February: a nice short month. Ideal for trying new things and sticking to a timeline.
We (read: I) decided to go a month without meat (aside from what we already had in our arsenal- we don’t waste food in the Johnston-Marr household).
Chris and I had already decreased our meat intake after watching Sir David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I HIGHLY recommend it. I also feel like everyone should watch it…
Now this is generally harder for us to cut out all meat I would say than the average person. We are a nut and dairy free household already, I am allergic to oats and bananas among some other things. In that sentence alone, I have already eliminated key protein groups and substitutes that many vegetarian recipes rely on. BUT when we are up for the challenge, we are up for the challenge.
And we did it! We more than did it. We decided to change our lifestyle from it.
Before I get to the enlightenment, let’s go through the stages of going without meat for a month.
Step 1: Get geared up
WOOHOO Trying something new! How exciting! Especially during Covid, even the smallest things feel like absolute feats!
New recipes, new aisles in the grocery store, and a healthier and more sustainable month. Time to get pumped. You made your decision and now it is time to stick to it. Create a timeline, a week, month, 3 months, whatever it is, do it. You go to the grocery store, buy way too much produce for 2 people and fill your freezer and pantry full of stuff that make half-meals, but who cares! Good Luck!
Step 2: Crave KFC
Okay listen, I know you’re a week-week and a half in. Everything smells amazing and your heightened cravings can smell that steak on the BBQ 4 houses down and I bet you can name the sides. DON’T GIVE IN. Every drive past a fast food place gets your body lurching like it is the last watermelon in Ice Age. (Thai Kwan Do-Do’s: ATTACK!) Also, you didn’t realize how much meat you eat in a day and how much you would miss it when you can’t have it. You may only now realize that Veggie soup has chicken broth and so many things have gelatin (WHY?!) Guess this is going to take a little more thought than previously planned.
Step 3: Take control
First couple of weeks, things were getting repetitive and frankly, kinda weird. Sweet potato doesn’t go with everything, no matter how much you will it to. You start making meal plans for dinners, buy smarter, and better gauge your freezer room. You start eating more regularly and drinking more water. You actually start eating breakfast since you are genuinely hungry when you wake up and simply won’t make it to Lunch time. Generally, you notice that you are spending a lot less money on groceries. This may not actually be so bad. You realize that there are cultures and religions that base their cuisine around vegetarianism- time to have fun with it.
Step 4: The very low and very high
First, you will notice that you are tired, REALLY tired. You hit a rock bottom in what feels like an overnight period and feel like you can sleep all day. You will get a couple headaches and just feel…blah. That lasts about 3 days. Now? You’re starting to get more energy with your days that require you work out/run/walk/generally be more active or you’ll be lying in your bed staring at the ceiling for hours, plan for this in your working day, you start feeling like a whole new human. Your productivity is at an all-time high. Deadlines? What dust? Laundry, who? Just superwoman.
Step 5: The gross bit
So, not that anyone wants to hear this, but I’ll be brief. You will be eating a LOT more fibre naturally using this diet. It will take a couple weeks for your body to get used to it and it kinda sucks (especially if you and your partner share a single washroom…) After the transition period is over though, you are more regular and feel a lot less bloated and weighed-down.
Step 6: Software Update
Other than describing it as feeling like someone hit the reset button, I would just say it feels like a software update. You sleep better, feel more energetic, actually get hungry at meal times without needing to snack during the day (but who doesn’t love grapes or berries anyways?), you are shockingly spending less money, you naturally want to be more active in your day, and just feel probably the way we are meant to feel before we loaded a bunch of chemicals and stuff into our diets.
Step 7: The Goal is reached
You may have faltered a few times, the learning curve of reading the ingredients in something may have gotten you into trouble. In general, you stuck to it and likely feel amazing. The last week was by far the easiest. The groove was hit and you were making natural decisions conducive to your experiment. Your commitment to the task is done, but do you want it to be?
This experiment for us was incredible. We enjoyed grocery shopping, meal planning, and found we cooked way better meals than we did before! We also saved money and feel better overall. As outlined in A Life on Our Planet, Sir Attenborough explains the impacts globally that eating less meat can have and it is sobering (which is why I say again, watch it).
Because of this we have decided to be “Advanced” Flexitarians. (Kids these days with the fancy lingo…) It is essentially Vegetarian, where you are eating plant based BUT you are still able to eat meat occasionally. The idea is LESS (for the advanced aspect, way less. Like almost zero) animal protein. You have animal protein a couple meals a week to be able to digest meat, and there is no guilt trip to Uncle Jim when handed a burger at the family BBQ. Chris and I understand that we wouldn’t be able to sustain never eating meat again, but love how we have been feeling mentally and physically as well as can feel better about our input as consumers.
I could not recommend trying it out enough, I am so thankful we did this fun experiment as it just turned out to be a great turning point in our personal journeys together.
For more information on being Flexitarian and why you may want to give it a try (even for a little bit!) This is a great written piece on it:
“We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters… If we had a mostly plant-based diet we could increase the yield of the land,”
-Sir David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet