My two week experiment as a vegetarian yielded some interesting results. Some were expected and positive, others were unexpected and negative. They fell into two basic categories, changes to my body and changes to my lifestyle.
The Biggest Surprise: I Really Wasn’t Hungry!
Going into this, I expected to be ravenous all the time. I had no confidence that eating only veggies could satisfy me, BUT IT DID! I was hardly ever hungry and even when I was, it wasn’t urgent hunger. On a meat based diet, hunger hits you like boulder, an urge that MUST be satisfied as soon as possible. With a plant based diet, it was more like a thought in the back of my head saying “you should probably eat when you get a chance.” This was the most surprising part of the whole experiment.
Keeping it real…..
But as with many new vegetarians, I often substituted carbs for meat. I made sure that more than a healthy dose of bread and pasta were a part of every meal. I’m sure that this canceled out some of the benefits of the vegetarian diet, but it was the safety net that I needed to get through the two weeks.
I Really Did Feel Better on a Plant Based Diet.
Vegetarians boast about how good they feel with no meat in their system. I have to admit, it is so true. On the days when I had eaten a balanced meal, I felt GREAT. I woke up feeling noticeably lighter. I had energy and felt strong. My thinking was clearer. It felt really good. On those days, I felt like I might extend the experiment and adopt vegetarianism as a lifestyle. But,
There Were Days When I felt Like Hell.
On a vegetarian diet, it is essential that you eat a variety of foods, more so than on a meat based diet. You are really eating for fuel, and your body doesn’t store as much. You must eat the various vitamins and nutrients that you need constantly to maintain appropriate levels. On the days when I didn’t get enough, I felt it. I felt drained. I felt sluggish and slow and had a constant dull headache. I knew something was missing.
My Body Really Did Tell Me What It Needed
It is true that your body will tell you what it needs and it seems that when you remove meat from the equation, it’s easier to hear what your body is saying.
My body clearly told me when it had been properly fed, (when I felt good) and when it needed something more (when I felt sluggish). The signs were loud and clear.
My Digestion Got Better
In the two weeks of my vegetarian experiment, my digestion changed. I noticed that I voided easily and without urgency. I have historically had bladder problems and even that issue seemed to be better.
And the best part,
I LOST WEIGHT!!!!!! At first, I didn’t notice it, but I lost about 5 pounds.Was it enough to make it worth it? Not at all. Maybe if I hadn’t eaten so many carbs, I probably would have done better.
But my numbers didn’t change.
My whole reason for doing this was to get my “numbers” under control and maybe reduce or eliminate some meds, particularly my blood pressure meds. It didn’t work for that. Two weeks, no change in blood pressure. What a bust. (I admit, I do believe that had I done it longer, I would have seen some results.)
Vegetarianism really affected my lifestyle, and not in good ways.
I Missed Chewing Meat.
After a few days of eating vegetarian, I missed the texture of meat. I wanted to bite and chew something other than veggies and grains. I wanted the rubbery(?), more complex feel of meat in my mouth. I also wanted more variety. Sure there are infinite things to eat and ways to eat them, but at the end of the day, it’s veggies and grains. Mix it up and it is still veggies and grains. I was missing the meat.
I Thought About Food All The Time
Remember that I started this with no research and no pre-planning. I had not stocked up on vegetables and foods and snacks that would make this transition easier. When I ate one meal, I was thinking about my next one. Instead of thinking about all the food I could eat, all I thought about was what I couldn’t eat. I’d look in my refrigerator and I felt deprived, then I’d want to eat. I knew it was a mind trip, but I fell for it. Not a
I Had To Work Hard to Eat A Balanced Diet
I found that the only real way for me to get the variety of foods that I needed was to eat at a vegetarian restaurant every few days, where the items were already prepared. I’d order a “bowl” that had lots stuff in it and it was like taking medicine. I felt better.
I guess I could have cooked, but I hadn’t researched what I needed or found recipes. And to do it, i would have had to keep lots of quickly spoiling foods on hand. At the time, it was just easier to eat out. Because I did it cold turkey, and didn’t invest in food prep or research, I just stocked up on snacks and relied on restaurant food for the bulk of my meals. I was sabotaging my success. Not a good long term plan, I know.
I Remembered Why I Don’t Like Vegetarian Restaurants – And It’s Not Because They Don’t Serve Meat!
On my first day of the experiment, I googled vegetarian restaurants and found one close to me. When I arrived and opened the door, I remembered something about vegetarian restaurants that I had forgotten – the smell. Many – not all – vegetarian restuarant have an organic smell – of earth, of raw food – you know the smell. I don’t care for it at all. Ughh. I didn’t want to have to eat in stinky places for the rest of my life. In all fairness, I discovered other vegetarian restaurants, some better than others, some with no smell, and one that was absolutely outstanding. It was hip and trendy and had a coffee bar. I ate there as often as I could.
Friends and Family vs. Vegetarianism
But the truth of the matter is, my non-vegetarian friends and family probably would not go with me to a vegetarian restaurant – and certainly not on a regular basis. And when I ate at regular restaurants, I learned that I could get full, but it was not a balanced meal. Essentially, I was filling my stomach, not feeding my body. Ughh, this was not working for me.
It’s Hard to Travel and Maintain The Lifestyle
When I was home, it was easy to get the foods I needed. Going out of town and trying to maintain a balanced diet was a different story.
In the course of my two weeks, I went out of town twice. The first time it was easy. I had prepared and researched, so I had no trouble getting what I needed. The second time, I was part of a convention. I was relegated to mostly hotel food; the “sides” of meat based meals. In addition, I hadn’t eaten well in the couple of days before the trip, thus I went into it with a deficit. After day two of the trip, I felt sluggish and headachy because of the limited food options available to me. I had to go outside of the hotel to get enough of what my body needed. It was taking quite a bit of effort to maintain this lifestyle.
And Then It Was Over
Unfortunately, day 14, the last planned day of the experiment I was out of town, again, this time with friends. The night before, I had had dinner with the group and left unsatisfied and hungry. I woke up wanting to eat.
My body was telling me that it needed something. My mind was telling me that it needed some meat. With a combination of bad timing and low resolve, I gave in and ordered a ham and egg bagel from Starbucks. I felt satisfaction beyond what I should have. It was good, really good – until it wasn’t.
Maybe it was all in my head, but later that morning, I felt nauseous and had diarrhea. Vegetarians say that when they do eat meat it makes them sick. Was it the meat? Did I really get sick after having only been a vegetarian for 2 weeks? I don’t really know the cause, but the timing made me think it was the meat.
So there. I did it. I followed a vegetarian diet for 2 weeks. Would I do It Again? Sadly, no.