How I Became A Pescatarian

Nov 4, 2022 | Eat, Life | 0 comments

Read the story behind how I became a pescatarian 3 years ago, how people reacted to the change, and how it has been going so far
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Curious about my pescatarian diet and what a pescatarian is, to begin with? Today, I’m sharing the story behind how I became a pescatarian, how people reacted to the change, and how it has been going. 

This post was inspired by Julie Wunder, of the health blog “Running In A Skirt” and Danielle Turner, Special to the A-Blast (The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper).

A Quick Note

Before I get into today’s post, I want to make it clear that I don’t care what you choose to eat, and I am not trying to influence you to change that in any way. There are many different types of diets out there, and there isn’t a one size fits all solution for everyone’s needs. My only motive is to provide insight into my own experience and share some of the new recipes I’ve loved.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s get into the story behind how I became a pescatarian.

How I Became A Pescatarian

My decision to become a pescatarian was not planned at all!

This journey started for me around three years ago; If I remember correctly, it was sometime in July of 2019 when I was living in Houston, TX. Although I’d been wondering and researching about experimenting with giving up meat for a while, it just sort of happened due to my circumstances and finances at the time.

Back then, I had recently lost my job that previous month and hadn’t gone grocery shopping or had a cushion of savings to use in the meantime. After going through my cabinets and realizing I was at the bitter end of my food resources, I had to get creative. All I had left to eat was a couple of pieces of chicken, some fish, some shrimp, some canned tuna, and a few other things like potatoes, grains, and veggies for side options. 

I was living alone in a single apartment and didn’t have a car at the time. Being the oldest on both sides, when it comes to getting shit done, I am usually the only person I can rely on most of the time (that’s still the case).

In Houston, when I had things to do or needed to get to work, I primarily took the bus or walked to where ever I needed to go if I wasn’t able to get a ride (which was often). While trying to think of ways to get by until I secured another job, I remembered my previous journey into the vegan/vegetarian wormhole and what I had gathered. That, coupled with my cooking skills gained from my earlier years of cooking for my siblings and myself, gave me some inspiration moving forward. 

Although I was HIGHLY SKEPTICLE of the idea of not eating meat because I didn’t have the money to buy more food, I pushed on. When I ran out of chicken, I remember joking to myself and thinking, “I guess I won’t be eating meat anymore any time soon. Is there a name for only eating seafood?” After a brief Google search, I came back with the term “pescatarian.” “Welp, I guess I am a pescatarian now!” I thought to myself.

So, What Is A Pescatarian?

A pescatarian is basically a vegetarian who adds fish and seafood to their regular diet. Personally, I am in the category of pescatarians which also occasionally includes dairy and eggs.

Most simply, a pescatarian is someone who doesn’t eat red meat or poultry, but does eat fish and other seafood.

The term pescatarian was coined in the early 1990s and is a combination of the Italian word for fish, “pesce,” and the word “vegetarian.” 

Sometimes it’s spelled “pescetarian,” but this means the same thing.

In scientific literature, this diet is often described as “pesco-vegetarian,” and is lumped into the spectrum of vegetarianism (1Trusted Source).

By that definition, a pescatarian is someone who chooses to eat a vegetarian diet, but who also eats fish and other seafood.

It’s a largely plant-based diet of whole grains, nuts, legumes, produce and healthy fats, with seafood playing a key role as a main protein source.

Many pescatarians also eat dairy and eggs.

Of course, just as vegetarian diets can vary widely, so can pescatarian ones. It’s possible to eat a meat-free diet that’s full of processed starches, junk food and fish sticks, rather than a healthier one based on whole foods.

Source: Healthline

A Rocky Start

It was a pretty hard time for me. I’d joke with myself at each stage because that was the only way to keep myself from being more depressed. Even though I tried to have a sense of humor about it all, the journey wasn’t easy.

The lifestyle changes we make when we don’t have a choice can be mindblowing!

Not long after that, the time came that I’d also run out of all the seafood! “Hey, I guess I’ve made my way to the vegetarian lifestyle now!” I’d jokingly think to myself. 

Besides the apparent fluctuating mental state that I was in at the time, there came the point, after I’d run out of all the meat options I’d had, where I was increasingly low on energy and always seemed to be hungry no matter what I ate. With some research, I was able to zero in on the fact that I wasn’t getting enough protein in my diet. From there, I made the decision to focus my diet on pescatarianism because fish and seafood give me an easy source of protein, and it comes with lots of health benefits.

