I Randomly Decided to go Vegetarian the Day Before a Pig Roast and Meat Fondue Party. You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!
Me indulging on my one true meat-love: Pulled Pork
I think there are two types of vegetarians in the world; those who want everyone to know they are vegetarian and those who really don’t want anyone to know. I’m not dissing those who are vegetarian for legitimate ethical reasons and believe in spreading those views. I’m talking about the people who seem like they literally chose to stop eating meat so they could announce that they’d have the vegetarian option at the next business lunch to get more attention. That’s definitely why I decided to try it.
Actually, about 2 months ago, I completed a clean-eating challenge that was similar to the Whole-30 program. The biggest thing, and the root of all good diets (IMHO), is veggies first. If I eat as many veggies as I want, the rest of my diet is positively impacted. I don’t feel as hungry, I don’t snack as much, I have more energy during my workouts, and my digestion is better.
Following that philosophy made me realize that 1) I love veggies and 2) I’m not all that into meat. I started to discover that ordering meat on a salad at a restaurant, or cooking meat to add to a dish at home, felt like an obligation. I knew that proteins like chicken and turkey were great lean sources of protein. I work out a lot so I need a lot of protein. But I hate cooking meat and it’s expensive, especially when I’m rarely craving it.
A lot of people I stayed with or interacted with in Europe were vegetarian which made me question whether or not I could do it too. One of my hosts talked about a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” and how it influenced her vegetarian diet. Although I watched it right when I got home, I try not to be one of those people who watches a one-sided documentary and changes their entire life. There are obvious benefits of vegetarianism to the environment and animals, but my main interest remains in health & fitness…cause I’m selfish like that. The more research I’ve done, the more I’ve realized the health benefits of consuming a mostly plant-based diet.
Trying it on for Size
I really wanted to try being vegan, you know, since I like depriving myself of things I love, like cheese. My thought was that giving up dairy was not that difficult during the Whole-30 challenge and I had already decided that meat wasn’t my favorite thing…so I would just go all-in. I did a little reflecting and realized that going from eating meat and some dairy at nearly every meal to vegan is pretty drastic. Why not try out this vegetarian thing first?
So on a random day I just decided to give up meat. Since I usually cook dinner for Spencer, he was definitely much more nervous than I was. I assured him I was just “trying it out” for a week. Timely decision since 2 days later we found ourselves at a meat fondue party. Anyways, 30 days later and I’m still going strong! Sorry Spence.
What I’ve Learned
I thought this might be a great opportunity to reflect on the past 30 days and rip out a blog classic- THE LISTICAL. I know these won’t prove true for all vegetarians, but here is what my experience has been like:
1. It’s relatively easy to be vegetarian (More veggies! Woo!)
I hate having a lot of choices. Going out to eat as a vegetarian definitely limits your options. My favorite part is that generally, vegetarian options just replace what was traditionally meat with even more veggies. You might get some bonus nuts, cheese, or avocado too – things I probably would’ve paid extra for in the past.
2. It’s also easy to be a really unhealthy vegetarian
I think a lot of people assume that switching to a vegetarian diet means you’ll lose a bunch of weight without trying. But it’s just as easy, if not easier, to be unhealthy, especially when eating out. The vegetarian options on menus usually include a salad or two, a wrap, and lots of things overloaded with cheese and empty carbs. Grilled cheese, mac n cheese, cheese pizza, cheese ravioli, cheese curds, etc.
3. Most of the things I loved about meat really had nothing to do with meat
I’ve realized that I haven’t really had any meat cravings and I think that’s because I never even liked it that much. I used to say (ok, I still say) that I loveeeee burgers. But every veggie burger I’ve had has been just as good, if not better, than burgers I had in my * past life * as a carnivore. I’m crazy about burgers; some sort of patty covered in delicious veggies and sauces, surrounded by two buns. I’m not crazy about ground beef. I love tacos for the beans, avocado, and salsas, not for the carnitas. You get the idea.
4. It’s cheaper to shop veg
I’m talking butcher / grocery store here. I’ve saved a lot of money by not buying meat which is nice because I feel more comfortable spending my money on higher quality vegetables and other cooking supplies. I’m cheap as hell so this is a big one.
5. It’s less stressful for me
Like I said, I’m saving money. But more importantly, I look at food more positively. I used to view carbs as evil or “special treats,” and now I am more flexible with consuming certain healthy carbs because I need energy. Although it may not be the smartest way of thinking, I figure I’m cutting a handful of calories that I previously consumed via meat, so I have a little bit more wiggle room with eating things like quinoa and Ezekiel bread. I’ve noticed that I feel a lot fuller and therefore snack a lot less too. I think I mostly owe that to the extra veggies I’m consuming… but I’ll take it!
6. I’m not low on energy
I’ve heard that the biggest hurdle with being vegetarian, especially with frequent exercise, is a lack of energy. When I decided to try this out, I ordered some B-12 vitamins after reading that it is easy to become deficient when cutting animal products, which can result in weakness and tiredness. I don’t know if it’s because I’m taking the vitamin, getting enough protein from other sources, or just eating healthier in general, but I have not experienced lower energy levels. In fact, I feel like my energy during hard workouts has improved.
7. The American culture has made me very self-conscious about this choice
I’ve always found it interesting how quickly people are to judge diets that are unlike their own. I know I am totally guilty of this too. When I met my roommates in the cave in Spain and they told me they were vegetarian, my immediate reaction was “HOW? Why God? How will I live with these people?” One of my best friends “doesn’t care for” cheese and I’ve made it my life goal to find a cheese that she actually likes. My brother is “not a sweets guy” but I insist that he eats some of my cookies every time they come out of the oven.
Why is the first reaction I expect when I tell someone I’m trying a vegetarian diet an eye roll? Maybe it’s because they think I’m just doing it for attention. Maybe it’s because I’m ALWAYS trying out some new type of diet. Maybe it’s because most “classic American meals” are built around meat. Maybe no one actually gives a shit and my anxiety is overthinking this entire scenario. Regardless, I have been hesitant to talk about this choice with many people. Those who spend a lot of time around me obviously noticed right away, but I never want to be the girl who makes people feel bad about how limited my options are at a BBQ or something. I like to try things out. I love discussing these personal experiments but I never want to be someone who pretends to know what diet choices are right. I think this is a good choice for me. For right now.
Will I continue to stick to my vegetarian diet? I think so. For now at least. I might have some meat occasionally, but overall, I’ve really only seen positive things come from cutting it out of my life. Although the initial trial period was based on health and fitness, I do feel good about sparing some animals and helping the environment out, if even just a teensy tiny bit.
Am I ready to try veganism? I don’t think so. I am, however, trying to limit my dairy consumption as I felt much less bloated when I cut it out during the Whole-30 challenge. I think I’ll continue to eat eggs and the occasional cheese, cause #cheesecurds.
If you want more info. about trying out this veg thanggg, shoot me a note! If you haven’t noticed, I love talking about health, fitness, and the expansive portfolio of diets & challenges I have attempted. I just don’t like to be the first one to bring it up :)