Challenge number one began the Monday after Christmas. Why wait until the new year when you can start now, right?
This seemed to be the most approachable challenge on my 30 before 30 list without really changing much during the final days of the year. To get ready, I spent time on Pinterest getting inspired by tons of delicious-looking food. Eating vegetarian doesn’t have to be boring!
Although inspired, I immediately noticed some difficulties in the first week.
- I work, sometimes long hours, in a restaurant where there are very limited vegetarian options. Day 1 of vegetarian eating, there were some employee mistakes, so there was extra food surrounding me – wings in every flavor, sausage pizza, pepperoni pizza! I was so hungry, it was definitely hard to resist stealing a bite.
- Simply breaking the habit of eating meat. I didn’t eat it often when I cooked previously, but when I go out, it’s just an easy habit to choose meals with meat. Also, with working in the restaurant, there’s always food to be shared. I have to change my mindset, stop and think, “wait, I’m not eating that.”
Another thing I didn’t consider before giving myself this challenge was everyone wanting to know why I stopped eating meat.
So why exactly am I eating vegetarian?
Well, I mostly consider it a health challenge. I want to see how my body feels when eliminating meat. I know vegetables should be a larger component of my diet, so this is a great way to focus on incorporating them more. Also, I’ve been really lazy lately, pretty much eating whatever I want and barely cooking. This is a good reason for me to get back in the kitchen and once again start thinking about what I’m putting into my body.
Lastly, it’s a discipline challenge. I’m not always good about sticking with things. This whole 30 before 30 list is a dare to myself to go after some big things that I maybe wouldn’t do otherwise. This is just the start.
So. It’s been 50 days since I first committed to eating vegetarian. What did I learn?
- When eliminating animal products, it’s easy to get in a habit of eating the same, quick meals. Variety is important. Get creative!
- Preparation is key. If I forgot to take a meal to work, I was pretty much stuck eating bread and cheese. Not exactly the healthiest choice.
- Protein is important. I felt so tired within the first couple of weeks and quickly realized I wasn’t getting enough protein. I felt so much better once I started getting protein outside of just dairy products. Beans and eggs became a staple and of course brown rice, but also peanut butter, almonds, and some high-protein veggies like edamame.
- I couldn’t beat myself up for accidentally eating meat. 15 days in, I ate some chicken during work without even thinking about it. Two bites in, my brain reactivated, “what the hell did I just do?”
So obviously, it is past the 21 day challenge and I have continued to go (mostly) without eating animal products. There are pros and cons to a vegetarian diet, as well as a meat-filled diet. I’m still not entirely sure yet which I prefer.
Has anyone experimented with both diets and find they have a preference?