I'm a Fake Vegetarian: Confessions of a Yogi

Woman participating in yoga

Two years ago, I made the choice to make some major changes to my diet and become a vegetarian. As a yogi and yoga studio owner, I’d like to say it was for spiritual reasons and that — as a yogi on the path to the best version of myself — my soul needed to give up meat.  Truthfully, it was not for that reason.

I have been active my whole life and most recently — after having two kids — I found Crossfit and yoga. I fell in love with both for different reasons and have pursued them with passion and excitement. I took certifications and online nutrition courses, as well as read books and watched YouTube videos. I completed the 200- and 300-hour Yoga Alliance Teacher trainings to help me become the person I am today. Along the way, I learned how important it is to understand that what you put in your body for fuel can be just as destructive as any drug. It is important to eat the right amounts of food and to eat clean food. So it is here my journey to being a fake vegetarian started.

Kayla Sehlmeyer of Yoga Kayla in Glens Falls, New York teaching yoga on Glen St, an annual event where participants do yoga to raise money for local chairities.

I am not as young as I used to be — and certainly not as resilient. I am prone to inflammation (especially in my knees) and feel the effects of certain foods. I noticed sugar more than anything increases my inflammation, with dairy not far behind. (I just can’t stop cheese although I keep it within reason). I managed to mostly eliminate sugar from my diet, other than an occasional square of dark chocolate. I still felt myself feeling sluggish and heavy. It’s not a weight thing per se, but just the way my body would feel. I noticed when I kept things to mostly salads and veggies, I felt light, but when I went for the steak, pork or chicken, I would get the sluggish and heavy feeling.

I started looking into why I was feeling this way when I would eat meat — which lead me to questioning where my food was coming from. Food sourcing, as it turns out, is increasingly more common since where your food comes from can tell you what kind of additives are being put in it. It enlightened me to what the culprits are for my sluggish heaviness after eating steak, pork or chicken. Food sourcing itself is more and more common in restaurateurs, health conscious food stores like Whole Foods and with a generation of people who are increasingly more aware of how food affects their health.

Depending on where your meat comes from and how it is raised and by whom, can have a huge affect on the amount antibiotics, hormones, growth promoters and other artificial additives you are ingesting. Organic is certainly a choice, but that particular choice comes with a substantial price tag for which I’m not willing to pay.

Instead, I decided to eliminate those completely from my diet and become a vegetarian, but there was one problem: my intake of protein decreased. As an active person, I need a substantial amount of protein and sources for a vegetarian are not always easy. Beans have their own musical side effects and I can rely on protein powders, but that presents the same predicament as the one I am attempting to solve: what exactly is in them and where it all comes from is unbeknownst to me.

I’ve always loved fish and am excited to have recently found out that one of my favorites — tilapia — is a clean and sourceable option. Clean tilapia (imported from the Latin Americas and available in the U.S.) is fed a plant-based diet that contains no hormones, antibiotics or growth promoters. It is as clean as food can be and is also high in protein and low in calories. One of the largest importers on the east coast has a myriad of information on where their tilapia is coming from available at cleantilapia.com. There are also amazing recipes at eattilapia.com and if you want to know more about the company which is based out of Rutland, Vt., you can check out Tropical Aquaculture.