Last month, I spent 30 days (out of the 31 in March) eating sustainable meat and seafood. I wrote about my reasons and my hopes for the challenge here. Now that I’ve completed it, I’ve got observations and opinions galore! I didn’t go out of my way to share this challenge with people in my life, but many read it here on my blog and, when asked, I explained it to varying degrees. I love 30-day challenges that are thought-provoking and teach me something...and this one did!
First the good:
I loved this challenge. I feel really proud of it. Turning down meat I didn’t feel comfortable eating felt noble (probably too noble). I ate about a third of the meat I would eat during a normal month and I was glad to stop supporting the industrial meat system. When I did eat meat, I felt more aware of every (sustainable) step in its journey to my plate.
During this challenge, I cooked my own meat at home and that was great. Because I thought about meat so much more than usual (including a few very detailed dreams…), I put extra time into recipe selection and cooking. As a result, the pork chops and the roasted chicken that came out of my kitchen were my best ever. Oh my goodness, seriously amazing!
And the bad:
This challenge was really hard!
I’m an athletic person; I exercise six days a week, and my work outs are pretty hard. Aerial silks requires a lot of energy! I need more calories than people my size who aren’t as active. And so….
I felt hungry A LOT this month and had way more hangry episodes than usual. I don’t know if I consumed a different numbers of calories or nutrients during the challenge compared to my typical intake, but I FELT like I did.
And because I was hungry so frequently, I would grab for whatever food was around. I ate more vegetables (yay!) but they DO NOT keep me full for very long. I would get full initially from eating the veggies, but 2 hours later, I was hungry again. Even hearty grains, cheeses, and eggs—great, but I had to eat them so frequently to stay full that I got overwhelmed.
To compensate, I ended up eating way more carbs. Lots of pizza, pasta, bread. Anything that was different (and more satisfying) than piles on piles of vegetables. This gave me a new-found respect for the long hours of fullness that I previously reached based on my meat consumption.
Going out to eat was also challenging. Shout out to everyone who’s ever had to read a restaurant menu knowing you can’t even consider half the options on it. I SUDDENLY FEEL YOUR EMOTIONAL PAIN.
I hadn’t realized how many of the restaurants I typically frequent have zero vegetarian main course. Bah! Salad and side dishes for dinner…lame. Sure, the vegetarian dishes tasted good, but eating at restaurants this way was painfully unsatisfying. From the ordering, to the eyeing other people’s dishes, to the physical sensation in my body. Even some aggressive dessert over-ordering couldn’t satiate me!
I was sincerely surprised at my reaction. I had fancied myself an open-minded eater, I definitely ate vegetarian meals out before this challenge. HA! There’s a massive difference between doing it a few times and doing it all the time.
So there you have it. Perhaps my vegetarian friends or friends with food allergies can have a good laugh at my experience. Trust me, it was eye-opening!
As for what’s next…I don’t know yet.
I will continue sourcing meat from vendors I trust when cooking because I really like supporting those vendors. It’s easy enough to buy this type of meat at markets around where I live or order online from a Southern California farm. As for eating at restaurants, eating at friends’ houses, or while traveling? That’s a lot tougher and I’m still navigating the right solution for me. For now, I'm deciding on a case by case basis.
What do you think? Will you give this challenge a try?