Going flexitarian – There is no one reason to go vegetarian

I grew-up (well, maybe I still am growing-up) in South Africa. It is a land of plentiful good quality meat. A birthday or event (like it being Friday or a Saturday) would involve a Braai-BQ. Aside from braais, I only considered it a meal if it contained meat, 1 meat, 1 starch and perhaps 1-2 vegetables. Breakfast occasionally got a pass from this rule, obviously not on a week-end, bacon was a must.

A couple of years ago a housemate went Vegan, before drifting to being a vegetarian and then back to meat. During the time, when it came to communal cooking, most people would cook a parallel meal. I just cooked vegan for everyone, the first couple of weeks were tough, then I quickly got used to it. I’d simply search BBC Good Food meal of the week.

Truth be told, I had started cooking vegetarian well before that, it was mostly to show that a meal could be healthy and tasty at the same time, something that seemed to be a binary choice for the rest of the house. Vegan was trickier, but once the kitchen got stocked, workable.

Time for reflection

I make decisions quickly, intuitively. Then I reflect, dig deeper and challenge my thinking, my hidden scripts, before I confirm my decision. It is interesting how different the evaluation process is when deciding away from a choice, rather than towards it. I felt it was time to do this with becoming a vegetarian or at least a flexitarian (significantly reduced meat intake).

Typical arguments for becoming a vegetarian

  • Animal welfare – While it’s hard to argue for battery farms and some of the terrible conditions animals face. Being empathetic needs to be finite to avoid misery, we can’t be empathetic everywhere. I care, but perhaps not enough to stop eating meat.
  • Sustainability – There are plenty worse (as bad) things and there are more sustainable meat options.  Fashion and travel have a big carbon footprint, and even mushroom farming has resulted in the destruction of ancient oak forests, not to mention almonds, palm oil and even soybeans, causing devastation to natural environments and a shift from subsistence farming. Cattle farming is by far the worst, with forests being cleared for grazing and excessive methane emissions (25x worse than CO2), so I could just drop beef to have an impact.
  • Financial – It generally cheaper, provided it is seasonal, as vegetables can be expensive. 
  • Health – We can be healthy while we eat meat, in fact not eating meat risks missing out on key protein. Being vegetarian does mean we pay more attention to what we eat, having limited options, restricts choices. So it restricts     calories and generally can result in a shift to healthier options with the substitution effect, but is not necessarily the case. 
  • Taste – I started examining what I ate. The source of the taste was the sauce. Pork has a strong taste, chicken and beef less so. I would add pickles and other distinctive tastes, independent of the meat.

Individually, none of these reasons were compelling enough for me. Put them together. The shear weight of evidence is persuasive. Like pebbles on a scale, add enough and it’s heavier than any rock. I decided to give it a go.

Going vegetarian (at home) – As a test case

I decided on a 21 day challenge, allowing meat on the week-end. 

  • I finished eating the existing meat I had
  • Used rain method to rewire the cognitive link. Examining the thought of consuming flesh, examining the texture. Mere conscious awareness has an impact.
    • Recognise
    • Allow
    • Investigate
    • Nurture or Non-identification 
  • Got Huel (referral link) and bought prepared meals from Cook

The result – A flexitarian

I found that I would usually eat meat only on one day, I just stopped buying it. With certain things, the meat is not what we really enjoy. A pizza, a sandwich, it is often the sauce.  Clearly I’m not ready to give dairy (at this stage, maybe in the future). I have noticed vegetarian substitutes have improved considerably over time.

Going forward, I decided to continue eating a plant based diet, at home.

I still do steak nights with the lads. I still eat meat at friends houses. Initially the intention was to only eat meat on week-ends, now, oddly, as the habits are formed and what I have stocked my fridge has changed, I have found that I seldom cook meat anymore.

In not trying to be perfect, just better.

Are you up for a 1 week/month vegetarian challenge? Or perhaps have 2 designated vegetarian days a week? – The worst that can happen is a bit more variability and creativity in your diet, the benefits could be immense.

Read more about from the World Economic Forum – The unbelievably simple way to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector in half.

Another way to help the plant is to shift where your investments sit.

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