1 Month Going Meatless - What we learned

How this challenge impacted me (Mrs. GGC)

The February challenge has been interesting to say the least. It has certainly had its ups and downs! Let me start off by saying that going meatless was actually quite easy. I have not experienced any cravings and I have enjoyed experimenting with different vegetarian meals. Tempeh is one of my new favorite ingredients – I cook it up and add it to salads and rice bowls. Chia seeds have also been great because they are an easy way to up the protein and fiber quality of any dish.

Photo credit: kirabutler via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

On another positive note, going vegetarian has made me feel good about myself. The GGC is on a mission to live greener and become ambassadors for the green living movement. Plant-based diets are definitely a great way to protect and also give back to the environment. We have encouraged a lot of people to eat mindfully and think about how often they consume meat each week. Small steps – great impact.

Photo credit: Tanya Dawn via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

To be perfectly candid, this challenge was just that – challenging. In retrospect, we should have done more research on vegetarianism and how to supplement the nutrients that meat provides our bodies. We felt hungry all the time because we weren’t eating enough. My tummy hurt for a while because I was consuming so many legumes! And finally, last week I started experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Lesson learned? Make sure that your diet is balanced because the consequences can be serious. Remember that post we wrote about how to get protein when going meatless? Yea, I should have listened to our advice!

hungry and tired – don’t look at me

Now, I am predisposed to anxiety and I cannot prove that going meatless has further impacted my mental health. However, after speaking with some doctors and friends who experienced similar emotions after going vegetarian and vegan, I now understand that what we eat (or lack) can have extreme effects on our body chemistry and emotions. Therefore, I have started taking Omega-3-6-9 vitamins for vegetarians and a multi-B vitamin to boost my levels of iron and other necessary vitamins and minerals that my body is deficient of.

Mr. GGC and I have also decided that my mental health is the most important thing here. Therefore, we are going to start eating organic chicken and/or fish 2-3 days a week to see if that improves my condition. I will then consult my physician and together we will determine if I can find a healthy balance and get my body back to where it needs to be before I implement the vegetarian diet again. Bottom line: everyone’s body is different and therefore, a change to your diet can have big consequences (in my case) or can be a smooth transition (Mr. GGC). Learn from my mistakes and be mindful of what you are eating and what your body needs to function.

Photo credit: Ars Electronica via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

How I Felt About The Challenge (Mr. GGC)

To start I really enjoyed going meatless this month. I loved the variety of vegetarian recipes and my body felt great, I may have even lost a little weight, not that I needed too. I also liked its impact on our budget. It was considerably cheaper to not eat meat.

I felt pretty good about the diet and the way I felt. I did find myself hungry at times which led to snacking. It is important to keep healthy snacks on hand for those cravings. It is also important to maintain a balanced diet rich in nuts, legumes, vegetables, and fruit.

Vegetarianism & Mental Health

As Mrs. GGC said she suffers from anxiety and suffered some mental health issues this past week and we think an improper vegetarian diet contributed to it. I’m not saying it caused it because there were a number of different things going on at the same time. After doing some research and speaking to a friend who is neurologist we discovered that there might be some evidence that eating less meat affects your mental health.

First, there is certainly no consensus in the science community about the connection between mental health and meat but there is some compelling data out there. Second, we put this question out to our Facebook friends and we received lots of anecdotal evidence from people who are vegetarian and who discovered a change in their mental health from not doing vegetarianism the right way. Third, there are proven connections between certain vitamins and minerals and mental health.

The Science

The third point makes sense when you think about it. You brain runs on chemistry and if there is an imbalance, then your brain can’t function to its full potential. You brain specifically needs iron, B vitamins, and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to function at peak conditions. Humans can’t produce these compounds naturally so we have to get them through what we eat. The highest concentration of these compounds are found in meat. When you cut out meat, you cut our the primary sources of these nutrients.

Vegetarianism and your brain.

This is not to say that you can’t find these compounds in plants. One ounce of chia seeds for example contains 4x the recommended daily amount of Omega-3. So the lesson is you have to be smart and do your research – something we probably didn’t do enough of. You also need to fill your diet with a variety of foods, something we covered in our previous post of the dos an dont’s of vegetarianism, but we did not follow our own advice. Finally, talk to your doctor before you make a drastic diet change. They know body chemistry better than we do and can help guide you to the right foods to eat.

Where does this leave us with our vegetarian diet?

SOOOO what does that mean for The Going Green Couple? For the immediate future we will be incorporating some meat back into our diet, 2 to 3 times a week, until Mrs. GGC is feeling right again. Once she is feeling right we will slowly take meat out of our diet again and replace it with the foods necessary for a brain healthy diet. We’re not giving up on vegetarianism we just have to be smarter about it.

While we are going to incorporate meat back in, we are not going back to our old habits. We are not eating any red meat and will stick to fish and chicken. The meat we do buy will be organic and free range. The fish will be wild caught and chicken will be humanely raised. We will also eat smaller portions of meat while focusing on more vegetables. Only enough meat to get the necessary brain nutrients we need.

This month illustrates something important that we want to highlight about this blog and going green in general. You don’t have to make drastic life changes to make an impact. Simply eating less meat has a big impact. Choosing chicken over beef has a big impact. Going with palm oil friendly products has a big impact. I think we got a little disconnected this month from the purpose of our blog. Our purpose is to show what little things you can do in your life that make a big impact on the environment. We lost sight of that this month (I think).

Final thoughts about this month.

  1. If you are interested in going vegetarian, do your research before you start.
  2. If you are vegetarian make sure you eat a diverse diet rich in nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables.
  3. Vegetarian dishes taste great and are healthy, easy, and affordable.
  4. You will probably be hungry more often when you do make the switch so keep healthy snacks close by.
  5. If you are not ready to go full vegetarian or are concerned about mental health risks (like us) eat less meat each week. Try eating it only 2-3 times per week. Buy free range chicken over beef.

The Humane Farming Association

We again just want to highlight all of the great work The Humane Farming Association is doing. And no blog revenue this month BUT…we have donated $25 to their cause. We ask that you do the same.

And remember you don’t need to make a drastic change to have a big impact!

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