Tuesday, February 14, 2017
For the whole month of January, I ate vegetarian - mainly to prove I could to myself, but also because ethically and personally I have trouble with how much meat gets consumed in my household. My boyfriend is huge compared to me - taller, more muscular, and basically runs on protein from animal meat. I, however, used to be more or less veggie at uni and was eager to see if I felt a big change going back to my old habits for a while.
So I guess I should start there - did I feel a change, and the answer? Yes. Hugely. In short and more flattering words, my digestive system took a while to... adjust. I was suffering with tummy aches and, for want of a more pleasant expression, trapped wind, for the first two weeks of eating no meat. Some days, this would get quite painful, and the tummy gurgling? DNW!
Having said that, I did feel a lot less lethargic, and a lot more HUNGRY. I was absolutely ravenous at mealtimes and this led to me eating more carbs and fats than I probably would have if it wasn't the depths of winter. 3 Cheese pasta and kale, anyone?
Another thing that struck me was how lonely it was, and I say that as a part of a couple and also considering social outings too - basically, if you're the only veggie at the table during a mealtime with more than one person, it can be weirdly alienating. I didn't think this would still be the case in 2017, but the question I got asked the most throughout the month was: 'Why?' - as though I were putting myself through a hardship! That was sometimes irritating, and I know that not being able to share meals as we usually would was a hard adjustment for my partner.
All things considered - would I do it again? Yes, absolutely, I would. The pros outweighed the cons and, as much as I missed meat towards the end, it definitely made me want to cut my intake down to once or twice a week max. So I've put some helpful hints together if you're thinking about going for it yourself - and good luck!
1. IF YOU'RE A LAZY MEAT EATER, YOU'LL BE A LAZY VEGGIE - basically, preparation is key. If you're not a meal planner, it might be time to build that life skill as a habit, because being a lazy vegetarian can get same-y and quite fattening - fast. Bread, pasta, cheese and potatoes can form the base of a lot of convenience veggie meals, so if you're eating out or picking up ready meals a lot, it can be a quick way to gain weight, or get bored.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH - if you don't have a solid reason or passion for going veggie, chances are it won't stick. Because even now, even in 2017, it can be hard finding vegetarian options. For example, did you know that some cheeses, like Parmesan, aren't veggie? Which then also rules out a lot of pesto, which is traditionally made with Parmesan. Gelatine is also not veggie, and is included in a lot of desserts. Get passionate and informed about your choice to go veggie and then do the homework on exactly how much this is going to impact your life.
3. DRAW ON YOUR RESOURCES - chances are you know a vegetarian or vegan friend who probably have an arsenal of good recipes to draw from, or you follow Minimalist Baker, or you've got a pristine copy of Deliciously Ella. There's no need to go out and buy a spiraliser and raid Amazon cookbooks with the word 'Glow' in the title - just ask around, do a little browsing of blogs and Pinterest and you'll have plenty of inspiration to get you started.
4. BABY STEPS - I went a little H.A.M going 0-100 for a whole 31 days with no prior prep. Realistically, if I wanted this to be a longer term change, I should have eased myself into veggie living by slowly cutting down my meat intake in stages. This also probably would have helped out with the whole, uh, gut transition.
5. GET ADVENTUROUS - Here it is - stuffed mushrooms and peppers and mushroom burgers (wtf is that by the way - don't charge me full price for a burger when the 'patty' is just a large mushroom?!) get old. If you're not willing to embrace some more diverse greens, try a chickpea, eat the fried cauliflower - this is going to be a sad ride for you. I loved trying different combinations my friends would recommend and going for things I wouldn't usually - sometimes it failed catastrophically, but mostly I realised how yummy falafel was. Yes, being veggie made me a better Arab.
And that's your lot! Hopefully you find this helpful. Are any of you considering going veggie?