Saturday, February 25, 2006


I was thinking the other day about my increased vegetarianism and, in conversation with a friend, talked about trying extended periods without meat to see how it went. I've done vegetarian weeks in the past, but never for longer than that. I might only have one piece of chicken, but I break the meat free spell and then start over for another week or so. So my initial thought was that once the half marathon is over I drop down to training for 5 mile/10k races until about May, so March would be a perfect time to see how it goes and test it out. I don't want to try it on particularly high mileage at first while I get used to it and try to sort out some more protein sources, but I thought March would be good. I don't have anyone visiting me, and I don't have plans to go anywhere, so it should be one of the easier months of the year to do it in.

And then I pondered some more, and I realised the coincidence. March 1, Ash Wednesday, is the start of lent. If that isn't a sign, then I don't know what is! If I'm doing a month I can do the full period, I guess, so I modified the challenge slightly. I'm not giving up meat because it's lent, I'm giving up meat anyway and using lent as a bit of motivation to stick to it. I'm not particularly religious and I haven't been hunting for something to give up, it just fits.

So, this isn't a religious, fasting, type decision for me really. It's just that it's something I've been considering doing, and it fits nicely on the calendar to give the whole thing a bit more structure and to give it a more explainable basis. I like the symbolism of it, even if I wouldn't have forced myself to give something up if I hadn't already been planning to do it. It's a new challenge to be playing with once I finish the half marathon, and the main aim is to force me to try new vegetables and different ways of cooking them by taking away some of the old standbys from my repertoire.

So I came up with some rules. Firstly, this is more about giving up meat and trying new things to replace it than it is about being strictly vegetarian. I'm doing this for me, not the animals (does that sound awful?). So, on the basis that it's on the "trying new things" list, fish is allowed. For now.

Linked to this, I'm not going to be a strict vegetarian, and I won't be bothering with vegetarian cheese and scouring lists of ingredients to make sure there isn't any sort of animal product in there. If a bit of chicken stock gets through in a soup I'll survive.

Thirdly, I might not actually do all of lent. March is a definite, as is early April, but my mother is coming over for Easter, so I might stop a day or two early once she comes to save explaining what I'm doing and forcing her to change what she cooks for me. (I may make a stand over a salad occasionally, but I'm still a wimp when it comes to standing up for what I actually want to eat).

Fourth, to stick with the trying new stuff theme there are two ways I'm planning to do this. One is that I have a vegetarian cook book and I want to try at least one new recipe each week. I'm in a bit of a cooking rut quite a lot of the time, and I really want to get into learning how to cook new things. The second is that my new Thursday pre-Spanish treat is going to be a proper meal at a vegetarian cafe I've found. Sometimes if I go out to eat I find that one unusual, untried vegetable makes me scurry back to the safe "chicken and chips" options on the menu, but if I take away that option I will be forced to try things that include things I've never tried before. I'll try to make sure I pick something different off the menu each time, to expand the range of what I eat. I went last night and enjoyed what I ate, so money permitting I'll be going back regularly.

And finally, this is not an excuse to eat cheesy chips or cheese and onion pasties for a month. They may be vegetarian, but that's not why I'm doing this. I'm not going to lose sight of my goal to eat more fruit and veg, and I'm not going to try to stuff my diet with meat substitutes. I'm not giving up chicken so I can eat fake chicken, I'm giving up chicken so I can eat more vegetables instead.

Where I think this is leading is becoming fully vegetarian at some point, and getting a bit stricter on some of those rules, but I'm unwilling to commit without at least trying it out first to see how it goes. When my mother comes over I'll either stick to it and "come out" or I'll take the time to think about whether I want to do this long term and then either re-commit or give it up as a fad. I'll see when I get there. At the moment deciding to label myself as vegetarian seems like a step too far, but after the month or so doing this, I might be more comfortable with that.

One thing that was interesting though is that I'm not planning a meat blow out for Tuesday or anything like that. The reverse, in fact. Having not had meat since Monday evening, I'm actually more inclined to start as from now. I was only planning to have one piece of chicken or so between now and Wednesday anyway, and I'm more excited about trying out my new vegetarian recipes than I am about eating the chicken, so that's what I might do. As a start I cooked a gorgeous bean soup this lunchtime, and although the kitchen looks like there's been a nasty accident in there (the top of the blender flew off...), it's something I want to do again, as it was far nicer than shop bought soup. And as I'm meant to be carb loading today I had some bread with it. Oh, the luxury!

I honestly don't know what this will do to my weight loss. On one hand, I'm pretty much vegetarian as it is, and it hasn't harmed me. On the other, a lot of the recipes in my recipe book rely more on potatoes, pasta and rice which are things that I don't really eat much of at the moment. I don't know what effect increased carbs will have, although I will try to stay away from the refined ones. I will have to have a go and see what happens, I guess. If I start really piling on the pounds then I might backtrack a little if necessary, but I really should give it a go on the basis that it won't be a huge change from what I eat at the moment. And I might even speed up my weight loss, you never know!

My other worry is getting enough protein, particularly when I'm exercising and doing weights. Again, I'll have to play it by ear and make sure that I pick healthy vegetarian recipes as opposed to any old recipe. If it's really not working, again I might end up backtracking a little.

I'm not going to burn in hell for eternity if I fail to see it through, after all.

I hope.


The other big decision of the week (although this one has been made for a bit longer, but not put down on screen yet), is that I really don't think that 160 will be it. I've actually taken my trackers off the top of the page for a while, partly because I need to change the code, but also because the numbers aren't as relevant any more.

160 is still a big goal, and one I'll celebrate, but I think I probably need to/could go a little lower than that. I feel like I have more than 5lb of excess fat left to lose. I'm not going to set firm goals, but somewhere between 150 and 155 sounds like a good place to start. I'll adjust my thinking as I go along, so watch this space.


Blogger Shelly said...

Add nuts to the vegetarian diet. Almonds are especially good, but so are walnuts and pecans. You only need a handful - not a whol ebunch, though - they are high in fat content, but they're good replcaements for protein. Beans are good too (I have an *awesome* spread/dip recipe using italian white beans)

My sister is a former vegetarian, and I've known quite a few in my life. The *biggest* issue they've all come across is cheese. Cheese is always a "safe" choice of something to eat that's vegetarian - but when you just start out, you tend to eat more of it than you should (because you can't think of anything else to eat). Granted, you've sort of been doing it for a while, but I thought I'd warn you of the "common issue".

Pluse, check those vegetarian recipes. I have a couple of vegetarian cookbooks, and I tell you those suckers are *loaded* with butter and all kinds of saturated fat. Just 'cause it's vegetarian doesn't mean it's healthy.

Just for the record, I'm a former pro chef. I have several vegetarian recipes and such - desserts and all that. If you need anything "new" let me know.

12:19 AM  

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