Being Vegetarian: One Year Later

For the past 6 or 7 years, I’ve been vegetarian on and off for a few months at a time. As young as I was and as dependent on my family for meals, it would hard to maintain this dietary change for long periods of time. My longest span was 9 months. December of 2017, I cut out red meat due to adverse reactions my body was having: fatigue, stomachaches, headaches, and overall lethargy. As the new year drew closer, I decided I wanted my 2018 new year’s resolution to be vegetarian for the entire year. I had never been one for resolutions, but this one seemed realistic. Cutting out all meat from my diet is something I am capable of sticking with and am passionate about doing. Here’s how it's going:

(Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash)

  1. I’m still a vegetarian. I went into this challenge not knowing if I was going to maintain it after a year, but here I am with no plans to quit. Of course, while my ultimate goal is to be a vegetarian as long as I can, I never imagined this new years resolution would continue. It’s so much more than a resolution at this point.

  2. The cravings end but missing certain foods doesn’t. I no longer have the desire to eat dishes with meat because I know it will wreak havoc on my stomach (fun fact: your body forgets how to digest meat after a while, making your first meat meal somewhat uncomfortable to eat. The longer you don’t eat, the more sensitive you will be). However, while I have found replacements for many of my favorite dishes, I do miss just the traditional version. Barbeque pulled pork sandwiches, for instance, are the bane of my existence.

  3. It gets easier. The first few months of cutting out all meat entirely feel like it will never end. It gets bad enough that you want to give up. You feel endlessly hungry and grumpy that there are never good options. Your body adjusts to taking in a higher quantity of lower-calorie items to get its fill. It amazes me how one burger would make me feel bloated and bursting, but now I can eat giant salads with all my favorite toppings and still reach for a bread roll. I can also scan menus for food I can eat much faster than before. Restaurants with ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ coding or sections in their menus have a special place in my heart.

  4. I think a lot more about the food I’m putting in my body. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of being a carbs-based vegetarian. No meat? No problem, just eat fries and pasta and bread and you’ll be good, right? Wrong. Leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce), beans, and lentils are all staples in my diet (well, for a college student on a budget, I try my best). Becoming a vegetarian meant becoming a spinach fiend. It isn’t as simple as removing meat from your diet, it involves actively replacing meat with something just as or more nutritious. ​

If being vegetarian is possible based on your health, lifestyle, and budget, I would strongly recommend anyone to try it. Even if it's something as simple as meatless Mondays, or one week at a time, vegetarianism doesn't have to be a year-long commitment. It takes practice and effort in order to become accustomed to it. To me, the benefits outweigh the cost of simply not eating meat.