Learning My Way

With time, I learned that it was cheaper for me, in most cases, to buy a small selection of seafood at a time versus purchasing a variety of different meats (and having more than I may need). By the time October (or November) came around, I was in a new job with a different living situation. Being such a habitual person (I get that from my Dad), before I knew it, it was going on 4 months that I hadn’t eaten any meat other than seafood. 

One day, while I was waiting at my Mom’s job for her to get off, someone we knew had come to the barber shop with food. You know we were all excited and fat for free food, LOL! They had two to-go containers of boudin balls and offered us all a sample to try. 

If you are unfamiliar with boudin balls, they are fried balls of meat (usually pork sausage), rice, and other savory flavors. Knowing that much and that I don’t eat meat anymore, I was sure to mention that and asked if there were any without meat for me. This person assured me that some were meatless and gave me one. After biting into it a couple of times and seeing the meat, I gave it to my Mom and washed it down with some water. Of course, I mentioned that I was given one with meat, and they apologized. Shortly after eating that boudin ball, I had a pounding headache in the front of my head for the rest of that day that wouldn’t go away for nothing. 

Soon after that, I can recall walking through the grocery store and thinking to myself while passing the meat aisle that it smelled horrible. That thought alone had me in shock for a little while. After that, it set in that I was not a meat eater anymore; I couldn’t believe it! 

How People React

Anytime I am in a setting around food with people (in or out of my family), there is a whole conversation about the how and why behind my not eating meat. 

For example, whenever I am with family, friends, or other people and food is involved, if I say, “I don’t eat meat anymore, but I do still eat seafood. I’m pescatarian now.”

The nature of the comments and conversations I frequently get, when I say I’m a pescatarian, are something like this…

“You’re a pesca-what?!”
How is that even possible?”
“How un-American!”
“What kind of black person are you?”
“So, all you eat is grass now!”

Utter disbelief and confusion are how I’d sum up reactions I’ve gotten from people to my meat-lacking diet. Personally, I just have to think to myself and laugh about it as I explain my diet to people. One thing I know for sure, if you had asked me before it was my reality if I could ever see myself giving up meat, the answer would’ve almost certainly been a hard NOPE! That’s coming from the person that used four to five different meats in my spaghetti alone. 

Most of my family is from Alabama and Michigan (although we’re all spread out now), and almost all of our family functions with food include some sort of meat or fish (sometimes a combination). Only a few people in my family also don’t eat meat, so even though I didn’t think it was that drastic, my diet change was kind of a big thing. 

How the Reactions Make Me Feel

Overall, I am empathetic enough to gather that people are asking out of genuine curiosity, and the jokes and conversations are intended to be harmless. Also, as a Black community, we tend to joke with each other when we don’t understand or agree with something. Still, by the end of these conversations, it seems like people are almost always jokingly pointing fingers at my diet choice. It always leaves me feeling either like a burden or an abomination. 

With that, it can be challenging to be at some of those functions now without bringing my own food or eating beforehand. Although I said these conversations come up a lot, for the most part, my family has been accepting of my decision. There are plenty of times that those conversations have left me feeling understood and welcomed. Sometimes, people (family or not) will try to be mindful of the fact that I don’t eat meat and try to have an alternative for me.

How It’s Going

It’s been a great diet for me because it provides flexibility and convenience to an otherwise vegetarian diet which comes with even more limitations. Since this diet is less restrictive and includes food that I am familiar with eating, it has been an easier habit to keep for the long haul. I’ve also started getting into the proper processing and storage of foods I buy regularly. 

Since deciding to be a pescatarian, I’ve expanded my palette quite a bit and learned more about food than I could imagine.

The Challenges

Two of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered (that I’m still tackling) are the number of options to cook at home and what to get when eating out.

When there comes a time that I am going out to eat or to a function that includes food, it usually comes with a fair share of troubles due to limited options. I’ll sometimes notice that if I don’t go to a place that explicitly deals in cuisines that highlight seafood and vegetable dishes, they may only be one to two options for me to choose from. There are also times when I’ve been subject to only consuming sides to put something on my stomach.

