As the bell struck midnight and the endless fireworks launched us into 2018, I waved bye-bye to the one staple of my diet that I knew and loved: MEAT. I’ve always been a meat eater, but towards the end of 2017, I was starting to think about making a change. My original goal was pescatarian, admittedly because I love fish so much and feel better when there’s a lot of it in my diet; but after countless nights dreaming about chicken, and the occasional drunken relapse involving nuggets at the end of a night out, I discovered a way of life that I can finally get on board with.
Flexitarianism is a relatively new thing, and most people laugh at me when I try and convince them that I haven’t just made it up because I can’t stick to my morals. The most common way of describing it is ‘casual vegetarianism’, and a lot of people are finding it a much more effective way of making positive diet choices. The first question people asked me when I said I was trying to be pescatarian was why. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure. I have a range of reasons from wanting to save animals to fancying a bit of a change, or trying to help the environment to making it easier for me and my vegetarian housemate to cook meals together. Either way, I felt like it was something that I was ready to do.
Being a flexitarian means something different to everyone. Some people will have a couple of meat free days a week, whilst others will only have the occasional meat treat. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle; I am always pescatarian when cooking at home, and aim to eat meat maybe once a month. But that’s in an ideal world. Even though I hung my head in shame for a while over the late-night mayo chicken from Maccies, or the Sunday morning bacon sandwich when I was home for the weekend, I realised it’s really not worth beating myself up over. Sure, I had a chicken burger, but I’d had a VERY long day and hadn’t eaten meat for two solid weeks. And whilst I indulged a little at family breakfast, I made my mum get Quorn fillets for the roast dinner. So even though meat has been creeping its way in, there is nowhere near as much of it in my diet as there used to be.
I’ve gone from having meat once or twice a day, pretty much every day, to being able to go weeks without it. And after finally taking the plunge, I’ve realised it’s a lot easier than most people think. My first worry was that I don’t like falafel, I’m not a fan cheese sandwiches and, disgracefully, I’m not huge on hummus (gasp!). And whilst the vegetarians of Instagram make me jealous with pitta bread dunked in homemade dip, I have found smaller, tastier changes that work for me. There’s this huge myth that vegetarians are healthier but I’ve found that to be wrong; you wouldn’t think that cutting out meat could lead to a cheese and carbohydrate crisis, but you would be right. Whilst trying to make healthier choices, I discovered that Tesco frozen veggie burgers are actually really tasty and, when I’m shovelling in fajitas, Quorn chicken doesn’t taste that different.
I’m aware that I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m pretty proud of myself for making this change in the first place. If I’m sensible, it can work out cheaper and healthier, and leaves me with a little bit of pride and happiness at the end of every day that I make a difference. Whilst I’d like to advocate a meat-free-ish kind of lifestyle, I’m aware that I’m no angel. But by flexitarian standards, I’m doing pretty good. And that’s enough for me.