During the lead-up to Lent this year, thoughts about whether I would give up any vices this time around were far from a priority in my mind. In the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, however, I decided that giving up meat would be a good challenge. So, that’s exactly what I did…
Okay, but one condition!
When I decided that this was going to be my move for the next six plus weeks, I also told myself that I would include fish in my diet. I figured that if I can eat fish on Fridays during Lent, I should keep it in my diet. Besides, I’m not a nutritionist. I didn’t think making a drastic switch in my diet so spur of the moment was the greatest thing for my health. So, if we want to be more precise, I went pescatarian for Lent, not full-blown vegetarian.
Have I lost my mind!? Why did I want to do this?
Mostly, I just thought it would be a fun challenge. And I thought it would actually be a challenge. I’ve given up the usual in the past—fast food, soft drinks, and candy—but those things had never been that difficult to say goodbye to.
I didn’t think removing chicken, pork, and beef from my diet would impossible to accomplish, but I knew I would have to display at least some will-power to say no to some of my favorite foods.
How did I go about the switch?
Pretty much how you would expect. I quit buying what I couldn't eat. I bulked up my plate with fish and eggs, peanut butter and greens, and ate cashews and peanuts when I needed a snack. I didn’t feel that I needed to do much research going into the experience. Having fish in my diet allowed me to lean on that as a source of protein.
Was it hard for me to follow through?
Honestly, no. Not at all. I rarely craved meat during those six weeks. Living with two housemates who helped me by taking on my diet to a certain degree was a good thing for me. Although there were times when they cooked very delicious-looking chicken, and I was stuck eating (albeit equally delicious) broccoli cheddar quiche. Eating out was also a little challenging. On one occasion, we went out to Steak-and-Shake, where my only option was a boring grilled cheese sandwich. It was hard to say no to a tasty burger, but I didn’t dwell on it, so it didn’t get to me.
Where there any slip ups?
Yes. One. But it was not due to a lapse in will-power. Rather, it was a case of genuine forgetfulness. You see, I work in Augie's dining hall, and sometimes I bring leftover food home after my shift. I came home from one shift with a pan of ham and cheese quiche, and promply chowed down on it that night, completely oblivious to the fact that I was eating ham. I realized I'd slip up a day later when I was heating up more for breakfast, but reasoned with myself that 1) it was an honest mistake, and 2) it would have been more of a tragedy to let the food go to waste.
There were some bonuses to my new diet…
While I don’t think eating meat is immoral, and I’m not the type of person to boycott the meat industry (although I will admit that I find the way factory farms raise animals to be inhumane), I did feel better about myself, morally.
Another unintended consequence of giving up meat is that it also forced me to give up most fast food. Sometimes, after a long day of classes, I’m tempted to run through the McDonald’s drive-thru for a deliciously unhealthy burger. Well, I had to kick that habit, and my stomach and wallet were very happy about it.
Am I going to stay pescatarain now that Lent is over?
At the time of writing this, Lent ended about a week ago. I ate meat for the first time in six weeks (other than the accidental quiche incident) on Easter day—which marks the end of Lent—when it was served at my family dinner. Since then, for the most part, I've been eating meat as I normally have been my whole life. I celebrated the end of my meat hiatus the day after Easter by diving into greasy Checker’s burgers with my housemates.
Although I am back to my old habits, happily eating burgers and chicken again, I have been telling myself for weeks that I wouldn’t mind cutting back my meat consumption in the future. I don’t see myself going vegetarian anytime soon, but I have for sure proven to myself that I am capable of restraint when it comes to my diet.
I do plan on lessening the amount of meat I consume, to show a little extra love to the planet if nothing else!