One of my daughters recently asked me for suggestions on types of meat she might enjoy. I was shocked. A vegetarian for nearly 18 years, she has always found meat, well, icky.

In retrospect, I should not have been surprised about her new interest in carnivory. After all, as a researcher, I have studied vegetarians who return to meat. But I never figured she would join the ranks of ex-vegetarians, so I asked her to jot down a few words about why she originally gave up the consumption of flesh and why she now feels compelled to change her veggie ways. Here’s what she wrote….

I stopped eating meat when I was 13. I told my mom and dad that my decision was based on animal welfare and the high carbon footprint of meat. But the truth is that while I theoretically cared about animals and the planet, mostly I just wanted to be different. I lived in a small Southern town where it was more common to see the image of Jesus in a piece of toast than encounter a real live vegetarian. So while my motives weren’t entirely pure, giving up meat certainly made me different: Population of Cullowhee, NC: 9,427 meat eaters and 1 vegetarian.

For the next 17 years, I ate grains, produce, legumes, and fake meat products like those Morningstar bacon strips that have a lower nutritional value than cat food. And for the next 17 years, it seemed like I was always hungry no matter how large my bowl of beans and rice. Even worse than constant hunger, I didn’t seem to enjoy food the way other people did. Eating was a chore, like folding laundry or paying bills, but even more annoying because if I didn’t do it I would die. I was sick of being hungry, I was sick of beans and rice, and so at the age of 31, I have made a decision: I will try and become a meat-eater.

Thanks to a new study by the Humane Research Council, we now know a lot more about the psychology of why so many vegetarians and vegans, like my daughter, give up their all-veggie ways.

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