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Food For Thought – The Vegetarian Challenge

March 2, 2010

On Wednesday – February 17, 2010 I followed a vegetarian diet.  It was Ash Wednesday and I chose to forgo meat in the Catholic tradition.  I contemplated giving up meat for Lent, but hadn’t made a final decision on the matter.  Later that day, my cousin Melissa announced her Vegetarian Challenge.  She planned to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for one week and educate herself on vegetarianism.  It sounded perfect for me, so I jumped on board.

I haven’t eaten meat since February 17th.  Am I a vegetarian?  Good question! I have yet to come up with a solid answer to that and I don’t feel like I really have to at this point, but I have tried to collect my thoughts on the various aspects of a conversion to vegetarianism.

  • Nutrition. I have lived as a vegetarian for 14 days.  I realize that in the grand scheme of things this is not a long time to sacrifice something such as meat.  I do want to acknowledge; however, that I continue to feel strong and nourished by my food choices.  I keep plenty of nutrient-rich, healthy food options on hand and eat when I feel the need.  I completed my longest and fastest runs to date while following this diet and see no detrimental effects to my body.
  • Food Preparation. I live at home and cook for my family.  I was very concerned that I would spend hours in the kitchen each night, preparing meals to suit everyone’s needs, including my own.  Some night’s I did spend extra time cooking, but mostly because I felt like it.  I generally prepared meals with a similar theme – Mexican, BBQ, Italian – and substituted the protein.  It worked out just fine.  I loved the simplicity of my vegetarian meals.  I didn’t have to plan far in advance to buy or defrost expensive meats…I could simply throw canned beans into the mix and I was good to go.  Worked for me!
  • Going Out. Here’s where the real challenge entered the equation!  I’m kind of a foodie. I enjoy eating in nice restaurants and sharing meals with friends and family.  I like to taste new dishes.  I continue to be extremely disappointed in the choices for vegetarians at restaurants.  I felt very limited to pasta or rice based dishes…because otherwise it was all fried!  I actually resorted to throwing a snack – like almonds – in my bag, so I could continue to enjoy going out and still get the nutrition I needed.  Is the inconvenience of eating out a reason to continue eating meat? I don’t think so. I do think it is something to consider when thinking about making a major lifestyle change.  How would it affect my overall sense of happiness and balance?
  • Making Responsible Choices. I’ll be very honest.  I probably didn’t research enough about vegetarianism to make a truly educated comment on responsibility when it comes to the food industry.  I have read Food Rules, watched Food Inc., and am making my through In Defense of Food. I see a terrible problem with the food industry in the United States and don’t feel like the factory farmed meats I’ve bought at the supermarket are always ethically raised or even healthy to eat.  I want to eat food that was obtained in the most humane, ethical and healthy way. I don’t want to eat animals raised on chemically-altered foodlike substances that I would never wish to ingest. I need to learn more about the food industry – from multiple sources – before I comment further on this piece of the puzzle.

A Summary

I am Becky.  I eat real food that nourishes my body.  I try to make responsible choices about everything that I eat.  I indulge when I want to and I enjoy every bite.  I have enjoyed…and continue to enjoy…following a vegetarian diet.  I am not a vegetarian.  Someday, I may become a vegetarian, but for now, I am making the best choices for me.  Call it what you will – I am not ready for any labels.  I have never judged others by the foods they eat, and I hope that I will receive the same respect from others.

“Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 12:22 pm

    Great post!

    There is basically one reason that I haven’t gone vegetarian, and it is similar to your “going out” point above. I like trying new foods, I enjoy sharing dishes with family and friends, and I’m not sure if I could give that up. I like being able to travel to a new part of the country or world and trying the local cuisine. And I love having my mom’s lasagna once or twice a year!

    That being said, I have significantly cut back on meat and the types of meat that I do eat after watching Food, Inc and reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  2. March 2, 2010 11:23 pm

    LOVE this post! So glad I’m semi-stalking you.

    I hope you don’t mind if I quote some of your summary — I haven’t done a challenge, but your evaluation sums up almost exactly how I feel about the entire meat-eating issue.

    In fact, I was thinking about it a ton today, because I made a dish with chicken last night, and the chicken was sorely disappointing. I’m not sure why, except that the idea of the “past life” of the chicken I was eating just didn’t feel good, and the chicken didn’t taste good as a result. In fact, I found myself wishing I had subbed beans into the whole thing.

    You’re awesome!

    • March 3, 2010 12:43 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post – feel free to use any of it! I was actually really nervous about writing it because I’m usually light and sarcastic, so I’m glad to hear that my thoughts came across as I’d hoped. I really appreciate the feedback – and stalking is kinda what we bloggers do! Don’t worry, I already know you’re a 25 year old teacher, just like me!

  3. March 3, 2010 9:52 am

    Great post! I was a vegetarian in college, for a few years after and for a couple of months recently. I go back and forth, but what always brings me back is that sometimes I just crave a turkey sandwich and going out and social occasions can be tough. I buy grass fed chicken and turkey (don’t like red meat) and only eat meat a few times a week. I think that’s doing my part for the food industry. If all meat eaters did that, we’d see change.

  4. March 4, 2010 2:55 pm

    Good post. Your Vegetarian challenge inspired me to do the same actually. Though I have decided to do a 30 day veggie challenge.

    I love the fact I am thinking about cooking in a different light now. I also enjoy thinking outside the box a little. Thankfully through blogs like this there are great recipes and advice on protein.

    I am going to be really interested to see how I feel on this meat free diet and also if it aids my running. So far I m full of energy!

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