Before noon on the second day of my meatless month, I had already made three trips to the bathroom. Head in my hands, boxers around my ankles, I turned to look at my latest bodily creation. I’ll spare you the creative imagery, but let’s just say that the end result looked like… well, diarrhea. Just with more lettuce.
I had spent the last several years figuratively shitting on vegetarianism and now it was shitting on me. Literally.
Ever since I was a little squirt, I’ve loved meat. Chicken, pork, steak, turkey, seafood, veal, alligator, bison—the origin didn’t matter. When that savory, succulent, slab of chewiness hit my tongue, my taste buds fired like Steven Hawking’s neurons on Adderall. The way I saw it, if food was an orchestra, grains, vegetables, and fruit were the woodwind instruments. Yes they were necessary, but when’s the last time anyone clamored for an oboe solo?
So when January 31st arrived, reality smacked me in the face. Knowing that I had to drastically change my grocery shopping habits, I strolled down the aisles at Trader Joe’s with fresh eyes. In lieu of making a beeline to the back of the store which housed my favorite items—namely, sliced turkey, chicken breasts, and steak—I moseyed to a small 5 foot by 7 foot section nestled between the dairy and the vegetables.
Soy products. And lots of ‘em.
There was baked tofu. And plain tofu. And chickenless chick’n. And meatless meat. Soy sausages. Vegan burgers. Vegetarian pulled pork. If I was prone to asthma attacks, this would have been the moment when I whipped out my inhaler to stymie the growing hyperventilation. Never had I seen such an array of unappealing options. But not wanting to admit defeat to the gelatinous blob of doom, I used overconfidence to compensate for ignorance and just picked one of everything.
As I walked through the aisles, I had to continually swallow my pride. “Damn that ahi tuna would go well with this quinoa.” “Fuck, that steak looks good.” When the damage was done, I had filled up my cart with a rainbow colored assortment of fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, soy, and a cow’s lifetime supply of dairy.
My fridge looked like it belonged to a Berkeley commune. But I was ready. I was fucking ready.
Too bad my large intestine wasn’t.
There’s no other way to state it: the first few days were rough. It was bad enough that my body was rejecting my new diet, but my brain wasn’t necessarily helping matters. As a 6’4 male who considers his beard-growing abilities to be a strong personality trait, there was something inherently emasculating about visiting a restaurant called “The Loving Hut” and ordering a spinach and quinoa salad.
But like with anything, I adapted. I embraced the picky vegetarian gods, or at the very least, appeased them. Breakfasts consisted of fried eggs with a surprisingly delicious side of soy sausages. Lunches were comprised of a spinach, edamame, lentil, and feta cheese salad. Protein shakes, nuts, and fruit made appetizing mid-day snacks. And dinners were composed of the Morningstar product du jour, with a side of grains and a tall glass of milk. Would I have maintained this diet voluntarily under other circumstances? No, probably not, but it was certainly manageable. Somewhat enjoyable even.
But that all changed with the carnivore’s national holiday: The Superbowl.
Since I knew I would be surrounded by an extreme quantity of red-blooded meat, I volunteered to cook a few vegetarian dishes. As is my cooking modus operandi, I partook in a little, ahem, enhancement, to fully realize my inner Gusteau. I began blissfully cooking up a vegetarian storm that would have made Rachel Ray swoon. The spinach artichoke dip permeated the room with a creamy, earthy aroma. The seven layer dip was a visual spectacle, as if the chunky guacamole was a cloud meant to float on top of sour cream and salsa. Even the Smart Dogs glistened with a familiar caramelized glaze. Wanting to sample my roommate’s cooking, I reached over to his frying pan and popped a piece of chicken in my mouth.
I saw his head cock and his eyes widen before I realized what had happened.
“DUDE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
I leapt to the sink, spat out the still whole piece of chicken and jerked at the tap handle, desperately washing out my mouth like a four year old at a “World’s Hottest Chili Competition.” Only after letting a waterfall flow through my tongue did I allow myself to look up.
