Our content writer Daniel volunteered to go meat-free for a month. Here's how he managed to cope and how it affected his everyday life and training.
I’ve never been fussed about including fruits and vegetables in my diet because, frankly, I hardly ever get sick and am constantly in a good mood. When I go to a restaurant, I normally order the meat or fish option, with a side order of chips. Anything else doesn't really do it for me.
So, that's why I took on the challenge to become vegetarian for 30 days, while trying to cut out all the ice cream, chocolate, gummies, and all the other delicious sweets and treats that are all very high in sugar that I’m admittedly addicted to.
I have always been told to eat ‘healthy’. Followed by people staring at me in disbelief when they hear about what my diet consists of. Here’s what my average day looks like, before vegetarianism:
Breakfast: Yoghurt, or cereal, with added sugar, and a glucose drink
Lunch: A burger with chips, or a boerewors roll, and water
Snack: Crisps, jelly babies, peanuts, and a slab of chocolate
Dinner: Fish with chips, or beef lasagne
When I started doing research it was all very confounding. I felt as though I was being misled and I was stressing about not getting enough protein – which wouldn’t help my workout. But after a while I settled into my own groove and decided on a personal plan.
I proactively decided that I’d rely on a few necessary foods to get me through this, and then I’d test my palate out after week 2.
I went with sweet potatoes, avocados, salads (bar tomatoes), sprouts, sugar snap peas, and the ever so trusty vegetarian schnitzels and burgers. Clean, right?
And what I found was that my entire world was turned upside down.
When I was younger I was not experimental at all, especially with my food. I didn't like the idea of having to create something and just relied on stock-standard meals. But now, since I ‘became vegetarian’ (and obviously told as many people as I could about it), I found myself cooking so much more because I had to find a way to actually enjoy food that had been so uninspiring to me for so many years.
Not even a week in and I was already creating new recipes that were appetising to me. I had perfected the art of sweet potato nachos.
After nailing down the nachos, I replaced my chips for salad and found myself waking up earlier than ever before so I could prepare my lunch, and not just get a quick takeaway. I also proved to myself that vegetarian sushi is actually a thing, and that pizza is a meant to have toppings…another one of my previously weird kinks.
Crumbed mushrooms, falafel, chickpeas, DIY smoothies, and a few crazy inventions using peppers later, I really felt like I was in the zone coming up on 3 weeks.
But, as with all good things, this was coming to an end. I started to feel uninspired and hindered, as though this diet was constantly giving me too many challenges, and not enough satisfaction. I had made sure to keep my protein intake high and indulged in all the meat-free options, but it still wasn't enough.
Admittedly, I did fall off the wagon once, but I didn't even realise. I had been fasting all day and after 25 hours when I spied those mouth-watering, meaty tacos, I just ate them – before I realised, soon after, that I was meant to be vegetarian. I still ate another one because I was literally starved and I didn't care.
Finally, I had succeeded, limping towards the end of the month like a runner with a muscular injury. So, what did I learn?
Mostly that there is other food that exists outside of my carnivorous lifestyle.
Secondly, I learnt to appreciate cooking and creating food and how much better it made me feel when I ate it. So, I’m currently still doing that
Am I converted? Not really. I still think meat is my best choice to get that protein(and it also tastes delicious). But taking a break and switching up your diet can be a fun experience which can always teach you something new - so I would say it's definitely worth a try.