Anyone who knows me (or has ever seen a picture of me) knows that I love meat. I’m a carnivore through and through. The star of my breakfast is eggs and ham, followed by chicken for lunch, and pork or beef for dinner. I single-handedly eat the equivalent of a small farm every year. Trying to lead a vegetarian lifestyle is not something I’ve ever been concerned about. At all.
Please don’t hate me, hippies.
But what would happen if I gave it a try? Would I lose 20 pounds in a month? Would I become super emotional? Happier? Start wearing all-hemp clothing? Become pretentious and annoying around people who go to McDonalds? There was only one way to find out.
The first thing that I did was my research. I needed to find out the proper way to become a vegetarian, without starving myself of protein or becoming anemic. I read dozens of studies and articles, Reddit posts, blogs, and a book called “Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. The book has tons of stories about people who started eating copious amounts of fruits and vegetables in exchange for meat, and who very quickly saw all of their health problems disappear. Depression, headaches, anxiety, obesity – even cancer – Joel had dozens of examples of people who saw real changes. While I remained skeptical, it only added more fuel to the fire. I wanted to try being vegetarian for one month, and see exactly what changes would occur.
After a not so quick trip to the farmers market, my fridge was stacked. Broccoli, tofu, asparagus, beans of every color, veggie patties, peppers, apples, grapes, you name it. I like food – it seemed like this wouldn’t be so hard.
The first thing that I realized was that it was hard. If you’ve eaten meat for your entire life, you’re going to need to start planning your meals to eat vegetarian for one month. Just buying greens isn’t enough; prepping vegetables and fruit is an absolute must. Not only did I prep, I also made a list of about 6 meals that would be my go-to’s. This way I could ensure that I always had a well rounded, decent tasting meal ready to go when I started to inevitably crave chicken wings. Some of my go-to’s included:
1. Greek Salad
2. Black Bean Burger Patties
3. Tofu and Eggbeaters with Vegetables
4. Stir-fry with Ground Veggie Meat
5. All Veggie Chili
Definitely not the most glamorous list of foods, but I made it work.
I won’t lie, the first week was rough. Trying to find vegetarian options at restaurants that don’t taste like shit is a tall order. I felt like by the end of my venture I could have been a world class connoisseur of veggie burgers.
After the first week, I felt like I didn’t think about the endless amount of vegetables nearly as much. It just became what I ate. Don’t get me wrong, there were challenges. I still had to explain to a countless number of friends and family that I was testing vegetarianism for a month, and deal with their “you’re insane” stares. Other than that it wasn’t so bad. The month went by pretty quickly, and all in all it was manageable. Here are my take-aways.
1. My mental health/immune system felt pretty much the same
No drastic changes to report. One of the interesting things that I found was that my energy levels did not change at all. I assumed that a life without meat might slow me down a little, but I didn’t see that happen at all. I was still able to go to the gym, play sports, and wake up in the morning as usual.
2. I became a much better cook
There’s no doubt I got bored with my go-to meals, so I bought a bunch of old vegetarian cook books and got to reading. Now I can make a healthy amount of Indian dishes like daal that I otherwise would never have been exposed to/interested in trying. And by the way: daal is delicious.
3. It puts your will power to test in a good way
I wasn’t sure if I could get through the month when I first started. It turns out I had no problem sticking to it, and felt pretty good about completing the month when it was all said and done. I set my mind to it, ate my first all vegetarian meal, and I didn’t break my no-meat-month once. Not at a dinner party, not at a bar, not even when Taco Bell came out with the Doritos Locos Taco. While it seems minor, I’m definitely a little proud.
4. My grocery bill was lower
Vegetables and tofu are cheap. Steak and chicken breast are not.
5. A good back story would have helped
Telling people I wanted to be vegetarian for a month so that I could “see what would happen” definitely left people puzzled, and possibly thinking I was insane. And left me rambling. I hope no one thinks I’m a weirdo, but that ship had probably already sailed anyway.
Would I recommend it? Probably not. I’m back to eating meat on the regular now if that speaks to anything. But I do like the fact that I’m a better cook now, and probably know a lot more about the nutritional content of fruits, vegetables and legumes. I definitely eat way more legumes now, and you should too – they’re awesome for you. If you do think you’d like to give it a try to test your will power/see what happens, don’t be afraid. If I can do it, anyone can.
By the way – my first meal after being vegetarian for one month: Two Doritos Locos Tacos.