It’s time you went public with your secret, said a friend.
Easy for him to say.
Stop living this double life, he said. Be honest. The truth will eventually come out, anyway.
He’s right, of course.
But when you have said the things I have said and done the things I have done, making a public confession is no easy matter.
I’ll be called a hypocrite, I told my friend. They’ll accuse me of double standards.
People are more compassionate than you think, he said. We live in an age of greater understanding. Besides, the world is falling to pieces right now so what have you got to lose?
So here goes.
I’d prefer to whisper it. But that would mean asking you to lean in and listen closely and who wants to break social distancing guidelines these days?
So I’ll just come clean and spit it … err …say it out loud.
I have become a vegetarian.
That’s right. I have forsaken meat and most animal products.
In fact, I’m damn close to becoming a fully paid-up vegan.
Gone from the freezer are lamb chops and pork cutlets and in their place are tubs of frozen vegetable soups and trays of lentil lasagna.
The pantry is filled with beans, brown rice and wholemeal pasta, and the fridge is stocked with broccoli, asparagus and carrots.
It started almost six months ago after an annual medical checkup revealed an increase in cholesterol and a sudden rise in blood sugar levels.
Not an uncommon result for a man in his mid-50s, particularly for someone whose family medical history is littered with such problems.
But those old alarm bells began pealing like a church summoning the faithful to prayer. Something had to change.
The jump to vegetarianism was hardly a leap of faith.
For years my wife and I had been gravitating toward a much healthier diet, reducing the amount of red meat we consumed and replacing it with more fish and vegetables.
But I was concerned about making the switch official because I’ve always been wary of vegetarians and particularly their hard-core cousins, the vegans.
Along with their obvious emissions, many also exude an air of superiority.
I’ve often wondered if packets of lentil burgers should contain a warning that “Over-consumption of this product may lead to excessive proselytising and the development of a holier-than-thou attitude.”
Which brings me to the things I have said and the things I have done.
Oh, the arrogance of it all.
A few years ago I co-hosted a radio breakfast show.
When the English singer and animal activist Morrissey announced he would be touring Australia again and would not be allowing any meat products to be sold in venues staging his performances, I sneered.
He should watch out, I warned.
I planned to stage a barbecue near the entrance to one of his shows. All steaks would be free. And very rare.
Last year I noted the increase in popularity of fake meat products – and wondered why militant vegans who are so opposed to eating flesh would want to devour anything remotely resembling it.
Indeed, if this column was a movie, we would now embark on one of those quick flashback sequences where the protagonist looks back on his life and remembers things he would prefer to forget.
Insert scenes of me:
- Participating in a televised steak eating contest at the age of 23 and, with blood and grease and other remnants from a 700-gram T-bone dripping down my grinning chin, loudly asking a fellow competitor “Who the hell would want to be a vegetarian?”
- Devouring two Big Macs, a cheeseburger and fries after football training before going home for dinner
- Endless Saturday mornings drooling in the queue at the local hardware store … waiting to devour a greasy, overcooked sausage slathered in high-sugar sauce and encased in a slice of stale white bread.
So many regrets. All that meat and processed food spending endless days in my gut as my stomach tried to digest it, while all that fat and sugar headed straight for my bloodstream.
An upcoming blood test will find out whether this change in diet has had any impact on my cholesterol and blood levels.
Chances are it will be insignificant because most doctors will tell you that while diet and physical exercise are critical contributors toward good health, your genes will always have the ultimate say.
I’ll be disappointed if things haven’t improved. But I won’t be discouraged.
It’s been close to six months since I officially abandoned meat and I feel so much better.
I’ve lost weight, have more energy and can honestly swear I never fantasise about a barbecued lamb chop or roast chicken.
But for all my dietary mistakes over the years, and all my scepticism about non-meat eaters, I have been right about one thing.
Being vegetarian means you just can’t help but become a little preachy.
So I’ll stop right here because I could go on…
Garry Linnell was director of News and Current Affairs for the Nine network in the mid-2000s. He has also been editorial director for Fairfax and is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Bulletin magazine