So this is it. This is my last post for my VEGETARIAN challenge and it’s very hard not to sit here typing this with a huge smile on my face. It always feels great when one accomplishes something, it’s even greater when you accomplish something you didn’t really know you could. Growing up in a Filipino household, the word VEGETARIAN is not even in our vocabulary. With a culture heavily fixated on dishes filled with meat, I was a meat lover my whole life. I was even asked once if I could have my last meal what would it be, and I answered without hesitation that it would be steak. To sit here and say I was a VEGETARIAN for a month straight WITHOUT cheating, well I’m pretty damn proud of myself!
WHAT I LEARNED
Going into this challenge, I have to admit I didn’t know much about the lifestyle I was about to get myself into. I tried VEGANISM with my best friend Vanessa for a week, and that in itself was a challenge. I had to really read up on it and do my research to make sure I was doing it right. And even after all that, there was still so much to learn. I was definitely nervous going into this because frankly I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or if I would even be able to do it. What would my motivation and inspiration be? Would I fall apart the minute I smelt steak cooking? What do I even eat other than salads?
If someone had asked me on Day 1 what do you think the VEGETARIAN lifestyle encompasses, all I would have to answer is that they eat nothing but vegetables and meat is forbidden. While yes true, that is a big part of what defines it, I learned so much more than that. The biggest lesson from this was to really not judge or make assumptions about people who choose to become VEGETARIAN. When I told people I was doing this, I would get the occasional “That’s awesome!” but most of the time, I did get the strange looks that said “Wow she must be a tree hugging hippie who is a member of PETA and throws red paint on people at fashion week”. And to be honest their reaction really didn’t shock me. Most people are very uneducated about the practice. And while it is more prominent now with celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Alicia Silverstone making it mainstream, it’s still something that is stigmatized by society in general.
Some of the assumptions I received was that it was unhealthy. The biggest misconception was I would always lack energy because I didn’t get enough protein. Others were quick to label me as high-maintenance or a burden when going into restaurants and ordering a dish minus the meat. Many didn’t really understand what I could eat and were quick to lecture me on the fact that animals are meant to be eaten.
While I found some of the misinterpretations of VEGETARIANISM understandable because I was clearly in their shoes 3o days ago, I was mostly shocked that more were quick to judge on others choosing to take on a healthier lifestyle rather than the person wolfing down junk food on a daily basis. I learned that because it isn’t completely mainstream, people are afraid to give it a chance and are quick to just judge it based on the stereotypes associated with it. That actually motivated me more to keep going with the challenge. I loved the comments I was receiving from my blog; people would write to me and say “Wow I didn’t know that restaurant catered to vegetarians” or “Interesting to see what other type of foods also carry sources of protein“. It made me realize that by spreading the knowledge I was learning from all the resources I was using, it was giving the lifestyle a better reputation and really opening people’s eyes to something that could be really good for them and for our planet.
I also learned how to really dig deep and use all of the resources available to me. Some of my proudest moments in the last 30 days was being able to discover that I didn’t need to change much about my lifestyle in order to accommodate this new way of living. I found sports bars that had VEGETARIAN options in their menus. I was able to explore my city more because I realized how much it had to offer in terms of shops, restaurants, health centres and more for the VEGETARIAN lifestyle.
Finally the biggest lesson I got from this was that with the right motivation and inspiration, anyone can have the will power to do whatever it is they set their minds to. I know it sounds absolutely cheesy and cliche, but it’s actually true. There were so many times when I thought I would crack because I would pass by a restaurant and smell meat cooking. There were times when I thought I was being too difficult at restaurants so I thought I would just give up and get the meat item on the menu to make things easier for everyone. But I didn’t. I pushed through. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and now I can really say I did.
WHY I DID IT
Whether they supported me or not, one of the most repeated questions I heard is why was I doing it. My first answer was that I wanted to try something I wasn’t familiar with. I figured what is the point of challenging myself in something that I already knew a lot about. I went into VEGETARIANISM literally blind and not knowing anything. I wanted to be able to allow myself to explore a lifestyle that I thought I would never try and really give it that chance. I also knew it was important to shed light into this practice because too often it is quickly judged by others when it has so many great advantages to it.
Number one it is healthy for you, which is one of the top reasons I wanted to do it. I think it is so important that everyone live a better and healthier lifestyle because our bodies are our machines, and just like a very expensive car, we need to care for it and really put in fuel that will make it work properly. With VEGETARIANISM, contrary to popular belief, it is a very healthy way of living.
Secondly, I wanted to see for myself firsthand if this was the right type of lifestyle for me. Was it something that would benefit me? Would I live a happier life? Would it affect my overall health, both mentally and physically, in a better way?
Lastly, after reading up and watching documentaries on the ethical treatment of animals, I really did want to do this because of my love for animals. I know you’re thinking wow, she’s going to go join PETA and preach to people how animals should be treated better. While yes, I do believe every animals should be treated with respect, it was eye-opening for me that this was not always the case. I was one of those people who did eat the meat that was on my plate because it was delicious and it was just part of human life. I was ignorant to the fact that not all animals are killed humanely and I thought this was important to educate myself and others on. While this challenge has not turned me into a “hardcore activist”, it has largely educated me on making better choices should I choose to go back to eating meat. There are many farmers who practice in the humane treatment of animals and at the end of the day, we just really need to open our eyes to that. It has also shown me that we should not be ashamed or afraid to speak up about this because no living thing on this earth deserves to be treated crudely. Many voices is better than one and if we all just took the time to enlighten ourselves on this issue, then we can make a difference in the world.
As I neared the end of my challenge, I had the same question that most people had for me. Am I going to continue being VEGETARIAN? To be completely honest, my first reaction was YES. I have fallen in love with this lifestyle and it really has made me happier about myself both physically and mentally. It was such an eye opener in so many aspects that it will become difficult to just let it go and return back into my meatatarian ways. However that being said, I have to admit I do miss the occasional salmon roll or chicken salad. I have made the decision though to keep at it but allow myself certain meats as a treat. I have a dear love for seafood and turkey at Thanksgiving just sounds too good to pass. I will continue at it though and carry forward educating myself more on VEGETARIANISM and buying the right type of meat, i.e. looking at organic options, and how the animals were killed, etc. When I told people I was doing this for 30 days, most reactions I got was that it was a long time to do it. But the thing is time actually flew by and I even felt that it wasn’t enough time to really learn more.
I’m happy to say though that I have successfully completed my FIRST 30 DAY CHALLENGE and I am excited to carry it on.
Thank you everyone for all your support in the last month and I look forward to sharing with all of you what my next ONE GOAL THIRTY DAYS is going to be. Stay tuned!