5 Lessons From a 90 Day Vegetarian

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farmers marketI was a vegetarian on Monday, today I am not. I had been doing some reading around nutrition and digested a series of compelling arguments for "plant based diets." I thought that I would give it a try. So in July I decided to stop eating meat; my fast would last for a total of three months. On  the 1st of October my experiment ended. This is what I learned.

  1. Not eating meat is easy
  2. Eating plants is hard
  3. Eating is a social exercise
  4. Everyone knows a vegetarian
  5. Eating healthy is about moderation

Not eating meat is easy; there are vegetarian options mostly everywhere you go. The Seattle area is a hospitable place for herbivores. Waiters seem accustomed to people ordering Boca burgers, portobello burritos, and tofu stir fry. Most of the vegetarian dishes taste great. I stayed away from meat substitutes and enjoyed eating different foods in a new way. This is, of course, if we are talking about going out to eat.

Eating plants is hard. While restaurants offer a variety of meatless options the story is different at home. Preparing, and storing, vegetables at home was a far greater challenge than I thought. Keeping a fresh supply of ready to eat veggies felt impossible. I am not a cook and have never spent much time preparing elaborate meals in the kitchen. This, it seems, is a necessity of anyone wanting to eat plants as a primary food group. You know what is easy to eat? Bread. When I wasn't able to prepare a proper vegetarian meal I just ate bread stuffs. And don't forget cheese, snacks, and all sorts of other processed accessible food.

 Keeping a fresh supply of ready to eat veggies felt impossible.

Eating is a social exercise: people relate to you over food. If your food seems weird to someone then your social experience becomes a little bit weird. I am not saying that your relationship with that person is broken, but something happens when you order sides of coleslaw and mashed potatoes at the BBQ joint. Choosing an appropriate environment helps this but you don't always get to choose. It is most difficult when visiting someone's house for dinner. Do you tell them of your dietary needs? Eating as a vegetarian for ninety days created a handful of social encounters where I left the party as the weird guy.

SpinachEverybody knows a vegetarian. People want to connect with you and let you know about their cousin, roommate, or aunt who was a vegetarian. But everyone's motivations for being a plant eater is varied. Some look at it from the ethical point of view; they appeal to the treatment of animals or industrial ecology in relation to meat production. Others are trying to be more healthy, avoiding the toxic evils of factory meat or by consuming a more natural source of organic nourishment. Whatever type of vegetarian people know will slant their view on you.

Eating healthy is about moderation. I know your disappointed with this last insight. You already knew this but were hoping for some different conclusion. My goal with the vegetarian experiment was to find a way to eat more healthy. The truth was that I was susceptible to the same poor eating habits as a vegetarian. It was easy to fill up on junk and feel gross from eating too much. I felt best when I ate smaller portions, didn't skip meals, and didn't overdo it with the novelty items.

I was susceptible to the same poor eating habits as a vegetarian.

What is my conclusion? Eating a plant based diet is rewarding and achievable but places limitations on your social life and makes great demands of your time. It is not an automatic usher if uber health and can open to door to a whole new variety of poor eating habits.

Brent ColbyComment