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My Vegetarian Experiment

Jen-Veg-585So I love the Oprah show, but dude! They totally stole my thunder on Tuesday with their one-week vegan challenge. Now my month-long vegetarian challenge just seems puny. Oh, well. Maybe next year I’ll go vegan for a month. A month! You hear that Oprah staffers (whomI totally love and adore after watching all of the behind-the-Oprah-scenes on the new OWN channel, my new cable-TV addiction)?

Regardless, my month of going ovo-lacto vegetarian was AWESOME. I absolutely loved it. And—rather surprisingly—I can count the number of times I craved meat on one hand. Actually on three fingers. The first time was at a fancy-pants restaurant where scallops were calling my name, but, thankfully, the place had a stellar veggie lasagna that ended up looking tastier than my hubs’ steak. Second was at another restaurant where the only option was a veggie platter. I love veggies, but that’s what you take to a party, not what you eat as a meal. So I ordered a portobello-mushroom burger that totally wasn’t on the menu. Thankfully, they made it for me. The third and final time? My 30th birthday at a really nice restaurant that didn’t have a single vegetarian entree. I cheated and ate free-range chicken from a local farm. (And, thankfully, I cheated on what was the best chicken I’ve ever had. Ironically, it makes me not want to eat chicken anywhere else because—what’s the point?) So, I’m calling that a success.

There were a couple of benefits and unique side effects of my experiment. Going vegetarian made me more aware of what I was eating. I was very particular at every meal and snack to make sure that I was getting optimal nutrition with lots of fiber and protein to fill me up. (Thank goodness for this list of healthy meat-free protein sources from the lovely Bob Harper!) I didn’t really see any changes in my workouts or my weight, but I did generally feel more energetic—especially after eating a meal. I just never felt heavy; satiated but never stuffed. Another benefit was being as regular as my dog. Like clockwork, every morning. Thank goodness for lots of Quilted Northern.

The weirdest effect of all though had nothing to do with me. It had to do with everyone else. I was amazed at how many people thought I was a freak, that I was trying to lose weight or that I somehow had gone off into uber-green-hippity-dippity land (for the record, I stopped eating meat to see how it would affect me, to see if I would miss it, to lessen my impact on the earth and reduce my intake of hormones and other freaky stuff—only one foot in uber-green-hippity-dippity land, in my opinion and besides, what would be wrong with that anyway?). It also seemed to make a few people really uncomfortable. Others were confused as to why I wouldn’t eat meat (especially my meat-worshiping male friends). But I didn’t do it for anyone else; I did it for me. As I’ve already discussed, eating is a very personal thing, andwhile curiosity at my change was welcomed, I wasn’t down with the judging or criticizing.

So, now what, you ask? Well, I do not plan to continue being a full-out vegetarian. However, I do not plan to eat meat daily nor do I even promise to eat it weekly or monthly. I’ve loved cooking and eating vegetarian meals, and I plan to do so regularly. But I also plan to eat meat when I crave it—with the condition that it needs to be organic and high-quality whenever possible. It fits right into my intuitive eating of the last four years. Some call this being a flexitarian. Some call it semi-vegetarian. Others call it going nutritarian. I call it “doing what’s right for me and body.” —Jenn

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  1. Sagan says:

    Love this! Great job. Reminds me of when I did my month-long challenge of eating vegan, back in September 2009… I agree that one of the most important parts of these kinds of challenges is simply raising awareness about where our food comes from.

    And, like you, I’m a flexitarian – sometimes I’ll go for days as a vegan, other times I’ll be vegetarian for weeks, and sometimes I’ll be eating meat daily for a while. It all depends on what our bodies need – and in nourishing them.

  2. Tish says:

    Love this post!!! I really appreciate you discussing how the world approached your PERSONAL decision. Good job! You’re an inspiration my dear.

  3. Kristen says:

    So well-written. It is so funny how people react — I’ve had the same problem (even though I’ve been pescaterian for almost 7 years now). Friends and even family still challenge me on my choices, and act like it’s affecting them. And it doesn’t — I NEVER ask anyone to make anything special for me. If I’m attending a party where there won’t be things available for me to eat, I eat ahead of time or bring a dish to share that I know I’ll also enjoy. And while I’ll discuss the reasons for eating the way I do when asked, I don’t preach at people and I don’t judge. Which makes it even weirder to me — if I’m not going to judge you for eating a steak, why should you judge me for choosing not to?

  4. Evie says:

    I just finished going raw for a month. The difference is amazing. My skin is better, I feel very cleansed and ridiculously “regular”, and I have lots of energy. I had to eat pretty much non-stop for the whole month since I work out a lot and was STARVING, so that was a little tricky. Overall, though, I hope to keep about 70% of that in my diet going forward.
    And yes…I freaked a lot of people out. That might have been the best part.

  5. Ivori says:

    You should get your hands on some White Mountain Food brand products.
    They are based in Austin,TX , but the food is delicious ; Meatless Fajitas, Texas Style B-B-Que, Bulgarian Yogurt all Vegan and Vegetarian 😉

  6. YCaster says:

    Great post. I’m impressed you only wanted to eat meat three times in a month – I’m trying to be veggie just for a week and still miss it every day so far. I’m not sure where you’re from, but I’m in the UK, where quite a lot of people are veggie, so haven’t been met with the difficult response from people that you have – though I’m amazed how limited our restaurant menus still are (jacket potatoe and beans? Again?!). If you’re interested in reading about my veggie challenge my blog’s at http://bit.ly/f72VO7
    All the best xY

  7. I love how you focus more on eating in a way that resonates with you and less on the label that is applied to your way of eating. I believe that diet is a personal choice but one that should be chosen consciously.

  8. Ally says:

    Vegan forever…

  9. Priya says:

    i am not vegetarian, but eat “healthily” (normal for me, different for kids at my schooL), and often get surprised looks when people find out i am not vegetarian! i also get a lot of questions or (unknowingly) rude commetns about what I eat… sometimes people just dont get it! hahaa. regardless, i am with you, i eat what i eat ::) sometimes chicken 5x a week, sometimes not for weeks!

  10. Amy says:

    I’ve landed in the same place as you, I eat meat- well, fish, once a week, and other than that, really not at all unless we go out, somewhere maybe. I get the same reaction, almost like what I choose to eat inconveniences everyone else around me, when it really has nothing to do with them, and there’s really no inconvenience to anyone, since most restaurants offer some kind of dish that doesn’t involve meat. I chose to eat little to no meat for the same reasons also, not to mention because of how nasty factory farming has become (who wants to eat a chicken that’s never seen the light of day? That can’t be healthy.) I did actually lose weight because of it- my last 10 pounds melted right off in just a few weeks after I ditched meat, and my skin is totally clear now too!

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