“Healthier but harder”: I quit meat for a month

vegetables brown paper bag


Growing up on her family’s dairy farm in New Zealand, 31-year-old Melbourne-based Account Director SARAH RAINE had always centred her diet around meat. But for an entire month, Sarah successfully fought temptation and trialled a vegetarian lifestyle. 

I’ve always eaten meat. Growing up on a farm, I was aware of what meat was and where it came from. It was just a way of life in my family; every meal was planned around meat. Because of this, I was probably eating way too much of it, and in serving sizes that were too big. I wouldn’t even consider vegetarian options on the menu at restaurants.

I decided to quit meat for the month of January. I wanted to challenge my habit of defaulting to meat and see if it had any impact on my health, and the start of the new year seemed like a natural time to do it. 
I made myself accountable. I sent a text around to my friends and family and put it up on Instagram. I made sure there was a social awareness about what I was doing and why I was doing it. That’s always a good way to achieve a goal – committing to it openly so you can’t hide.

The first day was hard. I was with my family back home in New Zealand and we were having a massive New Year’s Day barbeque with steak, chops and sausages. All the shops were closed for the public holiday, so all I ate was salad. My family reacted with disbelief when I said ‘no thanks’ to the meat. They found it bizarre someone would be vegetarian by choice. It was a bit of a novelty for them.

It was easier after that, but still difficult. It was barbeque season, and you’re just more social in general over summer. Most of my friends are big meat eaters and I didn’t realise until I wasn’t one. If I was invited to events, I prepped as much as I could, especially when I was the only one there eating vegetarian. It caused a lot of my friends to actually think about what they were offering and do something different than what they’d normally do.

My whole diet changed. I probably didn’t plan as well as I should have, and I found it hard to cater for myself. I know vegetarian food can be varied and taste good, but I was at a bit of a loss when it came to cooking. I found food blander and wasn’t as excited about eating, which had a knock-on effect where I felt I didn’t need as much food. However, my digestion changed, and I felt lighter – not as heavy as I would after eating meat. I also had more energy.

It was a great conversation starter. When I told people, they would immediately ask if I was doing it for environmental, ethical or health reasons. There were quite a few facets that came out of doing it, and a lot of people told me they do meat-free Mondays.

It was a good day when the month ended. I was looking forward to reintroducing meat to my diet. My family even sent me texts to celebrate. That said, I was very proud of myself for sticking to my guns and it really made me think harder about my meat consumption.

I learnt a lot during my month without meat. I was surprised by my own determination. I thought I might lapse, but I was very regimented and committed to giving it a go. Most importantly, it taught me the importance of eating in a balanced way and the need for me to incorporate more vegetables into my meals. Since then, I’ve been eating meat again, but not as much as I used to. I’ve basically gone from a place of extreme meat eating to vegetarianism to moderation. I’ve realised it’s actually what I should have been doing all along.

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