This is me! I am a traditional, steak and potatoes, Irish kinda gal, and I decided to turn against all of my inner instincts and give up meat for a month! Granted, I've gone a month without eating meat before for Lent and for my article What It's Actually Like To Be Healthy in College, but this time around I wanted to do it to prompt me to be creative in the kitchen and up my veggie intake while not even touching a PB&J. Keep on reading to see how my month as a vegetarian went!

pork, grass
Kate Dolan

*Let me say, I loved being on the vegetarian diet, but for my fitness goals at the moment and my own head space, it is not a sustainable diet for me at this time. That doesn't mean that it isn't an awesome way to get calories, it just means that it doesn't work for me right now.*


The first question you might be asking is why I decided to commit to a month as a vegetarian on a random day in the middle of June. Well, to those asking that question, I don't have an answer because nothing really prompted me to do it. I didn't have an epiphany of "I want to stop eating meat and save the animals!" And if I'm being totally honest, the animal treatment aspect was lower on my list of reasons to do it. My number one was simply myself.

grass, vegetable, pasture
Jocelyn Hsu

I have been feeling very weak this summer. Emotionally, physically, mentally, and everything in between, and something that became a big deal during my month was how strong I felt mentally. I am not afraid to say that I have some form of depression, and as a result, my relationship with food has become closely tied to the way I look. I found myself really focusing on how I was feeling versus looking this month, and that was a very empowering feeling for me. 

Another thing that came up big time during my month was the environmental impact I was making. I went to Costa Rica earlier this summer and while I was there, I visited a whole bunch of organic farms, and they all composted and grew their own veggies and reused anything and everything they could (and I mean everything). It lead to me doing some research when I got back to the States about my own impact on the environment and what I could do to make my carbon footprint smaller. Turns out, being a vegetarian is really good for the environment! The meat industry uses a ridiculous amount of water to raise only one calf, and developing farms to grow GMO based food is a big offender in rainforest deforestation

Andrea Leelike

Those are the main reasons as to why I decided to take on this month, and when I started, I didn't know I was only going to do a month. I thought I was going to go my entire life without eating meat again, but that was until my fitness and health goals shifted and I found other, more effective ways of achieving those. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to delve into this diet considering some people don't get a choice, and hopefully you'll learn something from my experience. 

The 'Meat' of It

I don't know where to begin when it comes to my month of no meat. It was one of the most difficult but also one of the easiest things I have ever challenged myself to do! After a week, the meat cravings stopped, but as someone who is hellbent on maintaining muscle while in a calorie deficit, getting enough protein was the biggest challenge. But, it also encouraged me to try a whole bunch of new foods I had never made before and be creative by using leftovers for new food adventures like these Baked Mixed Berry Potstickers. Basically, there were ups and downs, and these were them. 

bread, beef, bacon, salami, meat, pork, sausage
Kate Dolan

The Downs:

First things first: The not so great parts. This month was really tough on me from a health standpoint. Protein tends to be the most important macro when it comes to losing fat and satiation during a calorie deficit and getting enough of it on a vegetarian diet while also keeping carbs and healthy fats balanced is pretty difficult. Don't get me wrong, I love tofu and egg whites are bomb, but my body burns through that shit extremely quick, and 2 hours after a huge egg white omelette, I'm hungry again. I relied on carbs for the majority of my month, which often led me to overeat on my deficit and craving unhealthy foods to fill me up.

parsley, spinach, egg, scrambled, omelette, omelet
Josi Miller

Also, something to note is that it's summertime which equals rodeos and fair foods. In those situations, my cravings made me ravenous meaning 800 calorie funnel cakes, overly salted pretzels with oh-so-delicious fake nacho cheese, ribbon fries, and apples with caramel (which was more like caramel with apples). But, regardless of eating my weight in fried foods, I was able to remain vegetarian. Didn't do much for my calorie intake, though.

Finally, my own biological makeup makes it really difficult for me to say no to sweet things. I didn't realize how much of a sweet tooth I have until I took on this challenge and I wanted something sweet after every meal. This combined with my tendency to think that if I already ate over in calories that the rest of the food I ate that day wouldn't matter. Spoon Tip: that's not how that works. And honestly, that definitely did contribute to some really dark mental and self-image days this month.

It also led to my realization that I have depressive eating habits which took the form of a sweet tooth and my inability to say no to that chocolate mousse. I find comfort in the food that I eat, and this month, I struggled to separate my emotions from my cravings. A lot of the time, if I was feeling sad, I would create a hunger in my stomach and eat and eat until I could distract myself again. I even wrote an article on ways to combat depressive eating habits in the hopes that doing the research and educating others on it would kick start that understanding in me. Eating vegetarian sometimes convinced my brain that because I wasn't eating meat, I could eat different food (i.e. ice cream) to make up for it.

The Ups:

kale, swiss chard, organic vegetables, fresh vegetables, local vegetables, local farm, shop local, farmer's market, vegetable, carrot, broccoli
Sam Jesner

Finally, the good things! One of the things that I really loved about this month was how creative I needed to be. I spent what seemed like at least an hour every day on Pinterest trying to find meals that I wanted to make the following week. I meal-prepped every week, and that made staying on track a little bit easier each day. Some of my all-time veggie winners were potstickers, chili, and these bomb ass breakfast enchiladas. For anyone who follows me on Snapchat, there were quite a few "who needs meat?" exclamations when I made anything that gave me life (i.e. the recipes above). 

One of the other really rewarding aspects to eating vegetarian was that I was able to prove my strength to myself. I have never thought of myself as someone with strong willpower, but I can't say that anymore. Y'all, there's nothing quite as difficult as going through the 4th of July as a meat-eater not eating meat. Granted, the will power I found when I was saying no to meat didn't quite phase over to when I was really craving that funnel cake.

sweet, cookie
Kate Dolan

Finally, another positive was my veggie intake. I am not a huge fan of vegetables because I am a child of a household that never forced us to eat them growing up. That means all of my veggie self-discovery is left to my adult self. I learned that I can down an entire head of cauliflower easily and that mushrooms are a really great meat replacement when I am feeling a meatless Monday. I was really surprised and glad that every week, my grocery cart was filled with produce versus the gross processed stuff that used to fill my carts. I actually started reading nutrition labels to compare the fat breakdown, sugar, and calories so I could really start understanding what food I was putting in my body.

Overall, my month as a vegetarian was an extremely tasty one, and I found myself really enjoying the meals I was making and gladly making those meat substitutions. As I mentioned at the beginning, this diet isn't quite the right one for me at the moment, but that doesn't mean I don't plan on coming back to it! Honestly, I would recommend trying this yourself because a world with meat isn't the only one out there.