Tuesday, 8 December 2009

How We Doing So Far?

We are a week into the Great Vegetarian Experiment, and I thought it fitting to offer up a few observations on how things are progressing. Of course, it isn't possible to accurately gauge anything from a week, but there are a few things that I have found rather telling. Here we go in no particular order.

  • It is much easier to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle today than it was 25 years ago. The choices that are available, especially in a big city like Canada's largest, have exploded. There are several organic and specialty stores within a couple of kilometres of my home, and they carry anything and everything that the budding carrot eater might require. I must admit that preparatory research is essential in planning the menus and changing the eating paradigm. Textured Vegetable Protein isn't necessarily on the average carnivore shopping list, but can be a staple in this new diet. Interesting and varied vegetables and fruits, once firmly ensconced on the exotic register, are easily obtainable in most produce sections and can liven up boring meals.
  • While we have been able to procure almost everything that we have so far required, the costs can be ridiculous. There is no doubt that eating in this new way has inflated our grocery bill. Fresh produce is not cheap, and buying fresh produce in Toronto in December can be a source of stomach churning anxiety for even the most hardened of food shoppers. We have always purchased fresh fruits and vegetables even when winter drives up the prices, but because we are consuming them in greater quantities we have seen our bills reach for the heavens. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the primary reasons that obesity and health issues are so much more prevalent in lower income household is the high cost of healthy eating. Let's face it-it is much cheaper to feed a family a steady diet of Mickey Ds than it is fresh food. If we ever hope to instill smarter eating choices as bedrock foundation for our ever-growing population, than the economic realities of healthy eating must be addressed.
  • We are not hungry! Neither one of us. Isn't that stunning? We aren't searching for snacks, we aren't complaining about not being sated, and we aren't miserable. In fact, just the opposite is true. I have noticed a fullness after meals as a result of much smaller portions. I am certain that one of the reasons attributing to this phenomenon, is the addition of more fiber to our diets in the form of beans and seeds. I have supplemented my eating with a few extra vitamin enhancements such as B12 and Omega 3 and I suppose that this has also helped, but all in all I am a bit shocked. I have tried every conceivable fad diet know to Western civilization, and this is the first time that I am not feeling hungry or deprived. Can it be that my body is actually getting everything it requires and thus isn't speaking to me in those surreptitious gaseous noises that I attempt to hide from the rest of the world?
  • I feel lighter in spite of my fullness. I have dropped 3 pounds this week and it certainly isn't a direct result of my workout schedule, which has become slightly dormant due to increasing apathy. (This is not an unusual occurrence for me at this time of year as I attempt to navigate the early stages of winter and SAD in the Great White North, and I prepare for my annual pilgrimage to the Southern Home.) There is no doubt that my exercise regime will resume when I find myself once again in the land of sunshine and colour, but in the meantime the weight loss is a bonus.
  • I find that we are constantly having to explain and justify why we have embarked on this project. It is an interesting byproduct of the journey. I don't think I ever once had to justify why I ate meat, yet people are fascinated with the reasons why I have chosen to forgo it. There is no doubt that vegetarians still reside in a huge minority vacuum, but I do find it fascinating that we are still so far out of the societal norm that people require we provide reasoning for the choice.
  • I have become far more aware of cow farts than I ever thought possible. This will be the subject of a blog post later this week, but I thought that I would tease it here. Google cow farts and methane gas emissions and you will be stunned by the results. With the environmental summit opening this week in Copenhagen, we should all become more aware of the world in which we live. Rabbi Eric Yoffie stated it quite succinctly in his Biennial sermon.
    The meat industry today generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change throughout the world. According to a U.N. report, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas than all transportation sources combined. And the preparation of beef meals requires about fifteen times the amount of fossil fuel energy than meat-free meals.
    And this is an area where we can make a difference. Our carbon footprint is largely determined by the energy that we use to heat our houses, get us to work, and produce the food that we eat. There is only so much that we can do to reduce our heating bills and shorten our commutes, but we can eat in a different way. Professor Gidon Eshel of the Bard Center has suggested that the effect of reducing our collective meat consumption by twenty percent would be comparable to every American driving a Prius instead of a standard sedan.

    • The Husband and I are really enjoying the time spent together preparing meals. Throughout the early years of our marriage, there was no doubt as to who the chief cook and bottle washer was in this house. Over the years, as we have both become more attuned to the food entering our bodies, we have prepared our meals as a team and it has become one of the great times of our day. I will say that he was more than a little bit skeptical about this venture, but he has been tremendously open-minded and willing to taste and try new things. The food paradigm is shifting in more ways than just choices.
    • I can unequivocally state without hesitation that The Husband has not grown any girl parts, nor has he become a weeping mass of hormones. As to his feelings on the project as a whole, I will reserve judgement for a bit.

There is no question that some of the more challenging aspects of our new lifestyle lay ahead of us. The Husband is tremendously concerned about our cruise next week, and seems to have developed an unnatural aversion to the idea of eggplant parmesan. He thinks that this dish will be his only viable option to meat meals. (I have no problem with his squeamishness, as I too loathe eggplant!) Restaurants have not been a huge issue yet and will undoubtedly become more of a concern when our boys join us for a week in the Southern Home. Younger Son loves to eat out (especially when Mom and Dad are buying!) and most likely has compiled a list of favourites that he will want to visit. We will cross those bridges soon enough. In the meantime, week one has been successful and has raced by surprisingly quickly. Keep you posted.


  1. I didn't know that you and Barry had eschewed meat and fish for the month! As a vegetarian, the only time I go hungry is usually at the big family holiday meals (when not at my house) with the heavy focus on meat and kugels with few fresh veggies. Eating out during vacations can be tough, especially if you're also trying to make healthy choices. Good luck making it through the month! Let me know if you need any recipes.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Tracey.
    This has been a long time coming and I have to say that so far, it has been a pleasure. I realize that we haven't yet tackled social eating outside of the home, but that is coming next week. We have been fairly good about healthy eating for a long time, this is the next step in the process and it ties in with ethical choices. Barry is more of a carnivore than am I, so we will see how the month goes for him. As for me, I can see this being a permanent choice. Keep you posted and I just might take you up on the recipes.