjust.

As I had stated in my previous article, it is best to start slow by going fully vegetarian for one day in a week. Work your way up and do your own research on staying healthy. And I cannot stress enough on how important it is to listen to what your body is telling you.

The truth is that after a couple of months of fully embracing a vegetarian diet, I encountered a challenge. One fine day, the upper left side of my cheek hurt a little. “Could it be my teeth?” I pondered. After my dear dentist had very confidently did the bang-the-teeth “test” (I will never understand why dentists think all teeth are hard as rock) she happily proclaimed that all was well. Puzzled, I came back home feeling dejected.

Later, sitting in front of my computer, I felt a huge wave of sadness for no reason and the tears flowed unchecked. It had happened several times so far. “Why have I been so emotional lately?” I pondered. “Is menopause setting in?” Okay, so that last thought made me sob even more! And that’s a tale for another day.

I discovered that those were some symptoms of B12 deficiency. All of which disappeared with help from a pharmacist. I suspect I had been having low B12 for a long time even during my meat eating days. As food like cheese containing animal rennet had already been cut out, I was lacking a lot of vitamin B12 in my body. I found out later that dairy products is a good source of B12 and I wasn’t crazy about milk.

Up till today I am still learning about what works for me. It’s good to continuously compare notes with fellow vegetarians and alternative health experts. I hope that all readers who wish to explore vegetarianism will approach it with a green warrior’s determination and succeed beyond your wildest dreams!

Sheela Prabhakaran is a writer and trainer who has a keen interest in people and nature. Her career started out in publishing followed by many years in Corporate Communication. Over time she has reached out to people of all walks of life through copywriting, writing books and articles. Her training experience includes Business English and Communication. She has embarked on an exciting new spiritual journey which sees her exploring more ways to share ideas on leading a healthier and happier life. She can be reached at