In my quest for reducing my meat consumption to just over a pound per week (environmental reasons), I noticed that my previous consumption of meat was frankly obscene. While I have never been one to eat a big steak or have meat be the centerpiece of a meal, it has always been a vital component, leading me to eat on average 2 pounds of it or more in a typical week.
And so I decided the best way to kick off my new reduced meat diet was to do a total reset, giving up meat entirely for a month.
What Did I Eat?
Breakfast: Almonds or cashews and ginger tea
Lunch: cooked – wheatberries with mushrooms kale and one minute poached eggs (basically lived off these); restaurant – eggplant parmesan, falafel mixed plate, bean burrito, beet salad, polenta fries, broccoli and tofu over brown rice
Dinner: cooked – ginger miso soba, bean tostadas, vegetarian chili, veggie pot pie, avocado and poached egg; restaurant – shahi paneer, saag paneer, sofritas tacos, stuffed squash blossoms, potato flautas, tofu pho, seitan roll, cornmeal battered oyster mushrooms, phyllo purse with tempeh and squash, thai green tofu curry
Snacks: Blackberries, hummus and pita, cashews, almonds, oranges
Drinks: watermelon juice, ginger tea, water
How Much Did It Cost?
Without going too deep into the numbers, I generally found buying vegetarian at the grocery store to be wicked cheap compared to my normal carnivorous ways (40-50% less than usual weekly bill). On the other hand, at takeout places and restaurants, discounts were only on the order of one or two dollars (10-15%).
So if I was super disciplined about cooking for myself every day, I probably could have gotten by on $150-200 for food the entire month. But, we all know I am not that person.
How Did It Feel?
Warning: This section acknowledges the existence of a variety of bodily functions.
Missing out on meat was a mixed bag for my body.
On the plus side I was super regular, never felt indigestion, had a relatively painless cycle, slept like a log, clear complexion, and had better emotional regulation than I’ve had pretty much forever. My energy levels were very stable, which was surprising because I thought I would experience more crashes.
However though my energy was stable it was also pretty consistently low. I never had the low lows in feeling but really didn’t experience high motivation either. I was constantly thinking about food (“chicken” was often at the tip of my tongue) and though I didn’t caliper it or anything I have a vague suspicion I lost muscle mass.
One of the weirder health things was that I gained a few pounds going vegetarian. And the distribution of where the weight went was strange. My bust size dropped precipitously from 34″ to 31″ and I lost a lot of flab around my arms. On the other hand my waist went up from 26.5″ to 29″ and fat was accumulating around my belly and thighs. I could feel over the course of the month my stomach getting into what felt like a permanent state of minor bloatedness (not painful, mind you).
After a month back to my normal diet I have pretty much reverted to my pre-vegetarian state. Maybe it’s the hormones they feed to animals? Or having fewer sweets and carbs like watermelon juice and soba? Or maybe I was eating out more than usual?
Would I Do It Again?
Short answer: Probably not.
Long answer: If I learned one thing over the course of this exercise it’s that I am emotionally addicted to meat. As the weeks wore on I became less excited about food. Eating became a thing I had to do to stay alive and was less a warm comforting feeling. By the end I could have been on a Soylent-only diet and felt the same emotionally about it as my varied vegetarian fare.
At the same time, I continue to believe that my meat consumption needs to be reduced for environmental and moral reasons. Plus, within my lifetime we may see a big difference in the availability of meat, and I am happy to know I could survive a post-meat world if needed.
I can see myself continuing to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet, maybe once and a while having a meatless week to reset my carnivorous excess. Or even becoming pescatarian (I think that would have made this month a LOT easier). But a vegetarian at heart I am not, nor will I ever be.