It’s the month of my birthday, May. As I approached this born day of mine in celebration of another year of life I set out on a quest to do something different. Not only has the past year been challenging for me, but health wise and into my 30’s I started noticing that my body just wasn’t quite the same as it used to be.
Gone are the days of sleeping two hours after a night of partying and being able to function the next day at work. And bones and joints no longer recover like they used to after sitting long periods of time or sleeping in awkward positions.
So I made the decision to do something I thought I could never do, and that’s cut out meat from my diet for 30 days. An entire month from my omnivore lifestyle. I call it my birthday challenge.
For those who know me, I have a relentless love of meat; Chicken, steak, fish, and turkey you name it.
My carnivore ways have been a part of me since birth. I grew up in a home where Latino food was a part of my daily cuisine. My father being from Dominican Republic and an excellent cook, smoking pig and stewing goat meat was a common occurrence.
I think as black people, eating meat is almost second nature. It ain’t a bbq without a slab of ribs on the grill right? Soul food ain’t soul food without chicken.
As a matter fact as I thought about it, eating meat was simply daily routine. It was my life. If I ate a salad I needed chicken on top of it. If I cooked spaghetti, meat had to go in the sauce.
Lately Veganism and Vegetarianism has gained popularity, and I admit they are diets I thought were ridiculous.
How much fun could these folks really be having in life without consuming some of the best dishes in the world? I thought these were just a bunch of animal freaks who didn’t understand that they were put on this earth for our consumption.
Yes. This has been my thought process. But while I admit I am not out to save the animals, I did want to see what the hype was about.
So on May 1st, I went cold turkey (no pun intended) and gave up meat from my diet.
I remember the first three days were the most difficult for me. I literally didn’t know what to eat. It was like playing Where’s Waldo both in the grocery store and driving around. And in that time frame I realized just how much meat I ate. The fact I could not think of one meal that would be appetizing without it was troubling.
In my dumbfounded meatless quest, I consumed pizza, pasta, and everything that defeated the purpose of my no meat diet. Which was to start consuming more of the fruits and vegetables my body needs. I even gained weight during the first week. I was so used to feeling full after eating meat filled meals that I found myself still hungry and ate all the wrong things.
I knew I was doing it wrong. I had to do something different or I would end up being 200 pounds by the time my 30 days was up because I was hungry all the time.
So I began buying smoothies which contained all of my needed ingredients. And they were delicious.
That weekend I went to Wal-Mart and purchased a Ninja blender to begin making my own smoothies at home. I bought frozen fruit, kale, spinach, flaxseed, whey protein, almond and coconut milk.
They turned out amazing. Not to mention they were fun to make and a way to get in all my fruits and greens at one time.
The next week, I started regularly venturing to Whole Foods Market where for the first time I actually took my time going through the whole store.
I came across cold pressed juices, cage free eggs with Omega-3, Almond milk, and vegetarian pizza. I even discovered a plant based meat section in the store. I began stocking my home with these items and stopped shopping at Wal-Mart for many of my groceries.
Aldi and Trader Joes also became my best friends. These are stores you can shop healthy while on a budget.
It literally was like discovering a whole new world for me.
Delicious healthy food! Who knew?
After week 1, I think my body became used to the fruits and vegetables that it was taking in.
I started actually craving these foods. I no longer was thinking about meat.
Searching for food became so much fun!
I tried new dishes at restaurants, used my yelp app to find juice bars, and discovered Acai Fruit Bowls! I tried Ethiopian food for the first time and so many other spots I never considered.
I woke up each morning with brighter looking skin, less fine lines, and my pores were shrinking.
My back pain and joint aches subsided. My waistline shrunk, too and I didn’t feel that bloated heavy feeling after eating anymore.
My moods lifted and I even had less menstrual symptoms.
I was sold! After two weeks I realized that this lifestyle wasn’t difficult at all. It was worth it!
As I am now at the end of my 30 day fast many have been asking me if I plan to eat meat again.
The truth is, as of right now I don’t miss it. I don’t crave meat or think about it anymore. And experiencing all the benefits has made me decide that this lifestyle is for me.
I want to avoid diabetes and cancer. The C word is one of my greatest fears. I want to live longer. I want to see my daughter grow up and play with my grandchildren.
I’m not saying that eating meat guarantees or denies you any of these things, but what I am saying is that by all of us choosing to eat clean and feed our bodies with the healthiest ingredients we are taking part in a revolutionary act.
USDA data and statistics show that Hispanic Americans consume more beef than other racial or ethnic groups. Black Americans consume a significantly larger amount of chicken (at least 38% more), turkey (at least 38% more) and fish (at least 53% more) than any other racial or ethnic group.
According to the American Heart Association and the Center for Disease and Control:
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans, but certain minority groups face a greater risk than others. Deaths from heart disease are higher in black Americans than in white Americans and other ethnic groups, and heart disease develops at a younger age in African Americans. Nearly 48% of African American women and 44% of African American men have some form of heart disease. Research has found that even among the growing middle- and upper-class black community, the rate of heart disease among black Americans is still greater than in white Americans who have a comparable socioeconomic status. The most common conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke among black Americans are high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
Black men and women also suffer from anxiety and depression at high rates. And the truth is our mental health is also affected by the food we consume and the lack of nutrients and vitamins from an unhealthy diet.
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States and impacts African-Americans at a higher rate than any other group — especially African-American women.
Our bodies are a temple. So why not treat them as such? The same way we wish to be mindful of who we share our bodies with, we also want to be just as rigid with what we put into it.
I plan to no longer consume meat as part of my daily diet. Instead, I will continue this journey of mine by eating clean and organic as much as possible. Consuming far less sugar and processed foods; I am considering incorporating fish into it occasionally and other meats only rarely or on the weekends.
I still partake in cheese, yogurt and cage free eggs and have started substituting my cow’s milk for almond and coconut milk. I have also made the change to whole grain wheat breads only and organic pasta.
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit and it’s true. This is why I urge each and every one of you to try this no meat fast for 30 days!
You have nothing to lose. Plus there’s a whole world of foods out there you might not have tried or experienced! Your body will thank you and you will be proud of yourself!
I know for myself, now I won’t feel so bad when I decide to have a cheat day every now and then knowing my daily lifestyle is healthy.
TIPS TO DITCHING MEAT FOR 30 DAYS AND EATING CLEAN
Avoid loading up with Carbs in an effort to feel full.
Instead snack on fruits, nuts and other healthy foods throughout the day.
Smoothies: Purchase fruit, vegetables, whey protein, nuts, flax seed, and anything you desire and blend it all up.
Try Almond or Coconut milk/water in place of cow’s milk.
Whole Grain breads only. Ditch the white bread.
WATER! WATER! WATER!
Try Superfood Supplements i.e. Amazing Grass
Intake less added sugar
B12 Vitamins are great for added energy
Cut out sodas and juices with too much sugar
Buy organic produce as much as possible.
Replace cow’s milk with Almond or Coconut Milk
Buy cage free eggs with Omega-3
Try intermittent fasting eating only between 12–6pm
Consume enough iron and protein to avoid fatigue and gain energy
Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
rice, breads and pastas
Cooked beans and lentils
Pumpkins, squash or sesame seeds
Chickpeas, kidney beans and lima beans
Raw and cooked spinach and kale