Growing up in a typical, large Italian family, meat played a large part in not only our Sunday night dinners but also in our everyday lives. Oblivious to the truth behind the food I put on my plate, I ate some kind of meat—steak, chicken, turkey, veal, etc.—almost every day. That all stopped this past April.
After a trip to New York City to work press at an event at Radio City Music Hall, something clicked in my head. I certainly was not a “healthy eater,” and suddenly became motivated to change my eating habits before making the move to the Big Apple after graduating college. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I decided the first step would be by cutting out all red meat.
I was never a huge fan of red meat; I ate it because it was available, but never because I had a strong desire for it. For three months, I barely noticed the change in diet. Then, at the start of summer, I made the choice to cut out meat entirely.
Oh, boy, was it difficult. Though the first few weeks were quite simple, I then found myself having cravings almost every day. Thankfully, I fought against them and persevered. Now, four months meat-free, I’ve come to realize that making this change in my diet was the best choice for me. Here’s why…
I’m Almost Never Hungry
Since cutting out all meat (extra veggies, please), I’ve found that I am almost never hungry. Of course, if I forget to eat all day, I’ll be hungry on my drive home from work at 5 p.m. But as long as I make sure to stay hydrated and nourished, my hunger is at an all-time minimum, something I never experienced before. This comes with its downfalls, however, as I’ll sometimes forget to eat since I don’t have my stomach reminding me with ferocious growls. Planning ahead and setting reminders on my phone have helped keep me on a regular eating schedule, which has also helped my hunger.
My Knees Feel Better
During senior year, I was performing in my high school’s production of the musical Curtains. The role I played, Bobby, was dance-heavy, and naturally, I injured myself three weeks before the show opened. A trip to the doctor showed that while my knee was okay, the extra pressure on it over the years from weight and dance has begun to take their toll.
To this day, I still deal with knee problems, though they are less severe than the initial injury and come and go. However, since cutting out meat, I’ve noticed that the pain in my knees has decreased significantly. If I’m dancing for a few hours with a lot of floorwork, they’ll surely hurt after. But when I wake in the mornings, I feel good and my knees feel stable.
My Skin Is Brighter
I’ve never had a super serious struggle with acne (knock on wood). Other than the occasional breakout or oily skin day, it was never terrible. However, during my second year of college, that all changed. I never had a solid skincare routine growing up, and that began to show as personal struggles and excess stress took their toll on my skin. I began to breakout, particularly on the sides of my face. Dark spots began to form and I became incredibly self-conscious.
While the acne began to decrease as I found a great, regular skincare routine, pimples would still rise to the surface. But over the past few months, they’ve been almost nonexistent. Sure, like any other young adult, I break out on occasion. But far less frequently than my in previous, meat-eating life.
This may sound cliche, but cutting out meat from my diet has made me so much happier. For one, I eat out far less often, which makes my bank account scream with joy. I also wake each morning with enough energy to slay the day ahead, no matter what I have to do. And finally, I have the satisfaction of knowing that what I eat, and don’t eat, has made my life so much better.
I’m not a doctor, and what I noticed since cutting out meat may be 1) all in my head and 2) not the same for someone else. And while I would never force anyone to eat the way I do or look down upon them for eating meat, I do have to stress that my new diet has been the best change I’ve ever made. As I continue on this journey, I look forward to more benefits, more good times and, of course, more amazing food.
If you’re considering cutting out meat, plan ahead. Start by cutting out one type of meat at a time. Going cold turkey (literally) may work for some but not for many. Then, once meat is entirely out of your diet, frequently find fun recipes to make during the week to keep your body and mind happy and satisfied. And finally, as any dietician would advise, meal planning is the best way to go. With meal planning, you’re prepared and ready each day and will never succumb to the cravings you once had.
World Vegetarian Day is celebrated on October 1. Will you try out a meat-free diet?