I don’t recall having to be told to eat my vegetables as a kid. To the best of my recollection I was never intimidated by the ‘green stuff.’ But I did like meat (and potatoes). In high school I was asked to leave an all-you-can eat steak1 buffet after eating nine steaks2, half a plate of chicken strips and some mashed potatoes.
When I resumed running in 2009––after four solid years of no exercise and plenty of high calorie, not at all healthy food––it didn’t take long for my body to crave different foods. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts became staples before, after, and during runs. Boca burgers began to replace hamburgers on our grill. Hummus, for the first time, was on my radar.
In 2010, I declared to Crystal, ‘I think I could be a vegetarian.’ It was a statement of fact more than anything. Being a vegetarian wasn’t something that I aspired to. It wasn’t even something I wanted to do. It was something, however, that I felt capable of.
2010, 2011, and 2012 were pretty much life-as-usual in the food department. Red meat and poultry continued to comprise large portions of our diet. During this period of time cancer, which was already on our minds,3 became a regular part of our lives (as strange as that may sound). At church, we lost some dear friends to cancer. Others had surgery, chemo and radiation. During this same time, both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were diagnosed with and died from cancer; and, Crystal underwent surgery and oblation therapy for thyroid cancer.
We became aware of a rather large body of research that correlated red meats and processed foods with the incidence of cancer. Still, we weren’t ready to make a change.
Enter 2013. In addition to upping our fitness levels, Crystal and I decided that a change in diet was also necessary. At first we didn’t cut meat (even red meats) out of our diet. (In fact, we haven’t reached the point where we’ve cut meat from our diets. I had a steak the other week.) We did, however, change the serving size of the meat portion of our meal. We ate smaller pieces of meat and consumed more fruits and veggies.
Both Crystal and I began to feel better. I, in particular, noticed a big difference in that I was no longer experiencing digestive issues. After about a week, it occurred to me that the last time I remembered feeling this well and going for an extended period of time without Tums or Imodium was when I was in England.4
Our little experiment led us to cut back even further. Why not have meatless Mondays?
In the last four weeks, I can count on a couple of fingers the number of times that I’ve eaten meat. I have more energy. My digestive system has been great. Running and playing basketball has been more enjoyable without the typical after-meal heaviness. Oh, and the food––it tastes really good. Don’t believe me? Here’s just a few of the delicious things we’ve eaten over the last few weeks:
- Bulgar and asparagus salad;
- Thai sloppy joes;
- white pizza;
- some fantastic pasta dishes;
- shepherd’s pie.
- Thinking back, I would use the term ‘steak’ lightly when describing the meat that was on the buffet. ↩
- They were only 8 oz. steaks. ↩
- In high school Crystal was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that was successfully treated, and in 2008 my mom underwent surgery and treatment for cancer. ↩
- During my two weeks in England, I ate primarily Indian and Lebanese food, both cuisines offering delicious vegetarian options that I regularly elected to consume. ↩