Faces in the kitchen stared at me, eyebrows raised and mouths agape.
Somewhere next to my feet, my second resolution lay writhing on the floor: quivering, broken, and shattered.
Initially, I contested that my vegetarian resolution was still intact since I didn’t actually chew the meat or swallow. But like a Catholic schoolgirl who maintains her virginity since “well, I only let him put it in my butt,” I was falling victim to flawed logic. I had tasted the forbidden fruit. The deed was done.
I was heartbroken. I had expended so much energy gulping down soy that I was doggedly determined to finish. And it was all thrown away in a moment of marijuana-induced munchies.
I’ll pause the vegetarian narrative to continue a thread from last month. After making it through January (mostly) weed-free, I was curious to see what would happen once the shackles had been lifted. Would I smoke more? Less? The same? Theoretical arguments could be made for all three. But a couple weeks in, the answer was quite clear:
I knew what “relapse” meant in principle. I had actually witnessed it first-hand with my freshman year roommate, who, after quitting World of Warcraft to improve his lackluster grades, ended up returning to the game with a vengeance which culminated in a one-way ticket out of school.
In my case, I celebrated a good chunk of February by getting rip-roaringly-baked. My post-work routine looked like this: drop backpack, smoke, cook, eat, smoke, watch comedy movie I’d already seen 5 times, bed. Predictably, I grew increasingly lethargic and foggy-headed, which climaxed in my Superbowl slip. Although I managed to tame the ghastly reefer beast by March, the implications were chilling. What if instead of weed—which has very mild physically addictive properties—I had tried to quit smoking cigarettes? Or kick heroin? I wouldn’t necessarily call it respect, but I gained a newfound sense of empathy for addicts.
But my battle wasn’t with marijuana this month, it was with meat. And although I had just been dealt a severe blow, the show had to go on.
Around two-thirds of the way in, a funny thing happened: I was convinced that fake meat was indiscernible in taste from real meat. I pestered my friends to try my meatless meat spaghetti sauce. Bugged them to sample the improbably sumptuous soy sausage patties. Despite the fact that my roommates consistently greeted my return from work with freshly cooked steak wafting in the kitchen and an exclamation of “mmmmmm…. meat… sooooo goooood,” I was genuinely enjoying this vegetarian adventure. What’s more, I was even becoming a soy-thumping vegetarian evangelist that is enlightening for just about no one except themselves.
Even my subconscious was firing on all cylinders. After having a dream about eating Chicken Tikka Masala—one of my favorite meals—I immediately forced myself to throw up. In the dream. Now that’s dedication.
The flipside is that my primary hypothesis, that vegetarianism is healthy, was debunked swiftly and thoroughly. Although I had started the month with an immediate loss of 5 pounds, I eventually gained all that back and then some. By the end of February, my body was starting to resemble a freshly-kneaded roll of sourdough bread.
Let me let you in on a little secret about soy: yes, it’s a good source of protein in moderation. But when it’s in literally every fake meat product, protein bar, tofu, you name it, eating 80 grams a day of the stuff is NOT natural and certainly not healthy. Not helping matters was that I felt compelled to enjoy all the delicious vegetarian options the world offered, even if that meant going to a Golden State Warriors game and consuming a quart of faderade, two pieces of cheese pizza, mac and cheese, two beers, a churro, and Dip ‘n Dots.
I’ll let you in on another vegetarian secret: soy elevates estrogen levels. Substantially. Although it’s not like I grew B-cups overnight, there was a far more subtle consequence. I vacillated on whether to include this detail, but fuck it: four weeks in, my dick was limper than a waterlogged hotdog. So all the ladies looking for some vegetarian loving, please form an orderly line to the right.
Before I knew it, the end of the month had arrived. Even though I considered it a worthwhile experience on the whole, I was damn ready to embrace the carnivorous side of my omnivorous nature. So on February 29th, I drifted off to sleep while visions of next morning’s breakfast of steak and bacon danced in my head. But not before seeing the omnipresent blue and white header for the last time.
For there would be no Facebook in March.