“Sorry you didn't get a cookie earlier! You can have one when we go back to class,” my friend told me. It was the day after the election and my friend had brought treats to celebrate.
“Don’t worry about it. I can’t eat them anyway, remember?” I replied easily.
I smiled inwardly. Three years ago, the same question would have gotten a different response. The voice replying would have betrayed reluctance and craving. Now, it was automatic.
During my freshman year, after attending a seminar on lacto-vegetarianism, I switched diets. It wasn't that hard to make the decision after listening to the compelling arguments from the seminar. The fact that my parents would try with me, made it considerably easier as well.
The hard part was actually following through. Lacto-vegetarianism involves a diet free of meat, eggs, and gelatin but allows dairy products. Giving up meat wasn't that difficult since my mom didn't like cooking meat anyway. Eggs and gelatin, however, were a completely different story. When I decided to become a lacto-vegetarian, I didn't think about the fact that almost every commonly sold baked treat in America contains eggs. Facing this fact made me question whether or not I could handle my decision.
I started to avoid places more likely to test my resolve, especially the grocery store. It was no longer the place where my sister and I loved going, simply to eat the free kids’ cookies. It was no longer the place where I could nag my mom to buy a box of chocolate sprinkle cupcakes. Instead, every time I walked through an aisle, I could feel food mocking me. The grocery store was suddenly a foreign territory.
However, resistance became easier over time as I became diligent about reminding myself why I became a lacto-vegetarian in the first place. I started to gain the strength to decline whenever I was offered something delicious and sure to contain eggs. I no longer felt my heart break every time one of my friends bought a brownie after lunch. Soon, it was becoming more and more natural not to eat dessert. The next time my mom asked if I wanted to go grocery shopping with her, I thought I couldn't be more ready.
As soon as we entered the store, I knew I was wrong. Right inside the doors, a showcase of cookies had been set up. They were the frosted kind with sprinkles. My favorite. I imagined the doughy feeling between my teeth and smooth frosting on my tongue. My mouth watered. I ran out of the store and back to the car to forget I ever knew what cookies tasted like.
Eventually, my friends intervened. For my sixteenth birthday, I was gifted a 250-page, lacto-vegetarian cookbook.
“Just because you’re a vegetarian doesn't mean you can’t enjoy dessert,” my friend reminded me as I finished flipping through the book. I didn't know whether to cry or laugh. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that my decision only involved eliminating meat, eggs, and gelatin from my diet– it didn't mean I had to give up my favorite treats!
Immediately, I knew I would make the frosted cookies first. I found the recipe in the book and spent an entire afternoon making my first lacto-vegetarian frosted cookies. When I finally took my first bite, all the tears my sweet tooth had cried since I made the switch melted away. I lavished in the doughy feeling that I had tried to forget. I savored the feel of frosting on my tongue. I was satisfied.
Becoming a lacto-vegetarian was one of the best decisions I've ever made and taught me some crucial lessons. Self-discipline is vital. Don’t lose track of the goal. And most importantly, where there is a will, there is a way.