On being vegetarian – 6 weeks and counting

So I’ve been completely vegetarian for a little over 6 weeks now (somewhat arbitrary since I hadn’t eaten any meat for years, and hadn’t had much seafood prior to making the big switchover). Anyway, after 6 weeks, here’s an update on my progress. Read on for some interesting statistics on meat and vegetable production, too.

I feel even more healthy than at any time in the past. Aside from having the flu this week (unrelated – I was hanging around with several others who came down with it), I generally feel that I have more energy and it’s positively benefiting my ongoing weight loss too (tantalizingly close to being permanently under 160lbs now) . I’ve pretty much given up milk too (though that’s only when there’s a choice of soy – or whenever I can supply my own soymilk, or take my coffee home and add it here), I don’t eat much cheese in general (I can usually count the occurrences thereof), although I do still eat eggs from time to time, and haven’t killed dairy entirely.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I made the right judgement call. For a variety of (mostly animal welfare and ethical) reasons I decided I had to do this, even though I used to love the taste of lobster, salmon, and had a Legal Seafoods addiction. I don’t regret that and I’ve decided the vegetarian lifestyle is enticingly excitingly me. Once I’m done with the weight loss (at least another 10lbs, down to 150lbs), I’m really looking forward to experimenting with all kinds of recipes. For the moment, my daily food intake is carefully controlled – yesterday, I consumed:

* 2 small 97% fat free burritos, 500 kcal.
* 2 glasses of Orange Juice.
* 1 packet of Strawberries
* 1 packet of Blackberries
* 1 packet of Olives
* 3 Cups of Decaf Coffee, with soymilk.
* Several glasses of soymilk

That’s a pretty typical day at the moment. I try to eat less in the way of burritos and more in the way of fruit (some days I largely eat just fruit, and vegetables). I sometimes eat Olives, sometimes have a salad, sometimes have a craving for Red Kidney Beans at 11pm and go to Stop and Shop to buy a can. Other times I have an insatiable need to eat lots of corn (UK: sweet corn) late at night, which also results in an emergency trip to a store (usually on the way home from the gym – saves an otherwise excessive trip in the car). It’s not a cheap lifestyle, however, since it would be far cheaper to eat crap than having fresh fruit.

I get all the main food groups. I eat avocados, salad, fresh crunchy carrots, and various additional sources of protein, especially if I’m going to the gym. Though I’m trying to cut down on the powder shakes (haven’t had any in weeks) and those kcalorie-loaded $5 smoothies that they have in the gym. I discovered heymarket recently, and will also be looking into the CSA opportunities available – I’m not sure I want to commit just yet, while I’m on a very restricted diet, perhaps saving that until I’m down to 145-150lbs and feeling like being more adventurous.

Anyway, I promised some statistics. Tonight, I watched my first BBC America version of the popular British “Newsnight” show (UK: “programme”), which is a variant of the nightly UK version, recut for the US market (though with segments that use terminology many Americans won’t understand – not much is lost in the translation here though), and I guess is only a once-a-week affair. Tonight’s show had some interesting justifications for why the world might benefit if everyone were to go vegetarian – or at least follow more of a vegetarian diet – in terms of natural resources saved. I’m not advocating that everyone reading this rush out and make the switch, but I thought you might find these figures interesting.

It takes 8.9 square metres of land to produce 1kg of pork, 20.9 square metres of land to produce 1kg of beef, and only 0.3 square metres of land to produce 1kg of vegetables. At the same time, it will take 7kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, and 10,000 litres of water for that same 1kg of beef. It will, however, only take 1,000 litres of water to produce the grain. That’s 10 times less water.

World consumption of meat has risen sharply over the past few dacades. At the beginning of the 1980s, annual consumption was at 136 million tonnes. But by 4 years ago, consumption had risen to over 260 million tonnes. It hardly seems to be linear growth either, if you look at the charts. This means that we’ve doubled the resource burden placed on the world in order to produce all of these plastic packaged, regular geometrically-shaped meat-based products.


One Response to “On being vegetarian – 6 weeks and counting”

  1. For the benefit of other people who are considering diet changes, it would be good if you could post some links to sites containing information on healthy vegetarian eating.

    One significant obstacle to reducing meat consumption is the idea (which was heavily promoted by the meat industry) that you can only get enough protein if you eat meat.

    As for the amount of land needed, you didn’t mention the time period. Does 8.9m^2 give you 1Kg of pork a year, a month, or what?

    Also I’ve seen it claimed that the amount of plant matter needed to produce 1Kg of chicken is about 1/3 that needed to produce 1Kg of beef. I expect that the amount needed to produce 1Kg of eggs is even less. So maybe replacing beef with eggs and chicken would be a good idea for people who don’t want to become vegetarians.

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