In early 2019 a routine blood test came up showing I had high cholesterol. Nothing worrisome at a young age but it led to several visits with a cardiologist to try to figure out how I had developed high cholesterol and how to lower it, hopefully without the help of a statin. This led to quite a few diet and lifestyle changes that have indeed lowered my cholesterol levels and also changed the way I eat and move everyday. The biggest change being that now I am mostly vegetarian, making exceptions for fish sometimes when I’m eating out or during holidays. This was not a cold-turkey (pun not intended) transition but rather one I eased into, and I have to say I don’t think I ever would have without the health motivation. I’m not someone who’s squeamish about our role in eating meat. However, the most compelling reason besides the health factor is definitely environmental, and I’m glad that I have made the transition. Not only is it better for the earth and my cholesterol, but to tell the truth I haven’t missed meat at all.
When my cardiologist first recommended going vegetarian, I decided to stop buying and preparing meat at home but allow myself to indulge when out with friends or at home. However, I quickly noticed that this exception turned out to allow for quite a bit of meat consumption still. After a few months of making endless “exceptions,” I decided something needed to change and cut off all meat. I told myself I would allow exceptions still but not just for nights out with friends. Specifically, there are three dishes my Mom makes with meat that I didn’t want to rule out. The first I had in Fall of 2019, then when Thanksgiving rolled around I made an exception for our stuffing and turkey. By the time Christmas came and I was ready to make an exception for gumbo, I found I didn’t really want to, content to pick around the chicken and sausage for pieces of shrimp.
As somebody who’s favorite foods used to be hot dogs and pancakes and who ate mostly buttered noodles and eggs when home-cooking during college, this change has been huge for me despite occurring gradually. I eat plant based 90% of the time with the exception of yogurt, and find myself eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (thank Trader Joe’s for making this possible on a budget). I’ve noticed a change not only in my energy levels (goodbye 2pm slump) but also in my mood. In the past I was frequently moody and quickly angered, and whether it’s the diet, a few added years of maturity, or one of many other factors, my temperament is much more even keeled.
Which is all to say that ditching meat doesn’t have to be hard, nor does it have to be cut out 100% to make a change and see a difference. Skipping meat for a week, or just for meals cooked at home, can help a slow transition or just help cut out one factor of meat. I’m personally a reformed believer in the benefits of a plant based diet based on some favorite new podcasts as well as my own experience. Not to mention, it’s all around cheaper as far as trips to the grocery. Whatever your motivation, be it environmental, health related, or just an immense love for the animal kingdom, it doesn’t have to be hard to cut back on meat from day to day.￼