I mentioned in a recent post that I have been enjoying a vegetarian diet lately and promised to post more about it. I don’t promise things lightly, so here it is. One thing I’ll make clear – I am NOT an expert and have literally only been a vegetarian for about 10 months of my life. Two years ago I tried vegetarianism and then shortly after that I started veganism and it didn’t go well at all. I pretty much was trying it to lose weight and I wasn’t only not getting enough protein, I was plain and simple not getting enough calories and my body was not happy. I chatted with my doctor and he suggested I either find a way to make up the calories/protein/nutrients or started eating meat again. I started eating meat again and felt 3108758131 times better. This time it feels completely different.
The first thing about starting a meatless lifestyle: Talk to a doctor, nutritionist, or health professional.
They might have some great insights into how to effectively and efficiently transition to a vegetarian diet. You might not know that vegetarians typically lack Vitamin B12, or that muscle breakdown occurs really fast if you don’t eat enough of the essential and nonessential amino acids. Get all the information you can before making the transition… and do just that TRANSITION. I started incorporating new sources of non-meat protein into my diet before cutting all meat out. Trying out some of my favourite dishes as vegetarian meals made me realize how simply I would be able to make the switch!
The second thing about starting a meatless lifestyle: Start slow.
You don’t have to go cold turkey (no pun intended ;). Try it out for a week or two, or maybe even one day a week!
My mom always participates in lent each year and gives up something she loves from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, usually candy and chocolate, her particular weaknesses. We are not a particularly religious family but I thought I would participate this year too. It was easy to make a commitment that I knew was only about six weeks long. If I felt the same as last time I would just go back to eating meat.
Surprisingly, I am not an animal person. One of the main reasons I wanted to try a meatless lifestyle was not because I love cats and dogs and every animal under the sun. I do however know that what farming was 100 years ago is not what farming is today. I took a lot of environmental courses for my Bachelor of Science degree and learned a ton about the impact of factory farming on the environment, human health, and animal health. I learned a lot and what I learned really impacted how I thought about food and what I wanted to be putting in my body. I was ready to challenge a vegetarian lifestyle and lent seemed like the perfect chance to make a short term commitment.
The third thing about starting a meatless lifestyle: BE READY. Do it for the right reasons. Not everyone’s reasons are the same, but they are all equally respectable. Don’t be motivated by other people’s choices, decide for YOURSELF.
To clarify what I eat… I am a vegetarian, not vegan, not pescetarian, not fruitarian, not a raw foodie. I eat eggs, I enjoy dairy, I just don’t eat meat. No chicken, no fish, no beef, no pork, etc. I honestly still need the protein from eggs and dairy so I don’t think where my running and athleticism are now can be supported by a completely vegan lifestyle 🙂
The fourth thing about starting a meatless lifestyle: It’s not that I “can’t” eat that… I am just choosing not to. Don’t force yourself to do it, it has to be a personal choice and it is really up to you what you include in your diet. You don’t have to label it!
One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says “Aw, you can’t eat that!” or “I can’t believe you can’t eat that caesar salad because of the bacon!” or “I don’t know what you’re going to eat because you can’t have the pasta dish with meat.” It’s really not that I can’t have meat, I can and I could. I am choosing not to have it, so I am really not disappointed or feel like I am “missing out” when there is meat around!
The fifth thing about starting a meatless lifestyle: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Educate yourself.
It is really not hard to go meatless. Veganism is a bit different because you have to be a lot more careful about ingredient lists and such, but vegetarianism really isn’t difficult… as long as you have done your homework. As an athlete, I need about 1.5X the amount of protein that someone living a sedentary lifestyle would need. That just means I have to make a bit more of a conscious effort to ensure I eat enough protein every day. The first week of my vegetarian diet I used My Fitness Pal to track what I ate and see exactly how many grams of protein I was getting. I would look at the days I hit or exceeded my target protein intake and find the foods that gave me the most bang for my buck! I found it REALLY helpful and it made me realize that I didn’t have to eat gross tofu smoothies or fake “chicken” every day to make it work.
How it has gone so far:
I really expected results like the last time but I have been completely and overwhelmingly surprised by how well it has gone. I haven’t had any loss of energy and I haven’t noticed any real differences in how I feel, running or otherwise. My running has felt the same or better and I am still making sure that I eat enough protein and calories to keep up with how much I work out. I eat eggs almost every day. They pack some major protein and they are delicious… win-win. I have tried a few different veggie burgers, soy protein choices, and the like, and some have been tremendous, and some not so great. I plan on doing a post super soon (maybe tomorrow 😉 talking about what I eat, especially for protein. Warning: It may contain extremely delicious foods that will make you consider a vegetarian diet.
A Runner’s Guide to Becoming a Vegetarian by Runner’s World.
How a Vegetarian Diet can meet runner’s needs by Runner’s World.
No Meat Athlete, a great vegan running blog.
Thoughts on vegetarianism? I am by no means an expert so I would love to hear some opinions!
Have you ever tried it? Would you?