One year ago I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life: I decided to completely change my diet by going vegan. The vegan phase only lasted a few months and soon after I transitioned to a vegetarian diet and now I’m on a pescatarian diet. When I first made the decision to stop eating meat, I went into it with no expectations and no pressure. To be honest, at the time, thinking I could go one year without eating meat seemed impossible. After one year of not eating meat, I’ve definitely learned a few things about food, health, and about myself:
- Listen to your body and take care of it. My diet over the last year has gone from vegan to vegetarian to pescatarian and I’ve learned a lot through each of those transitions. One thing I’ve learned is to listen to my body. I can tell a distinct difference in the way my body feels depending on what I’ve been eating. If I’ve been slacking and eating a bunch of processed foods, I’ll feel lazy and unproductive. If I’ve been on my game and eating healthy (a lot of fruits and veggies) I feel energized. What we put into our body has a huge effect on how we feel, both mentally and physically.
- People are seriously misinformed about protein. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me, “But how do you get protein if you don’t eat meat?” And they were DEAD serious. I’m here to share a secret: you can find protein in foods OTHER than meat. Eggs, tofu, quinoa, beans, nuts… The list goes on! Sure it’s not as easy to keep a balanced diet – I have to be much more mindful than I was before. But it is possible to maintain a healthy, balanced diet WITHOUT eating meat (if that’s what you choose to do!)
- Your taste buds can change. There are times when a cheeseburger sounds really good (or lately I’ve really been craving buffalo wings for some reason), but when the opportunity actually presents itself to have meat, it just doesn’t sound good to me. Now, when I see a big slab of ribs or a chicken breast, it honestly doesn’t sound appetizing. I went into this diet solely for health reasons, but as time went on I started learning more about the environmental effects and the treatment of animals at some facilities and I honestly think this knowledge has had a huge effect on my ‘meat cravings’.
- Changing your diet is easier than you think. That first month was incredibly difficult because I was learning an entirely new way to eat. I went from eating anything and everything to being vegan. It was an incredibly drastic, cold turkey change. But once I figured out new meals to make and how to stick with my diet when eating out, it got easier and easier. I truly think if you can get through that first month, it’ll be smooth sailing from there.
- You can do anything you set your mind to. One year ago, I was a meat eater to the fullest extent. Growing up in the Midwest, I was a carnivore to the bone. From steaks to fried chicken to juicy cheeseburgers… I LOVED meat. I still do! So when people say, “I could never do that!” I honestly have to roll my eyes. You CAN do whatever you WANT to do – that’s the bottom line. It’s not that you could never stop eating meat, it’s that you would never want to stop eating meat. And that’s totally okay! But if I can do it, anyone can do it.
So here I am, one year after making one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made and I feel GREAT! Where does my diet go from here? I haven’t really decided. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately actually, likely because I’ve made it to this year mark, but I haven’t yet decided what that means to me. Does it mean that I’ve made “it” and can go back to how I was eating before? Or maybe it means I’ll eat meat occasionally but will for the most part stick with how I’m currently eating? I have no idea – but I’m proud of myself for hanging in there and never throwing in the towel. As cheesy as it sounds, you truly can do anything you set your mind to.