Challenge by Choice: an environment where participants are asked to search for opportunities to stretch and grow during the experience
In the month of October, I decided to adopt a vegetarian diet for a week. I participated alone, but my roommate is a vegetarian, so he walked me through a lot of the basics and showed me good recipes to try. This year is the first time I have lived alone and been responsible for cooking for myself, so aside from the challenge of not consuming meat, I have had to slowly learned the basics of cooking in general. I have thought a lot about making the switch to no meat, but because my family is one of meat eaters, I found it hard to adopt the lifestyle (they were not particularly supportive). This was the push I had to at least attempt it. My freshman year of college I removed meat from my diet for a good chunk of my first semester, however when I returned home, I was not welcomed by meatless meals. I was hoping after the completion of the week I could continue to forego meat indefinitely. I used this activity to fulfill “Exploring Diverse Groups and Ideas in aGlobal Society”.
This project was extremely meaningful to me because I am one of the biggest animal lovers you will ever meet. I wish meat had never been a part of my diet, because it really is heartbreaking to me. I am going on the Animal Endangerment Alternative Winter Break coming up, so this seemed like the right time to make the adjustment. My break members and I have even decided to go vegetarian for the duration the break as well. In general, animals have always been a part of my life. It really just seemed like it was time to sacrifice my taste for meat for the greater good of the critters I claim to adore.
It was a very hard week. First, I already had meat products in my refrigerator that had to go unused. It is also hard for a non-vegetarian to create balanced meals when you don’t know what you are supposed to be eating. A lot of times I will forego eating when I don’t know what to cook, so I am guilty of doing that during this week as well. That is where my roommate, Peter, came in. He showed my the alternatives to animal products and how they can be used in meal preparation. We made breakfast smoothies with almond milk and protein powder to substitute cow milk and meat protein. I also used quinoa burger to get a meat flavor in some dishes. Vegetarianism can be expensive as well. You have to build your diet around fresh vegetables and fruit, which for a college student is not the cheap stuff. At the same time, your meals and grocery shopping becomes much more deliberate because you have to avoid animal products and your food doesn’t last as long in the fridge. I began to understand the commitment my friends have made to their diets when I started to take into account all the extra, behind the scenes, activities that go into not consuming meat.
Additionally, the community of vegetarian and vegans, especially in my generation, is growing and the culture associated with the lifestyle is unique. I wanted to at least get some outside perspective so even if I didn’t remain vegetarian, I could make healthy meatless alternatives in the future. They are a highly misunderstood group as well. The divide between meat eaters and non-meat eaters is pretty distinct, which again shows how embedded meat is in our culture. A large group of my close friends are vegetarian and vegan. We celebrated Thanksgiving as “Dipsgiving,” where everyone brought a chip dip to share. Many of my friends brought vegan dips. It was a fun way to see the vastness of the diet and while I am no longer a part of the community, I could still appreciate the deliciousness of their food culture. It was also nice to see people respecting the health choices of one another. I just made me think more about whether it was something I saw myself doing for a long period of time.
Vegetarianism expands so much further than saving the animals; it also helps the planet. Raising animals for meat is hard on the Earth, water supply, etc. Fossil fuels are another issue associated with producing meat. Additionally, it really isn’t AS good for you as most Americans believe. So aside from animals, I felt like to be an active citizen in preventing global warming and protecting the environment, this was a healthy step. In the area of animals, I felt like I wasn’t doing my part in all the way I could be, which became very disheartening. My family rescues animals instead of shopping for them and we purchase locally raised, grass fed meat, instead of grocery store product. The problem is, we still eat meat. I have continued to eat meat after this hiatus week, but I think I would like to attempt a slower transition. The goal is to move from only eating chicken to eventually adopting a meatless diet completely. I really need to do my research before I attempt this again however. I don’t believe I prepared enough for my own wellbeing for it to be appropriate for me to continue. Vegetarianism is only ideal if it is healthy and I think the reason people are successful is because they are dedicated to learning about how their lifestyle affects the world and themselves. I am excited to continue making strides towards a better lifestyle for myself and the planet.