30 Days, No Meat

By Ashlee Gadd

Pepperoni pizza. Turkey burgers. Chicken tacos. These are a few of my favorite things, and just a few of the items I gave up in the month of April as I embarked upon a personal 30-day vegetarian challenge.

Call me crazy, but I’ve always wanted to try vegetarianism, mostly out of sheer curiosity. I know quite a few vegetarians—some hippies and some not—whose diets have always been foreign territory to me. For instance, I never quite understood the logic behind a veggie burger. What exactly is that patty made of?

Regardless, my vegetarian challenge began with the utmost optimism. With new vegetarian recipes neatly stacked on my kitchen counter, I was convinced I would create all sorts of amazing dishes, in the midst of experiencing a personal health epiphany. It was going to be magical. Or, so I thought.

Now before I ruin your potential vegetarian-related hopes and dreams, allow me to explain. In a nutshell, my 30-day experiment was positive. While I didn’t exactly go buck wild in the kitchen whipping up four-course elegant meatless meals, I learned a few valuable lessons.

The Pros:

  • I consumed a ridiculous amount of vegetables by swapping meat for veggies with almost every meal. I am convinced my college nutrition professor would have been proud.
  • I was full. Prior to starting the veggie challenge, I had convinced myself I was going to be hungry for 30 days. I could not have been more wrong. I actually think I ended up eating less overall, because I was eating smaller portions of filling foods, instead of larger portions of not-so-filling foods. Brilliant, I know.
  • I slept really well. Like, I-was-practically-in-a-coma-once-my-head-hit-the-pillow well. I have no idea if the two were related, but it was a physical change I noticed in April.

The Cons:

  • I didn’t know what to eat for lunch. Breakfast and dinner were relatively easy, but lunch was a constant struggle. You can only have so many PB&J’s before you get bored. Let’s just say, Jamba Juice and I became very good friends during those thirty days.
  • I had to figure out how to feed my husband. Thirty days was not enough time to master the art of a split kitchen, but we made it work temporarily.

The Random Facts:

  • Giving up meat (for me), was easier than I thought. Prior to starting the challenge, I feared I would turn into a meat-craving lunatic and start to foam at the mouth in the presence of chicken. Fortunately, that never happened.
  • The biggest lesson I learned was that I am perfectly capable of eating vegetarian meals and feeling satisfied afterwards.
  • The weirdest part? I thought for sure by May 1st I would be dying to get my hands on some meat, clawing my way through the grocery store in search of marinated chicken skewers. Shockingly enough, I wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t eat meat again until May 7th if you can believe it! For some reason, meat had lost some of its appeal, although I can’t really tell you why.

Nowadays, I suppose I consider myself part of the growing health movement known as flexitarianism—a semi-vegetarian diet focusing on vegetarian food with occasional meat consumption (said Wikipedia). While I am not typically one to jump on such bandwagon health movements, this one actually makes sense to me. I want to eat less meat and more vegetables, but I’m not willing to commit to such a strict nutritional lifestyle. Flexible + Vegetarian = Flexitarian.

For more on the Flexitarian lifestyle, check out Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”, or Dawn Blatner’s “The Flexitarian Diet – The Mostly Vegetarian Way To Lose Weight, Lower Blood Pressure, Be Healthier & Add Years To Your Life.”

To read more about how my journey started, click here, and to read more about how it ended, click here. And remember—eat your veggies!

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2 Comments

  1. Melissa says

    I read the book Skinny Bitch and it completely changed how I look at eating. They even have menu guides in the back to help you when you grocery shop (hopefully at a farmer’s market…) The authors’ approach to keeping it real while informing you that you are what you eat.
    I felt so great when I started that I took up morning exercise routines I ditched a few years back. Sleep also hasn’t been this amazing since high school!

  2. Ashlee Gadd says

    I loved that book! I have to question their credibility as nutrition experts, but they made a LOT of really good points. Maybe I should flip through the menu guides again….it’s been a while since I read that! 😉

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