A Shame-Free Meatless Month
Since about mid-January my husband and I have gone meatless! Sort of. Originally we wanted to try to not eat meat for one month, and see how it went.
[In cockney accent] Why the Dickens would we want to do that for?
Glad you asked.
Why We (Sort-Of) Stopped Eating Meat
We bounced around the idea of going vegetarian for quite a while before we took action. We both grew up as meat-eaters, so it was familiar. I (only sorta-kinda) wanted to, because I felt ashamed of killing animals to eat. This is totally a personal thing, and I am absolutely 100% non-judgmental for anyone that does eat meat. Hell, I felt bad about it for years, and continued to eat meat, before I took any action. This was mostly because I was too lazy(?) and fearful to change a habit. Also, shame is a lousy motivator.
Additionally, I knew if I removed meat from my diet I would potentially eat more healthy vegetables. Because I work some weird hours, and I’m always in my car with a packed lunch, prepping vegetables to pack was a dreadful chore. Lunch consisted of a salad, but dinner was where I got my veggies most times, and half my meal was meat. I was full quickly, and my vegetable portion was quite small.
Understand, we have gone through really healthy phases where we meal prepped everything, and counted our veggie servings. However, I think it’s a fine line between that, and obsessing over food—feeling bad when we “failed”. We wanted a healthy relationship with food, and this militant (to us) approach wasn’t helping (again, shame based).
There are cost benefits to not consuming so much meat. Frankly folks, it’s cheaper to not eat meat. We’ve noticed a significant reduction in our grocery bill since we’ve switched, even with buying a ton more produce, lentils, beans, etc.
And there are environmental considerations to eating meat at every meal (or even every day)—it takes quite a toll on the Earth. While we could be better, we are generally environmentally conscious people. It left a bad taste in my mouth to be so flippant about consuming our Earth’s resources (more shame).
Oh shame. You useless emotion. Unlike guilt, where we acknowledge we did something wrong, shame makes us feel like we are wrong. We are bad. It’s paralyzing because if I’m bad inside, how do I ever get good? It feels impossible, so I continue to do what I am doing, because what’s the point? I’ll never be a good person. (Here’s a great Ted Talk by the wise Brene Brown on shame.)
These are subconscious thoughts, and it’s not always easy to recognize that we even have them. In the case of eating meat, I had this choice (to not eat meat) that aligned with my values, yet I was afraid of change. I was afraid if I tried to live by my values I’d fail at it (thereby have no integrity), and it was easier to not try. Now, not even trying appears quite lazy, yet, look at all the mental energy I spent talking myself out of it! Such black-and-white thinking! This may seem extreme, but shame is insidious like that.
How We Stopped Eating Meat
Shortly after the New Year, my husband mentioned he would like to cut down or eliminate meat from his diet. His biggest motivator was to lose weight and he was inspired by a close friend of ours who made the change to a meatless diet (you never know who’s watching and learning from you folks).
I jumped at the chance. Since he makes most of our meals, it would be so much easier for me to just eat what he makes. Also, I was being a supportive spouse, or something like that. 🤪
We decided to use up all the meat we had in the house, and not buy any more. Through meal planning a week or so out, we had a rough idea of when we would run out of meat, so we could mentally (and emotionally) prepare. We continued our grocery shopping schedule (one big trip every 3 weeks, and supplementing weekly for produce), but began shopping for products that would be used when we transitioned into a vegetarian diet. Research was done on what vitamin deficiencies we could watch out for, and supplements were purchased that included B12 (which apparently you can only get from meat products).
We. Were. Ready.
Since my husband is the chef 99% of the time, he curated a list of recipes we wanted to try. Here’s a short list of what we have been eating the last couple of months.
Burrito Bowls—we cooked these veggies and threw them on a bed of rice with black beans, added cheese, Greek yogurt, etc.
Salads: with various toppings for our daily lunch
Our intention was to eat this way for a month, to allow new vegetarian recipes to make their way into the rotation. Then, we planned to go back to eating meat, but we’d at least have a handful of recipes to incorporate into our cooking that weren’t so meat reliant.
What we found after a month of eating this way, was that we did not miss meat at all. We decided to keep it going! I mean, we hadn’t even cooked half the stuff we wanted to yet!
It’s worth noting, that we weren’t extreme enough to forbid any meat-eating. We decided outside the home, we were allowed to eat meat. My husband has work lunches on the regular, and when food is catered in, it’s not always vegetarian-friendly. When we go to an event with friends, sometimes there is BBQ and other goodies we like to partake in. Knowing our diet was flexible (just like a budget), we didn’t feel restricted, so no meat in the house didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all.
“It’s Kind of Fun to Do the Impossible”—Walt Disney
So we’ve continued to not buy meat, and only eat it rarely when we are out. While it takes time for all the vitamins and nutrients to be reflected in bloodwork, I recently went to the doctor and she had no concerns about my bloodwork or my diet change. Our grocery bill is down, and we feel great.
This approach can work for any new habit being built. What helped effect this change for me were flexibility, a teammate, and focusing on the new things we were trying (rather than what we weren’t having). Shame didn’t help motivate me, and in fact, hindered me from making this adjustment long ago. Eagerness to try something new—that inspired me more than anything.
Have you overcome shame before? Got any good vegetarian recipes? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you.