I have been eating a vegetarian diet for the last 19 days, and incredibly I have not felt the anticipated stress, angst or difficulty I was expecting to experience at the onset of this challenge.
Here are some of the surprises and highlights I have experienced so far in this vegetarian journey:
- There is a lot more to eat than just salads!
- Being a vegetarian doesn’t automatically mean you are destined to eat healthy (you still have to watch the junk food, sugary desserts and carbs).
- Going out to eat is not the easiest thing to do, but there are some pretty easy dishes I have found I can default to at restaurants.
- I have a new found love for cheese! Without cheese I don’t know if I would have been able to do this.
I have 11 more days as part of this official challenge, and I honestly feel pretty confident. I may even try to continue a mostly-plant based diet beyond Day 30.
Beginning tomorrow, I will be embarking in a new 30 Day Challenge, where I will follow a no-meat, vegetarian diet. Before I get into my reasons for wanting to try this challenge and what I hope to gain from the experience, I feel that I first need to provide an honest reflection of where I am as I begin this challenge.
I am a MEAT EATER. I revel in my omnivorous leanings and delight in making and eating steak, bacon, chicken, shrimp, and quite frankly just about any meat-based protein. In ‘preparation’ for my 30 day meat free diet, today I ate a cheese burger for lunch and Italian sausage with bacon laden loaded baked potatoes for dinner. I eat meat for almost every lunch and dinner. I hate tofu. Meals don’t feel complete without meat as a main course. And up until rather recently I would roll my eyes and the very thought of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
This challenge has also probably received the most criticism and divisiveness from friends and families. Some have been pretty excited and supportive but many have been less enthusiastic. My mom looked at me with a mild horror: “what will you eat??”… “you need to be awfully careful with your diet”. Others just looked at me incredulously “why would you do that???”
About 10 years ago I attempted to try a vegetarian diet. I lasted 36 hours, specifically 2 lunches, 1 breakfast, and 1 dinner. So there are a lot of potential hangups and pitfalls for me in taking on this challenge. But as I think about reasons for doing this, I have developed some pretty clear motivation.
Finding Inspiration and Staying Motivated
- Focused Food: I recently watched the documentary based off Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food. I have never been a huge proponent of never, ever eating meat and his 7 words of wisdom “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” resonates with me. There is value in eating well, in enjoying food and being mindful about what you eat. I like that principle and feel like that is a great tenet to follow as I begin this challenge.
- Improved Health: This tends to be one of the top arguments in favor of vegetarian and vegan based diets. The improved health benefits for plant based diets is widespread and pretty well documented.
- Lowered Carbon Footprint: To be able to personally make a small positive impact on the environment by reducing my personal carbon footprint is hugely motivating.
- Involvement and Support from Others: A few days ago, I was chatting with a co-worker and mentioned that I was going to be embarking on this meat-free challenge and she and her husband decided to join! I also have gotten some great feedback and insights from actual vegetarians and vegans, which makes me feel pretty optimistic.
- Internal Stubbornness: Most importantly, the desire to make it a full 30 days and commit to this challenge will be the final push in hopefully getting me through this challenge.
Last week I gave my sister and mother full access to my closet and asked that they pick out my outfits for two weeks. I have wanted to do something different with my style or at least be a little more explorative with my fashion choices for sometime. Even after going through the KonMari method of minimalism a few months ago, I would admit that my closet still has a lot of clothing options but inevitably I seem to always go for the same 10 outfits.
The actual inspiration for this challenge came from an article I read a while ago, where a mom let her toddler pick out her clothes. It was an adorable story and her style that week, was not surprisingly very different from her typical fashion choices. Since I don’t have access to a toddler and my dog is pretty much only motivated by food and could care less about clothes, I thought it would be fun to see what would happen if other people styled me.
My 2 Guest Stylists
My younger sister is a clothes horse. She takes solace in shopping trips, has stacks of fashion magazines and seems to always have an inherent understanding of what is ‘in fashion’. She is basically the polar opposite of me when it comes to style. But over the years my fashion has slowly morphed into hers, where she periodically clears out her closet for updated styles and subsequently fills my closet with her clothes that have lapsed a season or two. My sister looked at my closet like a puzzle to be solved, looking at patterns and prospective pieces that could best compliment one another.
My mother on the other hand is much more of a creature of comfort. She loves her Birkenstock sandals and comfortably fitted clothes. For my mom this was an opportunity to finally influence more color into my wardrobe. ‘You never wear any colors,’ she insisted as she made a bee-line for the pinks, greens and blues in my closet.
Week 1 Takeaways
- Jewelry and Accessories– From this first week there were some outfits that were pretty similar to my typical choices (a comfortable cotton dress and cardigan) but where that deviated was with lots of jewelry that almost never sees the light of day. The same outfit all of the sudden feels really different with a necklace and set of earrings.
- It’s just clothes– I think it is easy to get stuck in a rut for comfort and consistency. I am also guilty of feeling a little self conscious at the thought of going outside my comfort zone of style, so this week has been a nice reminder that style is supposed to be fun.
Tomorrow starts a new month and two new 30 Day Challenges! The first challenge is a fitness based challenge: 30 Days of Strength Conditioning. The second challenge is more of a new lifestyle challenge: 30 Days of Style Changes.
30 Days of Strength Conditioning
The inspiration for this challenge came as a direct result of my experience from Swimming Around Lido Key last week. After some post-swim reflection, I realized that while I was happy that I accomplished my ultimate goal of completing the swim, I felt a little disappointed with my overall performance.
When it came down to it, I felt pretty physically and mentally defeated by the ocean current. So this month I am looking to focus on a physical fitness challenge that will be spent predominately out of the water in the hopes that I have more physical strength to tackle future endurance swim challenges. For 30 days, I will dedicate myself to strength conditioning of my core, my arms and my back. Specifically, I have downloaded a 30 Day Ab Challenge, a 30 Day Push-Up Challenge and 30 Days of Arm Workouts.
30 Days of Style Changes
This challenge is a pretty big departure for me from a lot of the challenges I have done up to this point as the majority have been focused on new fitness routines, personal growth or diet. That being said, I have been really looking forward to this.
For the next 30 days, I will be changing up my style. I probably spend an average of about 4 minutes deciding what I am going to wear in the morning and it never really deviates much. This month I am mixing up what I wear and how I think about my clothes and overall style. I will be integrating new wardrobe pieces into my normal week of outfits, asking for new weekly ‘stylists’ and playing with new styles and clothing combinations.
To get me started, I have enlisted the help of my first two ‘guest stylists’, granting my mom and younger sister full access to my closet to each pick out a week’s worth of clothes for me. Their combinations of my clothes were unexpected and in many cases not what I would have put together for myself. It feels a little nerve wracking to go outside my clothing comfort zone but it should be a fun few weeks of new style choices and hopefully it sheds some of my self consciousness about what I wear.