01 January 2012

My 21-day vegetarian experiment

The History
The end of December had me thinking once again about doing a nutritional experiment in 2012. I had started 2011 working through ChaLEAN Extreme, and after at least six months of following this high protein, low carb diet and intense exercise program faithfully, I lightened up yet continued to use the pieces I felt worked for me throughout the rest of the year. But given my increased focus on yoga, meditation, breath work, and learning to "let go" as of late, I was looking for something that challenged me in a different way.

The Experiment
After considering my options for several weeks, and in keeping with my 21-day theme, I've decided to try eating vegetarian for three weeks, starting on Monday, January 2. More specifically, I'm going to go the "lacto-ovo-vegetarian" route, because I know I'm not yet ready to give up eggs or dairy. I currently love and eat a lot of fish and seafood, so I think this part of the experiment will be difficult enough! Plus, slowly moving toward eating vegan by eliminating one by one will likely help me notice the more subtle effects on my body than a "cold turkey" approach (pardon the pun).

It may or many not be interesting to folks that I'm not doing this because of any preconceived religious, moral, or environmental beliefs. It's purely an experiment to see how eating a different kind of diet impacts me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In theory, I like the concept that it might align me more deeply with my yogic / spiritual practice, but I can't say I'm all there just yet.

What I Think I Think, At The Beginning
There are several reasons why I think this experiment might be easy for me:
  • I already bring my own food to work for the week.
  • I enjoy making new interesting dishes, now that I dedicate more mindful time to doing it on Sundays (vs. looking at it as a chore, as I used to).
  • I already eat lots of vegetables, and like beans / lentils and whole grains, as well as tofu, seitan, and tempeh.
  • I love having leftovers and don't get bored eating the same thing (even five days in a row).
  • My husband and I already mostly eat different things, and we have no children to worry about.
Of course there are also a couple reasons why I might find this experiment challenging:
  • I eat a high protein low carb diet, because that's what feels best for my (hypoglycemic-prone) body. Many of the vegetarian recipes have outrageous (although good) carbs; I feel the need to retain a good balance.
  • I try to eat healthy when I go out, but sometimes it's hard and I fall back on fish dishes. I've ordered vegetarian stuff before, but because of the above issue, they don't always feel satisfying to me and I can end up eating more to correct later.
  • I don't want to eat anything cooling during this time of year (e.g. typical salads). I'm usually cold enough already, and do crave warm, comforting food.
  • I like my recipes to reuse ingredients I already have on hand, and be somewhat simple to prepare. I do spend more time cooking than I used to, but I still appreciate the 30-minute meal!
What's interesting already is that initially, I thought I wouldn't mind giving up red meat (which I only occasionally eat) and poultry (which I've never been wild about), but in selecting my recipes and planning my shopping lists over this past weekend, I did feel something inside me start to resist. I felt this fear of lack, an almost low-grade panic of not being able to have these foods. I had planned to track not just my physical reaction to these changes, but also any shifts in my emotional, mental, and spiritual landscape over the course of the three weeks, but I didn't expect to be starting this early!

The Resources
In making this decision, I found a few web sites very helpful:
Additionally, I'm keeping or slightly modifying some of my favorite meals and snacks from the South Beach Diet cookbook, as well as the Food Guide that came with the ChaLEAN Extreme program.

I'd also like to continue practicing my 6-steps to truly mindful eating, regardless of what I eat. I received Meal by Meal: 365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating as a holiday gift, so I'm looking forward to incorporating that as well.

Wish me luck!

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