January - the month I committed to a more plant-based lifestyle and also bought half a cow.*
Shortly after the New Year, I committed to trying (and sharing) my hand at twelve different things...ranging from trying yoga to living more sustainably to dusting off my old road bike that hasn't seen an actual road since 2016. The goal was to not overwhelm myself with inevitable broken Resolutions within the first few weeks of January, and instead spread my failures -- errr, experiments out over the course of the year.
Which was both timely and ironic as the first few weeks of January were spent getting COVID, having my family get COVID, living out a never-ending quarantine from said COVID, and basically abandoning any sense of purpose, drive, and intention surrounding this experiment. January may have been the worst month to try and focus on eating fresher, healthier, and leaner. The only plant-based thing I wanted in my body was vodka. It's a potato and it counts.
a meme I saw that made me laugh and then cry
I digress...and give you my recap of January's Habit Experiment: pursue more plant-based options in the name of health, sustainability, and variety.
What I did:
First, I considered what plant-based meant to me. I've committed to a fully vegetarian diet twice in my life - once after visiting a KFC slaughtering house in Canada and the other time in college. Collectively, I was a vegetarian for over 6 years. You think that would mean I consider myself attuned to the topic, but I'd be lying if I said a majority of my vegetarian experience didn't surround misconceptions and disordered eating. I also learned during that time I'm not a huge fan of meat substitutes, and while I think they've come a longggg way - they're just not for me. Plant-based truly meant more plants and finding protein in other sources, like beans, lentils, etc.
I ordered Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot because I'm lazy AF. Referring back to my early January COVID diagnosis, I found myself lying in bed thinking "well, shit - I committed to this thing and the last thing on earth I'm doing right now is meal planning." With a few swipes of a finger, I arranged for plant-based meals to arrive at my door several times throughout the month.
I watched the Netflix documentary "Explained; the future of meat" which talks about the world's rate of meat consumption and the impact it has had and will continue to have if we don't change our habits.
I made a considerable effort to keep more vegetables in the house and make them accessible to both me and the rest of the family.
Meal Kits worked. As I've mentioned before, I loathe eating with my kids on most occasions and so the meal kits that aren't exactly "kid friendly" still work for us. I make their meal and talk to them about their day while I start to make the meal kit. I try to involve them in the cutting or washing. Since I enjoy the cooking part if it's handed to me on a silver platter, I see the task as like a...fun art project I get to do each night. Like play-dough or kinetic sand...but I get to eat it and don't want to throw it straight in the trash afterwards. Speaking of trash, Purple Carrot was interesting. We had a few good ones, but most were too exotic for me. Hello Fresh had larger portion sizes and even allowed for leftovers somedays. They're both pricey, but Hello Fresh won on value.
Making veggies more accessible worked. If I put myself through the act of actually buying, washing, and cutting up vegetables...and then putting those vegetables in individual containers...and putting those containers at the forefront of my refrigerator...there's a 65% I will eat them before they rot. If I do none of those things, there is a 100% chance I will throw every vegetable away just moments before the fruit flies settle in.
Finding quick and easy vegetarian lunches. I don't look forward to meat at lunch the same way I do at dinner, so this was an easy win. I found a few recipes that involved almost no prep and could be made in 5-15 minutes. (Whole Foods pre-made curry + microwave jasmine rice + lentils for protein? Chef's kiss.)
What didn't work:
Trying to eat a plant-based meal each night for dinner. Donald started getting crabby. He assumed I was trying to hide tofu in everything I made. Plus, I enjoy chicken, fish, and red meat. Moderation and variety were always the goal here.
Assuming I have the time and energy right now to do this without a lot of help. I don't, and if I want this habit to sustain...meal boxes are here to stay.
Believing that I'm committing to more of a plant-based diet for health reasons. Through watching the Explained documentary and doing some cursory reading, I realized my priority for doing this wasn't actually my own health. A positive side effect? Of course. But I found I was way more interested in the impact that animal agriculture and the meat industry has on our planet than anything else. That part fascinates me and is what will likely fuel future plans to change any habits.
What will stick:
I'll continue to incorporate at least 1-2 plant-based dinners a week for Donald and I - either utilizing the meal kits or getting bold and trying to plan my own.
I'll commit to doing the work that is buying, washing, and keeping veggies accessible to my family and I. I've found a lot of success in a short amount of time, and have enjoyed watching the kids try new things (Carter decided today was the day he'd try a cucumber...and man, if that didn't blow his mind. I may have let him dip it in Chick-Fil-A sauce...but he ate it, didn't he?)
I'd genuinely like to read more and learn more about the impact consuming meat + the related industries have on our planet and our footprint. Got recs? Send them my way.
All in all, it was a shit month but a decent experiment...and I'm walking away with new recipes, a lot of help in the kitchen, and a fair amount of fiber in my diet. And not just from that potato Vodka.
* I'm curious how many of you just skipped straight to this asterisk. Yes, it's true. We had plans to split a cow from our friend's farm well before I committed to this experiment, and the irony isn't lost on me that I wrote this with an entire spare freezer of ground beef in the next room. Moderation is everything and variety is the spice of life. Moo-ve on.