Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Month of Vegetarianism

August has come and gone, so it's about time to reflect on that month where I didn't eat any meat. I don't feel like writing out a huge chunk of text, so I'm just going to answer many of the common questions I got and still get about it. Have another question you want to know about? Ask in the comments and I promise to add it.

Why did you go vegetarian for a month?
There were two main reasons I did this. The first was simple curiosity. I've been mulling over how I feel morally about eating meat (at the moment fairly ambivalent) and have been wanting to try out vegetarianism (I had been cutting down on meat anyway). When the lovely Amy challenged all her friends on Facebook to do a month of vegetarianism, I thought about it for a while and decided I would give it a go. I guess a month is supposed to give you a good idea of what it's really like.

Was it hard?
Easy question: no. For nearly the entire month I was on the West Coast, a veritable mecca of vegetarianism (especially Portland, which I was in for 3 nights in total). LA was a little trickier than expected. Coming back onto campus for that last almost-a-week was by far the hardest bit. Not to say I wasn't tempted, especially in LA (I attribute that to not having as many great veggie options). Also, I'm a bit of a foodie when it comes to tourism so I was a little sad to give up the opportunity to try some regional dishes - especially sushi in Vancouver. However, I plan to get back out there sometime, so not a huge loss.

Did you like it? Did it make you feel better?
I did like it, though occasionally wished to try a meat dish. Shamefully I mostly ate out so wasn't that healthy, however, I did notice a difference in the frequency of digestive problems (much less!). I always thought that was due to dairy consumption (I love cheese a little too much), but maybe that's not the whole story.

Are you going to become a vegetarian now?
Short answer: no. Long answer is that while I still feel a little guilty about eating meat (even more so now, I started having meat guilt dreams during August), this month also allowed me to discover the reasons I really would want to be vegetarian. Truth is, these reasons - health and environmentalism - can be almost as effective if I am eating only a little meat as they would were I eating no meat. And since giving up burgers forever is not a fun thought, I'm going to simply cut down on my meat consumption a lot. Sadly, the meat consumption is currently on an upswing, probably due to both feeling deprived and the lack of vegetarian options at the dining halls. I am going to set a goal right now to be fully vegetarian at least 2 days a week, and slowly increase that number as time goes on (FYI: I'm already half, or 2/3, vegetarian every day - I only eat meat at dinner [if I eat it], and of course breakfast is a bagel when I eat it so no meat there). I am currently using Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese and Vegenaise, and I use soy milk in my cereal and drink chocolate soy milk (SO GOOD).

Did you learn anything during this time?
In addition to whatever you can construe as learning above, I learned the difference between animal rights and animal welfare activism thanks to Amy. I have discovered that I am not interested in animal rights, as I mistakenly assumed I was, but instead, more interested in animal welfare.

On the whole I found the process enlightening and fun. I tried new things like tempeh (delicious!) and seitan jerky (not so much a fan). I got to the point where I don't loathe tomatoes. I ate at a whole bunch of amazing vegetarian and vegan restaurants, thanks to Amy's awesome trip planning skills (and her GPS, it must be said). In addition to that, I discovered a valuable resource in Yelp for general food and drink recommendations for cities, and HappyCow.net for specifically vegetarian recommendations. Overall I am very glad I did it, and maybe I will slowly become vegetarian - who knows!

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