Vegetarian. For some, the word may elicit images of non-shaving greenie, Buddhist or otherwise eccentric hippies, but to me it just sounds like an interesting and healthy way to live. It’s an uncontested fact that as long as you’re careful to include the necessary proteins, vitamins and nutrients, you don’t need meat for a well-balanced diet. Meat is often fatty and high in calories, so vegetarianism can be a way to lose weight. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. This is because a healthy vegetarian diet is typically low in fat and high in fiber, when fried foods, sugar and fatty snack foods are avoided, of course.
Vegetarians have a much smaller carbon footprint than their meat eating peers, as the first world consumption of meat increases to ridiculously excessive levels and whole rain forests are destroyed to farm ever-more bloodstock. Not to mention, there’s the soft side of me which hates the idea I’m causing the death of innocent animals. So this November I’ve decided to go vegetarian! My family has agreed to do a week of vegetarian dinners, and my sister is doing the full month with me so I don’t get too lonely. School is over, so making my own dinners should be fine, and I’m really excited to see how this goes! I’m not denying that I will miss meat. It will take dedication, but I’m confident I can do it. My only worry is that I’ll have a lapse in my memory and forget I’m vegetarian! I need to be careful to get enough iron and all the necessary vitamins etc, as I’m studying for my exams and will need all the energy I can get.
Sunday 3rd November
3 days in and I’m doing well! Tried the ‘vege patty’ sub from subway when I was out for lunch with friends, which tasted pretty good. It’s great how many vegetarian options there are in most places. I feel sorry for vegans though; they are seriously limited in their options. Went to my friend’s bbq dinner and party last night and I simply bought leftover potato cakes from dinner the night before instead of eating the meat provided there. No problem! I got laughed at a bit for being vegetarian for a month, but I’m definitely not missing meat yet. I met a vegetarian there who has chosen to be one because of loving animals. Apparently she’s anaemic and gets tired quite a lot though, so probably not the best success story! The family are enjoying my vegetarian dinners, so I’ve not faced too much adversity yet.
Saturday 9th November
I hate to say it, but I accidentally ate meat! Already, I know it’s pathetic. It was after my prize-giving ceremony on the 5th November at the supper afterwards, and there were sandwiches with ham in them. Not even a week into no-meat November and I’ve already had a slip up. It would’ve only been the tiniest bit of ham though! One morning I woke up craving bacon, and at a party last night I wanted to have a sausage, but apart from that I’m not missing meat at all. I must say it’s getting kind of annoying cooking dinner every other night, though. My sister isn’t the best cook and my parents have been really busy lately so it’s up to me to find good recipes, which takes up quite a lot of time in which I should be studying. Some friends gave me a vegetarian cookbook for my birthday, and I’ve cooked some recipes from that so far which have been delicious! Still waiting for my parents to buy the things I’ve put on the shopping list (beans, lentils etc) so I can actually make more of the recipes in that book – going to run out of things to eat for dinner soon if they don’t! I’m probably feeling more energetic than usual, and when I looked up vegetarian sources of iron, I realised I’m eating quite a bit of it anyway. Just by being healthy, eating a lot of veggies and food from different groups is enough to get iron and protein. Who needs meat!?
Wednesday 13th November
I think this whole vegetarian thing has been really good for getting me back on track to eating healthily if nothing else! I’m 90% over a chest infection I’ve had for about a month now, and overall I’m feeling quite energetic, focused on study and happy. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been eating the ‘bad vibes/karma’ whatever that you supposedly get when eating meat! A friend told me that when you eat meat, you consume the trauma the animal felt when they died. Seriously, that did kind of put me off meat. I’ve been having ovaltine malt drink daily, as it has iron in it, but not really watching my iron intake too closely. Getting anaemic around my big exams in the coming weeks would SUCK so maybe I should monitor that a little more closely. On a side note, I’ve been eating heaps lately. I can’t go more than 3 hours without eating, probably because if I feel the slightest hunger pangs I cannot concentrate on studying. It’s all healthy though, so that’s ok. One kind of negative thing about being vegetarian is that at my new work, I’m allowed to have ANYTHING I want from the cabinet for free. It all looks delicious, but often there are no vegetarian options whatsoever, so I have to make an avocado and tomato sandwich every time. That’s the only time I have trouble, though. My parents have continued to make vegetarian dishes beyond the week they promised – on the rare occasions they decide to cook, so it’s never an issue at home. Also, I don’t go out at the moment because of study so barely any temptations arise. I’ve been sourcing some really good vegetarian recipes from instagram, tumblr and cookbooks I already have.
Saturday 16th November
Well, screw the theory that being vegetarian makes you happier. Maybe it’s because I’ve been cooped up too long and have had barely any contact with my friends because of study (which I have been totally unmotivated to do lately), but I’m feeling super depressed right now! All in all, I’ve been feeling very average lately, but hopefully that’s purely circumstantial, and will get better after exams! Dad has been surprisingly good with cooking vegetarian recipes – it’s just finding a recipe for him to cook that’s the issue. As a positive point, I always feel like I’m doing something good when I buy vegetarian out; me and my sister got a vege samosa each in town yesterday – it gives me a sense that I’m a part of this cool little socially and environmentally conscious sub-section of the world.
