For a few months now, I have been blogging about how me and my wife (above) went from overweight, inactive adults to healthy, fit, and active human beings. Transformational Tuesdays is the story of that adventure. We didn’t begin our journey with a fad diet or military style work out routine. We began simply enough, cutting out soda from our diet. From there we made other small adjustments over time. We bought into a farm share, ensuring we would get more fresh vegetables. We stopped eating out or ordering food so much. We began calorie counting so we could become aware of what and when we were eating. None of these changes took a radical amount of time or sacrifice.
What we did next, though, was a little more extreme. We had begun to eat vegetarian once a week. It was simple, felt good, and got our kids to eat more vegetables. Then I binge watched documentaries on Netflix. Watching Food, Inc, Forks Over Knives, and other food related shows, Sarah and I decided to become vegetarian full-time. We were convinced that it was the healthiest choice. There are even TED Talks than speak to the power of fresh fruits and vegetables in fighting cancer. The research was clear. We had to stop eating meat.
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That was a radical departure from what we had been eating. Like most americans, we had animal protein at breakfast lunch and dinner. We knew we could eat vegetarian once a week, but every meal, every day? That seemed like it would take a lot more work.
Before I go on, let me say that we are not vegetarian anymore. We do eat a ton of vegetables, but we also eat meat. Sarah was diagnosed with celiac, which means she can’t eat wheat, barley or rye. When that happened, we had to rethink eating once again. It was impossible to be vegetarian without these staple grains, or at least too difficult for us to keep up the diet choice.
“Vegetarianism didn’t transform our bodies, but it did transform our minds, and in the long run, that was probably more valuable”
Going vegetarian was hard. Harder than any other choice we had made up to that point in our food journey. But it wasn’t impossible. It took some work on the front end. We had to learn how to make vegetarian chili and other dishes sans meat. We reinvented our menu. We talked to our doctors about vitamins and calories and being healthy. We also decided that we were not going to eat “fake meat.” If we were going to be vegetarians we were going to eat real food, not processed junk made to look and feel like meat.
It was an adjustment for my whole family. My kids, who liked vegetables well enough, loved meat. Taking it away from them was a hard decision. We eventually relented and allowed them meat when we were out, plus once a week at home. We found that after the initial shock, though, they too embraced being vegetarians. Even though they ate vegetables before, now they looked forward to them. They became excited about how I was going to create a meal without meat once again.
Although we are not vegetarian anymore, we learned a lot of good habits and foods that have remained with us today. We discovered almond milk, which is delicious. We upped our fiber considerably. We added foods that were once exotic and untouchable, like quinoa. Our kids still eat a ton of vegetables. When we eat meat now, it is far less in portion size. We now know we don’t need it, so although it is the star at dinner, it is not a solo act. We try to let the vegetables shine along with our steak, or duck, or whatever else we are eating. We have considerable more side dishes with our meals because we really enjoy fresh vegetables, which means we have to buy less meat each week.
During our time as vegetarians I continued to lose weight. I went from extra-large shirts to large ones. From size 36 pant to size 34. It wasn’t huge, but it was noticeable. I found I had more energy and stopped drinking coffee. I didn’t need caffeine to wake up anymore. I was alert and ready to go from the moment I woke up. Sarah didn’t see anything near that dramatic a result, but that is most likely because the added pasta and bread we were eating was actually damaging her body, unbeknownst to us.
I understand that deciding to become a vegetarian is a radical choice, and not one most people are willing to make. Others, like my family, simply cannot cut out animal protein and remain healthy. However, I would recommend to everyone who can, try vegetarianism for a week, or even a month. The biggest advantage to this decision was the way we became conscious of what we were eating, especially with processed food. We had to read ingredient lists and google if food was allowed on our diet. We saw just how dependent we were on meat, especially at business lunches. We became aware, in a whole new way, how America is about over indulgence and giant pieces of hormone filled “meat.”
One of the best ways to transform your body and mind is through eating. My exercise trainer friend constantly says weight is lost in the kitchen, strength is built in the gym. Most of us eat without much thought. Although becoming vegetarian didn’t make us the fit people we are today, it did give us the ability to slow down and think about our food choices. Vegetarianism didn’t transform our bodies, but it did transform our minds, and in the long run, that was probably more valuable.