So 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 (whom I 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, and while 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