Thursday 21st November
Yesterday I went to an end-of-year dinner with my German class, and we visited an Austrian restaurant, and I don’t think I could’ve picked a worse place to be Vegetarian! There were only 4 meat-free options on the whole menu, and I got the ‘Viennese style crumbed mushrooms’, which were basically just crumbed, fried mushrooms with aioli… It’s what I expected though, as Germans are notorious for their high meat consumption. On a more positive note, I’ve been loving green smoothies lately! There are some really yummy recipes out there, and they are soooo healthy. I feel like I’m cleansing my body when I drink these, they’re packed full of veggies and fruit – probably my daily nutrition requirements covered in one cup. Last night I dreamt about going to a barbecue with chicken kebabs and a tonne of meat – my second meat related dream. I haven’t really been around meat at all because my family has been making vegetarian meals, but I was incredibly jealous watching everyone eat meat at the German dinner. I don’t think this is something I will keep up with! Definitely a meat-free day or two a week is good, but I do like meat. Sorry animals. Meat is going to taste amazing after this month! Mmmmmm meat. One week and 2 days to go.
Tuesday, 26th November
Four days to go. Went to a Thai restaurant with my family on the weekend, and had a nice vegetarian green curry. I think I’ll definitely make more vegetarian choices at restaurants now, (just not German ones). They’re normally really flavourful and healthy. It’s also quite good not being tempted to have a fatty sausage at parties when I go. No vegetarian options at work again this Sunday, so I made the tiniest most boring salad ever! I have my eye on the BLAT sandwich hehe. Some days I crave meat more than others, but it’s less of a craving than, say chocolate for sure. I’ve lost no weight this month, but then again I’ve only just started committing to exercise again in the last 2 weeks. I’ve also been eating way too much after dinner and that needs to stop.
Tuesday, 3rd December
It is done. Animal flesh has once more passed my lips. Glorious, glorious dead pig, chicken and tuna have graced my stomach so far this month, and I am looking forward to being able to appreciate a menu in its entirety next time I dine out. My first break in vegetarianism was a BLAT at the cafe I work in, and although it tasted good, it wasn’t amazing. I wonder if it wasn’t just the idea of the ‘forbidden’ that was so enticing during my meat-free month, as the bacon in my sandwich didn’t quite live up to the standard it was in my meat-dreams. So, I had a BLAT for lunch, and then a pork fillet for dinner with peanut sauce that was actually better tasting than the meat it accompanied. I hear people say that vegetables are boring or bland, but so is meat if you put nothing with it! If you can cook well, either one will taste great. One thing meat does have over vegetables, is that it is so much more filling. Carrots and broccoli just can’t give you that feeling of satiety that a hearty slab of meat does. With vegetable based meals, I often wouldn’t feel completely full, which I think may have been a contributing factor to my over-eating at night. It turns out that I actually gained a bit of weight over my vegetarian month, which is contrary to what I anticipated! When I think about it though, it’s unsurprising due to my over-eating and under-exercising during study.
To conclude, I like the idea of being vegetarian, but I simply don’t have a strong enough incentive to commit to it permanently. I know it’s better for the environment, but what difference will it make if I go vegetarian? The same amount of meat will continue to be produced, and rainforests will keep being cut down. My eating decisions wouldn’t change a thing.
Meat is actually really good for you, if you eat lean cuts. It contains protein, iron (you can only get haemoglobin iron from meat or meat products, sorry vegans), and fills you up like nothing else. It tastes great, and I really can’t be bothered going to the effort of the advance preparation and cooking of things like beans and chickpeas, or having to turn down meat whilst out. In the future, I’ll try to have 1 – 2 vegetarian days a week at least and definitely keep making vegetarian recipes, perhaps more for lunch than dinner.
Tuesday, 24th December
Yes, I’m really writing on Christmas Eve. I’ve been so busy this month I haven’t had a chance up until now to finish this article! Anyway, time for a reflection on my no-meat November. One major impact I will say it has made is that I say no to meat a lot more. I’m much more inclined to choose vegetarian options whilst eating out, and if I have meat more than twice a day I feel slightly sick and indigestion-y. I suppose a month is long enough for my body to get used to not having meat, and now it doesn’t handle it so well. Obviously I’ve been having a lot of meat lately with all the family Christmas dinners, and that’s a big reason why I chose November to be vegetarian instead of this month. My mum is a really, really good cook and I’m simply not going to miss out on her amazing meat dishes. I feel like eating meat is a very natural thing for humans to do. As long as we make an effort to buy sustainably produced meat that is humane towards the animals, and are not excessive in our consumption, then eating meat isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. In saying that, I have a newfound respect for committed vegetarians, for whatever reasons they have chosen that lifestyle. There are definitely advantages and positive repercussions. A lot of pollution and health problems would definitely be solved if the entire world began to live a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
To summarise; Vegetarians are pretty amazing really. It is quite a selfless decision to do permanently, as you’re often considering the environment or animals over your own desires. It is hard at times, but I would highly recommend trying to go a month without meat if you’re interested in being vegetarian. In the future I’d like to try a vegan month, but that will take a lot of forward planning!