Three Months Without Meat – A Dietary Challenge

It’s no secret that our society is obsessed by image. People are constantly judged by the way they look. A constant part of this is a person’s weight. This has lead people people to go out of their way and try extreme and elaborate diets in order to slim down.

Yet with all these over the top and bizarre diet regimes it’s surprising that things such as vegetarianism and veganism are looked over. These lifestyles still carry an attached stigma but those who live said lifestyles preach their benefits. This got me curious. Are people torturing themselves following a celebrity diet when much healthier and less risky solutions are right there? To find out, I set myself a challenge.

The Challenge.

The premise of this challenge was simple. From the beginning of April to the beginning of July I would be casting my usual diet aside to live as a pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan for a month each. By doing so I intended to discover a few things:

  1. How it affected me physically
  2. How it affected me mentally
  3. The difficulties of each diet
  4. The benefits of each diet.

With my criteria set I was ready to go into month one.

April – Pescatarian

This month was by far my favourite one to do. The transition between my regular diet and pescatarian felt really easy. As a lover of fish, there wasn’t a whole lot of heavy adjustment required and I found myself pretty comfortable throughout the whole month, trying and discovering new food combinations.

Physically, I didn’t really feel much. I went to visit my family for Easter and discovered that I had in fact been losing weight since starting the diet, nothing too note-worthy but still some progress had been made. By the end of the month, I began to feel drowsy more often,  once again, nothing too serious, I just found myself needing that morning coffee a little more often.

Mentally on the other hand, I felt good and I felt extremely confident in both myself and the progress of this diet so far. By the end of the month, I was a little sick of fish as I found myself eating a lot more of it than I initially anticipated. My motivation to eat meals including fish was down. What began as a “food adventure” soon began to become a little more bland and mundane.

May – Vegetarian

Once again I found myself being perfectly fine with the dietary change. At the time I put it down to the way the challenge was organised with April being a nice stepping stone into May. This still holds up I find. The removal of meat in month one meant that the addition of fish being removed wasn’t a massive hit. It was tough regardless though. This month I found myself challenged to think of new meals. The meals I made before the diet still worked, just taking out the meat or fish and either replacing them with a vegetable or just leaving that element out entirely.

In terms of my physical health it was this month that had the biggest impact surprisingly. My drowsiness from the previous month had increased throughout, so much so that my entire sleep cycle was affected. My body was no longer reacting to tiredness but instead it was reacting to hunger. I’d wake up when I was hungry instead of when I was feeling refreshed which caused further issues with my sleeping pattern. Aside from my sleeping issues, I physically felt great. I began noticing changes in terms of weight loss. I was losing weight quite a bit faster than in the previous month. This actually proved to be beneficial between periods of drowsiness where I found myself to be more energetic and more focused on tasks that I had to do throughout the day.

This had an effect on me mentally too. The confidence from last month wasn’t as consistent. There were days where I questioned my ability to continue. Still I pushed through and soon found myself enjoying the experience again. The overall experience of the month was a positive one. The days where I lacked confidence in my decision to take on this challenge were only a small part of the month. After these, I was back to normal, all be it a little more tired.

June – Vegan

This month made me see Veganism in a whole new light. It may be more globally recognised than ever before but it is tough. The previous two months worked together with Pescatarian allowing for an easier transition into vegetarian. Vegan was a whole new level though. The hardest part for this month I found was shopping. Looking at every item of packaging to see whether I could eat them or not really made for a difficult month. I give credit to those who chose this lifestyle as it is quite the undertaking, even today. The benefits to this was trying Vegan dishes and treats which were actually pretty good. I was impressed with the variety of things available, all be it fairly limited.

Physically this is where I lost at least half of the weight loss happened. Losing two stone of the course of the month without any official workout routines attached. It didn’t really have many setbacks either. I felt pretty good physically, I had powered through the drowsiness by this point so I was perfectly okay in terms of my sleeping. My body was still reacting to hunger over exhaustion but less so than before. I also found myself eating far smaller portions. I’m not entirely sure why but I just found myself to naturally be hungry less often than when I started.

Mentally though, this month was the absolute worst. This was when the cravings for food items began to set in. Even for foods I wouldn’t usually eat like chocolate. It was a tough time trying to power through this month. The determination to keep to it was inconceivably difficult. The smallest things would just make me want one of the foods from the previous months and it was just a slow crawl to the finish line. It’s safe to say that this month made me feel the worst about my decision than the other two combined.

Overall, these three months saw me test my determination more than anything else. It turned out to be more and more of a struggle as the months went by, something which I thought would be the case but not nearly as bad as it actually was. Overall I lost just over four stone across the three months, all without a designated exercise routine other than walking around Coventry when I needed to. With that in mind, It’s safe to say that with the correct routine to pair alongside it, this diet challenge would prove to be effective.

Do I recommend it though? No. Or at least, not in its full form. Benefits in weight loss are one thing but the mental and physical repercussions of doing this to yourself for three months is certainly quite the risk to take. I instead recommend doing variations on this format. Perhaps taking out one of the months and choosing one or two of the three diets to help keep the process a little more pleasant.

Putting weight loss aside, I recommend food lovers give this challenge a try in some form. Doing this opened my eyes to different meals and combinations and encouraged me to experiment more in the kitchen. It also improved my appreciation for the food that I normally eat. Coming from this diet I found that I enjoyed things like meat that much more because over the course of this diet, I found myself actually forgetting how it tasted.

Whatever your reason to consider trying though, be it weight loss, curiosity or just the love of food. This dietary challenge showed me the world of eating without meat and created a newfound respect for those who partake in these lifestyles everyday of their life and it is definitely something that will be crossing my mind when I have to make those dreaded new year’s resolutions.

 

Kane Hocking

 

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