For the past 23 years of my life, since I could manage solid foods, I’ve eaten meat. It was always a staple in my family’s diet.
Chicken was something eaten daily, ham sandwiches were often school lunches, and tacos always had beef in them. This was what I always knew, and I’d never even entertained the idea of being a vegetarian.
For context, I was raised Catholic and although I disagree with many teachings within the church, I go to mass every Sunday with my family. My relationship with the church is complicated, but I do take Lent seriously. I always give something up and make sure to fast on the designated days.
I had been toying with the idea of doing something really hard for a couple of years. Typically I give up nail-skin biting, sweets, or pop. But giving up a whole section of my diet is on another level.
So for the first time ever, I decided to give up meat (but not fish) for the whole 40 days of Lent
Here’s what I learned:
Shopping for a meat-free diet is expensive
The discourse around going vegan or vegetarian sometimes doesn’t fully embrace the fact that these choices are not conducive to a lot of people’s lives – especially those that live in food deserts where even basic fruit and veggies aren’t easily accessible.
Even if you do live in areas where meatless products are readily available, it can be on the pricier side.
On my first trip to the grocery store as a pescetarian, I needed a full food overhaul.
I live at home, and almost every meal my family eats is meat-based, so I had to get things I could make for lunch and dinner.
I bought enough groceries for several meals over at least two weeks, and I spent a total of $98.07 that first shopping trip – which hurts to think about, but nothing went to waste.
That’s not something many people can afford, and it’s not sustainable for me either.
It impacted my body in a very positive way
I figured that I’d feel super weak or hungry to start off, but that wasn’t the case at all.
I was actually surprised that I didn’t feel anything change. I didn’t have slumps of energy or anything of the like in my body. In fact, I felt a little better.
I wasn’t eating unhealthily beforehand, so I would never consider myself sluggish, but after a week on a meatless diet, I was feeling really good.
Of course, it can still be uneven and I occasionally break out. But without meat, it was consistently good.
Maybe it’s just my mind at work, but either way, my body was doing great things during these 40 days.
It made me more conscientious of how much meat I ate
Throughout the 40 days, I realized just how much I’ve been depending on meat.
On top of having to cook a lot of my own meals – except on Fridays when the rest of the family couldn’t eat meat either (another Lenten rule) – I also had to change my eating-out habits.
I eat at Panda Express a lot, it’s my favorite commercialized restaurant. And now my whole order was turned upside down.
Along with that, I couldn’t eat Cane’s, indulge in my beloved chicken nuggets at McDonald’s after a night out, or order meat on my pizza, and I had to face the reality that so many of my guilty pleasures revolve around meat
The temporary diet made me fall in love with meatless products
“Fake” meat freaked me out before, but after trying my hand at teriyaki tofu stir fry I’m all for the meatless alternative.
I wasn’t really a cook before this, but it’s quickly turned into my special culinary skill.
Not only was I feeling good on the inside, but the food also didn’t taste like a sacrifice anymore. It just tasted like good, healthy nourishment.
This challenge was way harder than I thought it would be, but it changed how I’ll eat from now on
Despite feeling good and liking this newfound lifestyle, I struggled a lot.
I was tempted by the allure of an al pastor taco on St. Patrick’s day and nearly gave in. I went to a comic convention in late March, and when I went to search for food, there were no vegetarian options. For lunch, I had to eat two churros, which was fun, but unsatisfying.
I also just missed eating meat. When I was about one week out from Easter Sunday and my mom’s famous Easter ham, I almost cried in the store from want.
Yes, it was hard. But that’s the whole point of Lent and giving stuff up. And on top of that, I did some inner thinking on the meat I had been consuming and what I wanted to take away from this 40-day experiment.
I enjoyed my ham on Easter Sunday, and the leftovers after that. But I realized that going straight into my regular habit of meat was making me feel horrible – my skin became so angry with me, and I started to feel a bit more sluggish.
I’m not ready to give meat up all the way again, but meatless products are going to be a part of my life now. I’m no longer afraid of tofu, and I’ll also order vegetarian dishes more often when I go out.
It’s a nice compromise for now, and it makes me happy that my food knowledge has grown. I learned that I can try new things and they can have a positive impact on my life.
Read the original article on Insider