Sunday, 31 March 2013

Mostly plants: Part One

Back in January I wrote about food, and how sometimes things that we assume are awful for us aren't as bad as things that are positioned as "healthy". In writing that, I mentioned Michael Pollan's maxim on how to eat healthily: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I've been thinking about it since writing that post, and my thinking has intensified over the last few weeks, after I bought Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Body on Kindle (as well as his latest book, the 4-Hour Chef). Specifically, I've started thinking about self-experimentation, and how to make some changes to my diet, so I've decided to go vegetarian for a week.

Tim Ferriss does have a section on going vegetarian in 4HB, in which he recommends doing it gradually, but I've decided to do it now, because I've just come back from a week in Italy, where I mostly lived like a vegetarian anyway (and on calorie restriction, although that's another story). Part of my thinking was to just get started, while I'm not necessarily in training for anything.

Also, my usual pattern is to start back on the junk food as soon as I get back from Italy; in previous years, my first meal back has frequently been McDonald's or Burger King (sometimes I haven't even waited to leave the airport before hitting the nearest Burger King). Naturally, one benefit of trying to go meatless now is that I break that pattern, which can only be good for me.

Another key reason is that I always worry what I'd eat if I did stop eating meat, so this is the perfect opportunity to find out. It's helped that my sister is around, and given that she was a vegetarian for a while, she's been helpful in giving options for what to eat since I announced it to her earlier today. Just as importantly, I'm hoping it'll give me more ideas on cooking meatless dishes, which is clearly lacking from my repertoire.

As for how I'm defining "vegetarian", I've gone for a relatively strict interpretation, without going vegan. Specifically, in addition to cutting out beef, chicken, pork, etc, I'm not eating fish or eggs this week, but I will be eating dairy. This will allow me to keep having my normal breakfast when I'm in the office of a bowl of cereal. Also, where it can't be avoided, I'll eat something like fish - lunch today was a bowl of udon with bean curd, which included those weird little flat fishcakes that frequently appear in Japanese soups. Of course, I'll be avoiding sushi and other dishes where fish is the main component, but I don't think this will be too much of a problem.

I'm not expecting massive changes in my health over the next week, although I figure my energy levels might be a little off. Seven days isn't really enough to make lasting changes, but for the moment the idea is really to gain ideas for the next time I'll try it (which will be for longer, probably two to four weeks). I'll be keeping a diary of what I eat, and plan to log anything out of the ordinary, preferably as it happens.

Of course, given that it's Easter and everything, including supermarkets, is shut today, my experiment might not get off to the greatest start, if I end up ordering a pizza from Domino's. While a cheese or even a vegetable pizza fits the strict definition of what I can eat this week, it doesn't exactly conform to the spirit of what I'm doing. But if there aren't any options, then so be it.

Wish me luck, and I'll report back in a week!