As far as cooking for myself, I have always been able to throw down in the kitchen, even when I ate meat. From cooking for me and my siblings growing up, to being the friend that everyone wanted to cook for them in college, I’m not new to having to get creative or simply exploring other recipes. Whether I follow a recipe verbatim, put my own spin on it, or come up with something that I didn’t look up, I’ve got the kitchen covered! I’m true to this!

During the years that I have been committed to this diet, I’ve often found a lack of variety in what I am explicitly eating within my limited options. While I was in Houston, I was introduced to meal delivery services. As usual, with some research, I decided to give HelloFresh a try as a solution to this challenge. Although the customer experience was SERIOUSLY poor at the time (that’s a story for another time), and I didn’t get most of the boxes that I’d ordered, having the subscription met my needs by helping me to try new foods and recipes outside of my norm. Things I never liked started to grow on me at a shocking rate!

What’s Working

After moving back to Michigan in July 2020, once I got my feet up under me a bit, I decided to give HelloFresh another try. Again, I had a problem with my boxes not being delivered. This was during Thanksgiving no less, and to put even more salt in the wound, I hadn’t gone grocery shopping because I was expecting my box. But I digress. 

Once HelloFresh worked out its kinks, and my boxes started getting to me, I was introduced to even more recipes and ingredients than before. I’ve added quite a few of those recipes to my meal rotation to keep me interested and inspired with my food. 

5 of the best pescatarian-friendly recipes that I’ve gotten from HelloFresh, so far, include: 

  1. Portobello Mushrooms with Truffle Mash and Asparagus Amandine
  2. Plant-Based Protein Messy Janes Recipe
  3. Warm Buttered Shrimp Rolls with Creamy Lemon Slaw & Seasoned Potato Wedges
  4. Zucchini & Mushroom Bibimbap Bowl with Sweet Sesame Sauce & a Fried Egg
  5. Farmers Market Shrimp & Scallop Paella with Green Beans, Bell Pepper, Peas & Scallion Aïoli

In the grand scheme of things, becoming a pescatarian has been an enlightening journey that has opened my eyes in so many ways. From getting hip to the people that care enough about me to accommodate me, to learning to be more mindful of the things I put in my body, there have been quite a few benefits for me. It has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although it may not the right decision for everyone, I’m glad that I made it for myself.

Would I Ever Go Back?

The question of whether or not I could see myself returning to eating meat regularly comes up a lot too!

In short, I have thought about it. 

When the thought has crossed my mind, with some introspection, I always come back to the fact that I’m not considering reintroducing meat to my diet because I WANT TO. More often than not, the thought stems from either wanting to “fit in” more with the people I am around or wanting convenience and variety with the foods I can eat. 

Vegan and vegetarian diets have become increasingly popular in recent years because people are learning of the health benefits of eating more plant-based foods. Alongside that, pescatarian, flexitarian, and other like diets are seeing some of the same growth because they get those same benefits while allowing one to enjoy other foods in moderation.

Since the influx of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and the like, there’s been a collective hyper-awareness of the lack of inclusiveness of alternative diets with our food options at grocery stores and restaurants. In response to that, there have also been plenty of recent changes in the food and beverage industry to include more variety for us.

After eating this way for more than a few years now, it feels nice that it’s becoming more inclusive and mainstream. With the changes that have come about, I still can’t find a reason that isn’t rooted in outside influences that would get me to eat meat again. Right now, I don’t see myself going back. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it…the very detailed version of the story behind how I became a pescatarian! If you’ve made it to the end of this post (and actually read it), I’d love to hear from you!

I’ve got questions… Let’s chat in the comments!

What are your thoughts on my story?
Are you curious or have any questions about being a pescatarian?
Could you ever see yourself being a pescatarian?
What other things do you want me to share about being a pescatarian?

TL;DR

I became a pescatarian out of sheer circumstance back in July 2019; no job and no money for groceries. After eating all of the meat that I had left, I jokingly thought to myself about not eating meat anymore. After not having meat for over 4 months, having a not-so-great experience with it when I did, and the smell of it gradually becoming something I can’t stand, I kept going and never looked back. When people hear that I don’t eat meat anymore, they tend to react in disbelief and confusion, which usually leads to conversations that result in me feeling like the problem child or oddball. Now that eating meat is no longer my reality, I have experienced some great benefits that make it all worth it for me to keep going; I don’t see myself going back.

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