I was 100% committed to my vegetarian diet and I had a goal of eating meat-free for 21 days. I started on a Sunday and I have to admit that the first week was even harder than I anticipated. I CRAVED steak, chicken, hamburgers. One day I had to grab lunch from the deli in our building and I settled on soup and a veggie wrap (which I could only eat about half of before it got soggy and I threw it away). At the Cowboys pre-season game, I settled on nachos instead of pizza or a hot dog. We ordered food from our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant and I had to change my order when I remembered that the cannelloni was made with ground meat. That weekend we drove to Louisiana for the Labor Day weekend and on the way there Sophia started screaming to eat. Our only option for the next 20 miles was fast food, so I ate salad from McDonald's and shared a yogurt parfait with her. On the way back to Dallas just two short days later, the exits and restaurants were so crowded from the hurricane evacuation that we ate fast food again. This time I had a salad from Burger King. Basically by the end of the first week, I was starving.
Once we were home, I was determined to try out some new vegetarian recipes. I made veggie lasagna, broccoli rice casserole, and vegetable stir fry. To be considerate of Trey and Sophia's need for meat, I grilled them some chicken. Trey felt bad that I had to cook the chicken when I was not even going to eat it so he offered to take over the grill.
I began to notice a difference that second week, as my focus on food began to fade. My craving for meat was gone and making vegetarian choices became second nature. I did struggle when we went out to restaurants, especially since I had also chosen to give up fish, crab and shrimp. Salads, pasta, rice, and soup became obvious choices. Interestingly, along with my lack of craving meat, my desire for dessert diminished. I became less hungry that second week, but my diet did have some side effects that I could not ignore.
I got on the scale Saturday morning and saw that I lost four pounds in 14 days. This may not sound like a lot to some people but I am only 5 feet 2 inches tall and that amount of weight can make a difference. I was not exercising regularly during these two weeks but I can say that my energy level was lower than normal. After considering the risks vs benefits of continuing my diet for another week, I decided it was time to start adding more protein to my diet.
On Sunday, I started to slowly add meat to my meals. Ground turkey, lean chicken and fish are all options for me to eat this week. I will continue to leave out pork and red meat for the next few weeks or maybe completely. I am still forming my opinions about a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle but I have found that it is not feasible for me to follow a totally meat free diet.
I was surprised at the questions I received from friends and family about my choice to change my diet. I did not choose to change my diet to draw attention to the environmental impacts or to debate my stance on animal cruelty. I made a personal choice and a challenge to myself to see how my diet affects many different aspects of my life. These past two weeks have allowed me to look for healthier alternatives at restaurants and at home. We will continue to include meat-free meals in our family's diet one or two times a week and I will continue to eat meat-free for at least one meal a day. And I will continue to boycott tofu.