Why I became a vegetarian
I've been a vegetarian for more than a decade. And I still get the same question that many of my fellow veggies come up against; 'why?'
So this is my answer.
There are plenty of reasons why someone is a vegetarian or vegan. For some, it's the brutality of the meat industry and the cruel treatment of animals. Others might be raised in a culture in which the consumption of meat is against their beliefs. And some are simply curious about it.
For me, it was after a difficult night on the badminton courts.
Playing badminton has always been a release of stress and energy built up over the course of the week. The thrill and excitement of reaching a drop shot just before it hits the floor or being moved from one corner of the court to the other (and back again) is what keeps me going even if my body is begging for a rest.
About 10 years ago, when I was 15, I was feeling sluggish in my movement around the court. And for someone who never gives up on a point until it's over, that rang a loud alarm bell, especially as it wasn't an isolated incident - in actual fact, I'd had the feeling that something was 'off' for few weeks.
I knew that something had to change if I was to get back to the level I wanted to be at. I'd tried alternating between the three rackets I owned at the time, varying the shots I selected, anything I could think of. Yet, still, there was something missing.
At around the same time, tennis superstar Novak Djokovic changed his own diet after discovering that he was sensitive to gluten. Being young and impressionable, I thought 'maybe I should change my diet too.'
I wasn't completely naive - Djokovic is, of course, a professional athlete, who has honed his skills through training and the determination to improve even the smallest weakness in his game. I was just 15-year-old Dan!
Nevertheless, Djokovic's subsequent performances and success convinced me to alter my diet as well. And that is what led me to try a vegetarian diet.
The effect was almost immediate. The first time I played badminton since making the switch, I was as lively and sprightly as ever. You could argue that it was psychological rather than physical but in the weeks that followed, I certainly noticed an improvement in my all-round game, albeit I did find I was running out steam much sooner as my body adjusted to its new food source.
As time went by, I found that the 'allure' of meat faded away. In the early days, I confess there was still the temptation to have a McDonald's or KFC. Yet I reminded myself why I'd made my decision. I also discovered that while I wasn't particularly bothered by my friends and family eating meat, the thought of doing so myself made me shudder.
A decade later and I am still a proud vegetarian. Granted my diet could be healthier - more fruit and cutting down on the carbs, perhaps - but I wouldn't go back to eating meat.
My name is Dan. And I am vegetarian.