On October 1st, I started an experiment in which I would be a vegetarian for 100 days. I wanted to do it long enough that it would be a challenge and also long enough to see the effects. With the 100 days now over, I’m ready to share some mostly anecdotal, completely unreplicated personal findings.
- Physiological: I lost 7 pounds (about 5% of my weight) and feel generally awesome, but I don’t credit vegetarianism for this. The veggie diet coincided with a training program which I think is responsible for these positive changes. However, the experiment did show that one can easily engage in rigorous strength-training whilst avoiding meat, a concern that had previous kept me from adopting vegetarianism. Energy levels remained high, and got my 65g daily protein by including lots of legumes.
- Gastronomical : Armed with a few recipe books and some online research I found it easy to make vegetarian meals that both Jonathan and I enjoyed, and I made many new discoveries along the way. I’m now a bulgur master. At no time did I feel any general meat cravings, but did feel one specific craving early on when a crispy slice of bacon was staring up at me. Otherwise even when wonderful dishes were served (Blork’s turkey at thanksgiving, Mom’s tourtière at Xmas), I found honest satisfaction in the vegetarian side dishes. I was also able to take in a bit more of the yummy, healthy fats (from nuts and olive oil) because I was ingesting no unhealthy fats from meat. Oh, and Indian vegetarian takeout rawks.
- Financial: This was surprisingly the area of biggest impact. Every week I went to the checkout counter thinking, “okay, this one’s going to be costly” having bought so much, and every week I was stunned by the bill. Weekly groceries for two people, including Jonathan’s meat (exclusively smoked or canned fish), ran us 45-50$ for the duration. The previous typical bill was about 125-150$.
- Social: This is definitely the area where I felt the sacrifice most dearly. Being a vegetarian is most inconvenient when dining out or at other people’s houses. Even when you bring a veggie dish to someone’s dinner party, it feels like an imposition. Additionally, the special diet creates one more constraint when choosing restaurants, or the necessity to negociate with chefs who aren’t always pleased to alter the delicate balance of their dishes. That having been said, there is less social pressure to bend the rules when you’re a strict vegetarian than with anything that seems negociable such as being on a diet or being a loose vegetarian. People don’t question you on it. Except your dad, of course.
Overall, one of the most surprising things is how little difference being a vegetarian makes in one’s life. It was generally an extremely easy and positive transition for me to make. As a result, I have decided to remain vegetarian, but only at home. The only difficulty arose when dining out or at people’s houses, so when I’m out I’ll eat what’s there. Since about 80% of what I ingest is food I make, with this easy guideline I should remain mostly vegetarian.