Today: Jun 19, 2024

Lifetime Challenge: Got Beef?


For 40 days I gave up meat (and ice cream), and I can’t tell you how many times I would have killed for a burger. I’ll be honest: this was one of the hardest tasks I had to take on, especially since I became increasingly aware of how much meat people eat. Nonetheless, I tried to stay focused.

I found myself sidetracked when people would say, “I could really go for a burger!” This would cause me to think about a burger, and I could not help but think: “So could I. Let’s go get one!” I had to tell myself repeatedly burgers are bad for my body, and I don’t want one as much as I think I do.

I cheated once. I thought I was eating a dinner roll, not realizing it had pork inside. One bite in I realized I was eating meat; I debated for a minute, but I ate the whole thing. I felt guilty though, because I knew I should not have had the roll. That was about a week into Lent. It was significantly easier to make my own food because I knew exactly what I was eating; there were no surprises.

The worst part was going out to eat and trying to figure out what to order. Some places were easier than others. For the most part, I looked at salad options, but most salads (at every place) were based around meat. Don’t people care about vegetables anymore?

A few weeks ago I was incredibly tempted to cheat, and I’m still surprised I didn’t that night. My friends and I were at Bar. I had been there several times before but had never tried their pizza. Instead of ordering a whole pie, my friend and I wanted to order pizza by the slice. I was in the mood for Margherita pizza, but that wasn’t an option for slices. The employee said one of the options for slices was mashed potato pizza with bacon. I really wanted to try it, and the little devil on my shoulder was telling me it was just one piece of pizza and it wouldn’t kill anyone. I settled on a piece of cheese pizza; I never eat cheese pizza.

If I struggled almost every time I was out to eat to find something I could order and would enjoy, I can only imagine how hard it is for other vegetarians.

Luckily, getting food from the student center or Conn Hall was easier. I could have salads with a variety of vegetables (which I often did before Lent started). At Mondo Subs, I enjoyed wraps with hummus, cheese, and a bunch of vegetables. I’m sure an outsider may find that weird, particularly the employee making my wrap, who would ask “No meat?” I would kindly smile and say “No thanks, I’m all set.” I would get a look of confusion, but I figured that was because most people ordered a sandwich or wrap with meat.

Conn Hall was probably more awkward for me. I liked making sandwiches with cheese, a little bit of Italian salad dressing and a variety of vegetables. Think lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, green peppers, shredded carrots, cucumbers and pickles. I would be happy with my sandwich and content with myself as a vegetarian until someone made a face or a comment. Once I was at dinner with a roommate and one of her friends. Her friend asked: “There’s no meat on that?” I simply said “No.” She made a face and responded: “I don’t know if I could do that.” Another time, a friend saw my vegetable sandwich and asked: “What’s the point [if there isn’t meat]?” The comments didn’t upset me, but I did find it odd. It seemed as though people thought I was doing something crazy.

During the last few of weeks of Lent, I found my cravings for meat had certainly diminished: I would actually forget about meat. Somewhere along the way, my mindset changed. I had almost no temptation to eat meat. I could be hungry and not want a burger. I learned how to adapt without meat.

One of my friends who was vocal about my strange eating habits told me last week I’m onto something. I had no idea what she meant. She said several celebrities, including Adele, have lost weight by going vegetarian. She asked me if I had lost any weight since cutting out meat, and I laughed. Yeah, I have lost weight, but that’s probably because I go to the gym. Maybe giving up meat has helped as well. She said she wanted to give it a try, but was not sure if she could. I suggested she try having meat once or twice a week, to gradually reduce meat instead of quitting cold turkey. Pun intended.

Sometimes, I felt like an outcast amongst my friends and family. (My mom kept forgetting I had given up meat). But when I think about it, I’m OK with marching to my own drummer. I said I was going to give up meat for 40 days, and I did. And who knows, being vegetarian may be something I stick with.

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