Let me start by saying, I never thought I would be someone that would be in the ‘v’ word community... vegetarian. But back in November 2019, a friend recommended I watch “The Game Changers” on Netflix, a film about why someone should go plant-based with their diet and it featured Arnold Schwarzenegger (albeit, his involvement was brief).
I was still skeptical. For the past 5 years, I have eaten relatively healthy (in my opinion) and most meat meals consisted of either chicken or fish; dropping red meats for the most part. With this context and that I generally don't crave my next meal as most people do, my friend pointed out that I shouldn't find it too challenging to go meatless.
A few days after Thanksgiving I decided to drop the meat and go vegetarian, which unintentionally landed on the first of December last year, making counting the passed time relatively easy. As I write this, it’s been nearly 3 months and I have stuck to it. For me, I’m more motivated by the healthy nature of the lifestyle change.
Over this short period of time, I've noticed some changes and I'm not just talking about the ‘feedback’ from friends, family, and even listeners… here’s what actually happens when you stop eating meat (and people find out)!
1) Weight Loss
I lost 11 pounds in 10 weeks, an average of a pound a week with hitting the gym only twice a week. I’m not ‘overweight’ but for my health, I need to get under 200 pounds and I’m so much closer to my target weight than I have been in years! Sure, there are ‘fast’ ways to drop down, but my goal is to make gradual changes so I’m more likely to keep it off. I've tried several different ways, but by far, going vegetarian has led to my best improvement yet!
For me, going vegetarian has kept me more mindful of ‘what’ I’m consuming; whereas previously, I didn’t really care because ‘overall’ I was being healthy. Before December 1, 2019, I only paid attention to calories, now I’m much more aware of nutrition. Internal questions I started asking myself included, am I getting enough proteins (short answer, yes!)… am I getting the vitamins I need (I took vitamin tablets before and I still take them now)? While I am far from a pro at this, I am much more interested in learning about nutrition than ever before.
3) Protein Questions
This one was the least surprising fact, the few vegetarian (and vegan) friends I have said they get this question all the time – “if you don’t eat meat, where do you get your protein from?” The Game Changers covers ‘protein’ really well throughout the film with many plant-based alternatives. But, to name a few: eggs, almonds, chickpeas/beans, tempeh, quinoa, spinach, …yeah, there’s a lot of options (remember, vegetarian isn't plant-based only, it also includes products from an animal like eggs and dairy).
4) Feeling the Same
Honestly, my day to day doesn’t feel any different. I’ve had friends tell me how when they switched to vegetarian/vegan, they notice an improvement in energy particularly – this wasn’t the case for me. My guess is having previously been pretty healthy, I was in a good spot. But I did see my doctor for a physical in early January and for the first time in my adult life, I had ‘optimal’ results?! So, no, while I may not ‘feel’ different, the results are showing that my health has in fact improved.
Okay, I knew I’d receive a little bit of a hard time when people started to find out that I stopped eating meat. But I had no idea just how many people actually hate on vegetarians and vegans (sorry, Mom! …yes, I gave my mom a hard time for going vegan when I was in college, I already apologized to her). Even if my opinion on something is attached with the word ‘vegetarian’, the opinion is dismissed and the focus shifts to the topic of being vegetarian. It’s seriously odd to me, almost laughable. In fact, I would say it's almost easier to be a mental health advocate than it is to be a vegetarian - which, good for the topic of mental health!
At the end of the day, I’m not trying to tell the world to stop eating meat; what you eat and what I eat don’t have to be the same thing. For me, the vegetarian lifestyle works for me… it is certainly not for everyone! But I do think we could all benefit from being more conscious about what we’re eating and make sure we're providing our bodies with enough nutrition.
* Biggest Challenge *
Towards the end of 2019, I was trying to budget better and thus eat at home more often. Around that same time, I switched to vegetarian and that made the transition easier, I knew exactly what I was cooking and what was in the food. The challenge came into play when I started returning to my favorite restaurants where I enjoyed a chicken-based meal or sushi… those revisits have been the only true times I ‘craved’ meat, but purely because I had conditioned myself to feel that way.
They say if you want to improve your habits (whether it’s quitting smoking, getting more active, eating better), you need to change your lifestyle and often who is a part of it (I read a book called "Atomic Habits" by James Clear around this time too). It’s hard to quit smoking if you still hang around smokers… for me, I am trying to go out to eat with more vegetarians and vegans, as they are pros at knowing what to order; doing this has made eating out as a vegetarian a lot easier.
As a bonus, when it comes to over-eating or just eating poorly, I struggle with free food in the office break room… to me, calories are less important if I didn’t pay for them. So, now that I don’t eat meat when something is shared that I’m really not sure what’s in it… but it looks like meat, I just don’t bother with it. Sure, this mindset doesn’t solve the problem with all food, but definitely enough to remove me from some of the temptations.
Well, there you have it, the 5 things I’ve learned from going vegetarian for 3 months. I definitely don't think being vegetarian is impossible and for me, it's a lifestyle that fits. If you’ve ever wondered if you could do it, go for it! If you just love eating meat (*cough* bacon *cough*), then yes, don't drop the meat; but I will say, give your vegetarian/vegan friends a break, they are just trying to live a healthier life (and for some, a more sustainable life too – but that’s a whole different story).
LISTEN NOW on the RADIO.COM App
Follow 103.7 KISS-FM