So, last month I decided to go 7 days without meat, as part of my experimentation in and consideration of vegetarianism. As I wrote before, I am pretty much in agreement with vegetarianism as an ethical stance, but struggle to put it into practise. So, I gave it a go and 7 days went by, which then became 10, which then became 2 weeks, and then I decided to go for a full month.
As it went on I found it easier and easier. Preparing my own lunches helped ( but do take a bit of planning as I don’t like cheese or eggs so need to go find the shops that do suitable meat-replacement hams etc.) Then I started getting salad wraps/sandwiches whilst out and found them not only satisfactory, but very nice.
The real temptation came when I was eating out in restaurants. One night, for a friend’s birthday, I went for a vegetarian stir fry, as my friend across from me tucked into a massive, juicy steak. I admit, my mouth watered, and my stomach rumbled a bit, but I soldiered on. As time went by however I felt myself increasingly comfortable with my decision and having little to no cravings for meat, day to day. These temptations only appeared when out and other people ordered meat. A working lunch in a local kebab restaurant was another incident – I ordered a veggie kebab (in which the meat was replaced with onion bajis) which was fine, but our boss treated us to a massive platter of meat for a starter. As everyone tucked in, I had to stare at my plate. Interestingly, this meal was after my self-prescribed 4-week period so by my own rules I would have been free to tuck in, but I just didn’t want to.
I had no intentions to go ‘cold turkey’ (excuse the pun) on meat, but to gradually wean myself off, but the ‘month of no meat’ just happened by itself. By the time the kebab lunch rolled around something had changed – I was very used and comfortable with ordering meals without meat and I kept going. It was a mix of habit and an increasing guilt at the idea of eating meat which had crept in (I am Irish ex-Catholic, after all).
The very next day, however, my meat-sabbatical ended – by accident. I was out at another cafe and a communication breakdown ended up with my ‘salad wrap’ containing chicken. I bit in and realised and decided rather than go back with it, I would just eat it. It was there, it was prepared, my 4 weeks was up and I’m not a quote-unquote vegetarian. I didn’t have a sudden moment of meat-induced clarity where I saw the true light, nor was I repulsed and unable to eat it. It was just chicken.
Since then, however, I’ve been back to my salad wraps.
I thought that my breaking the sabbatical would result in a total ‘falling off the wagon’. I’ve become very used to forming habits that have to be sustained – if I break, I tend to break forcefully. I maintain a daily sitting meditation practice, and have noticed that if I miss a day, traditionally I then end up missing a few days. Same with healthy eating habits etc. But recently with these I’ve become much better at getting back on the horse the very next day. And so it appears to be going with avoiding meat.
I’m still not committing to being a vegetarian – it might be sometime before I ever actually do so, but I have significantly reduced my meat intake. I think after the 4 week experiment I will go back to being less strict and see how it goes, but it has shown me that I can do it.
Some people I know had assumed I was now a ‘full veggie’ but I don’t want to give this impression as I will most definitely eat meat again at some stage. I’ve been advised to both gradually wean myself off meat or alternatively to make a complete, clean break. I almost did the clean break – but I think a more gradual move is best, for now.
We’ll see how I get on.