Hey friends! I can’t believe it’s already March, but I AM happy to report that I had a successful meat-free month of February!
As I mentioned in my last post, I will be taking on monthly missions, making mostly small (and sometimes not-so-small) changes to my day-to-day life in the hope of trying new things, living consciously, and taking steps toward goals that are important to me. First up: eat vegetarian.
Since I technically started on inauguration day, I have eaten full vegetarian for 41 days and I certainly want to keep this up since I have been feeling great. Here are some of the highs and lows.
Benefits so far
- Being true to me: One of the major motivators for this monthly mission was to better connect with my values. Throughout college and my post-college research, I studied environmental science, conservation biology, sustainability, and the connections between environmental management and health. I’m also a runner, yogi, and yoga teacher, so I think and learn about wellness and nutrition constantly. My career is in science writing, particularly writing about cancer research. These are all important parts of my daily existence that make me who I am. And while a particular diet isn’t a requirement for any of these pieces of my identity, eating a more plant-based diet is in alignment with the values I’ve cultivated and what I hold to be true. This is all to say: vegetarianism just makes sense to and for me.
- Energy: To be honest, I haven’t really noticed any changes in my running, yoga, or energy levels, but I’m considering that a win because it means I haven’t had LESS energy or enthusiasm for being active. I think it might take some more time for me to notice these changes.
- Joy of Change and Learning: I have loved diving deeper into nutrition and others’ experiences with eating plant-based. It’s always fun to learn more about something that interests you, and I’ve especially loved listening to some fascinating podcasts on the subject while cooking new meals. Talk about in-the-moment motivation!
- Travel: By far the biggest challenge so far for me was visiting Charleston, South Carolina with my family. The vacation itself was no challenge at all (hello sunshine), but eating vegetarian in such a meat-centric place was super tough. It’s part of what I love about travel: experiencing what sets a place aside and what’s important in that culture is so much fun. I’m also fortunate to not have any food allergies, so it was uncomfortable for me to start inquiring about all menu options. BBQ and seafood abound in this city, and it was truly tough to find appealing veggie dinners. At one restaurant, I ordered kale and cauliflower sides since there were no meat-free plates and the waiter told me that both had anchovies in them. Luckily they put together a tasty veggie meal, but I was pretty jealous of the meals around me. Potatoes three ways? Not a real dinner. My family was incredibly accommodating and never once suggested that I bail on this mission, which I really appreciated. We also managed to find plenty of fun veg-friendly treats, as the photos below make pretty clear…
- Eat Smart: I will admit, my first few weeks with this change were NOT the healthiest. I turned to a lot of non-meat comfort items and I was not finding the best ways to make sure I was full and satisfied. I mean, a veggie diet does not mean I can’t overdo it on ice cream, cheese, and IPAs (my trifecta of favorite indulgences). I know that this is probably due to me not upping my veggie portion sizes, combined with feeling like “as long as I’m not eating meat, I can eat anything!” That is obviously not the best way to experience the health benefits of this change, so I’ve been working to increase my fruit and vegetable intake and moderate my “treat yo self” moments.
Easiest meal: Breakfast. I mean, I wrote a whole blog post about how much I love oatmeal (my 2nd most viewed post to date – talk about food more, noted). I almost never ate meat for breakfast, so this was no transition at all. I don’t like eggs, so oatmeal and smoothies are already my go-tos. It’s an easy way for me to have at least one vegan meal most days, so I’m sticking with that.
Toughest meal: Dinner. I work in a neighborhood that has loads of vegetarian food, so even if I don’t make lunch I have a ton of options. But getting home late at night after a sweaty yoga session with no food prepared? It used to be so easy to pick up a piece of fish and just bake that quickly and steam some greens. That’s the only type of meal that I currently miss, and I’m just having to make some adjustments and be a bit more prepared. I need to purchase infinite beans and frozen veggies to make sure I have enough good options on hand in a pinch!
Favorite local spots for veggie-friendly and vegan food
I have been trying to cook mostly from home so that I don’t fall into a junk food/take out trend, but when I do eat out there are certain places that have made it really easy to eat vegetarian or vegan:
Need to check out:
- Most people who know me moderately well have long been confused about whether I’m a vegetarian or not, so this change surprised no one (at least I don’t think it did). I mean, raise your hand if you’re surprised that the yogi/science writer stopped eating meat? The only question is: where should I put my avocado tattoo?
- My family and friends have been extremely supportive and made this very easy so far. Chris has even cooked me several vegetarian meals. Valentine’s Day involved drinking wine and watching him steam broccoli while cooking up some kale–my idea of romance.
- The most common question I’ve gotten is whether I’m eating fish. This was a tough one for me because I love the taste of seafood, but fisheries and water systems were the focus of most of my research, so I have learned a lot about the issues these systems are facing. I used to carry a fishery sustainability chart with me (v. cool, I know), but I also never shook the visual of seeing the results of bottom trawling. The amount of waste and destruction that goes on and is so hidden from our sight and knowledge left quite an impression. Hence: no fish. Thank you, New Zealand, for being so hands-on in your biology labs!
There are a few resources that I’ve leaned on for inspiration, recipes, and more motivation. I’m definitely early-on in this process, so feel free to share any ideas!
Lighter has been huge in terms of recipe ideas and inspiration for making more vegan meals. They make it super easy to meet your needs and lifestyle, and include full nutrition info to help you learn more about how you’re fueling.
I’ve also been turning to loads of podcasts to learn more. Two of my favorite plant-based athletes to tune in to are listed below. Not all of their conversations focus on this topic, but it’s discussed in many of their interviews:
I’ve also encountered some great articles and try to seek out lots of inspiration and motivation, along with writers that focus on making this change as an athlete. 9 Things You Can Do About Climate Change was powerful for me because I saw someone post it the day that I decided to make this shift. Caleb Daniloff’s series in Runner’s World has been amazing to follow because of his honesty, humor, and perspective on training while making dietary changes.
February is a wrap, but I feel like I’m just getting started on this veggie mission. I’m also working on my March monthly mission, which should be a bit easier and lots of fun. More to come soon…
Any more recommendations for inspiring interviews, documentaries, articles, or veggie-friendly dining in Boston? Share ’em below!