Courtney's One-Month Vegetarian Challenge | Model Behaviors

Courtney’s One-Month Vegetarian Challenge

I’m at a period of my life where I want to try stuff—partly for the fun of challenging myself, but partly because I’m the kind of person who gets restless and grouchy if I don’t do something completely new and strange every so often. One of my hardest challenges so far this year was becoming vegetarian for a month.

I decided to undertake this challenge for a couple of reasons. The biggest was for the health benefits. It was the last month of the Mommy Makeover Contest. Plus, Holly had written a post about becoming vegetarian, and despite some major setbacks, she felt healthier and better for the transition. Also, in my interview with Marzia Prince when she was Woman of the Month, she mentioned how amazing she felt after transitioning to a vegan diet. Both women mentioned their skin clearing up, getting better sleep, and just having all around higher energy.

All of those benefits sounded great to me, but both women mentioning their skin improvements got my attention. Over the past couple of years, my skin has been getting redder and redder until finally I thought I might have rosacea.  I probably should’ve listened to everyone when they told me to wear sunblock! Recently I went to the doctor, and sure enough the doc thought I had rosacea due to sun exposure and prescribed some gel to help with the redness. However, I wanted to try a plant-based diet to see if that would help, too.

Another smaller reason for me to try this veggie lifestyle was that I’d attempted to go vegetarian before and caved after about five days. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, so this time I did my research and prepared mentally before April 1st came around.  My sister was my accountability partner and took on this challenge with me, and in the weeks leading up to day one, we went looking for fun, yummy vegetarian recipes that we would have on hand throughout the month. Looking for recipes and sending them to each other got us both excited about all the delicious food we’d be trying out in the coming month.

We decided that in order to stick to our plan, we’d need to be extra diligent about going grocery shopping once a week to ensure we had everything for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire week. We wouldn’t be able to go out and pick something up real quick if we were feeling lazy. We’d been participating in the Comeback Circle on Facebook, so after seeing how dedicated everyone was on there, we knew we could do it.

One thing to mention, I was also at the end of my training for my first 5K, so I factored that into my overall challenge. My hope was to continue running for my weekly exercise, and if I were to go veggie full time, I’d need to be able to run and work out, too.

Below is my vegetarian breakdown for those four weeks. For each week, I explain the biggest challenge, biggest success, my favorite recipe, and any notes I had about my experiences. If you’re thinking of going vegetarian, I hope my experiences give you some insight on what you can expect!

Week One

We hadn’t actually gone to the store yet, so I kicked things off with a veggie burger from one of my favorite spots in Austin called P. Terry’s. To be honest, P. Terry’s and their yummy black bean burger saved me a couple times when I was super hungry later in the month.

Biggest Challenge: Remembering to eat breakfast! By the time lunch rolled around, I didn’t feel so great because I was uncomfortably hungry, which meant I didn’t have much energy to prepare my food. I probably also needed to drink more water in the mornings, but water on an empty stomach makes me queasy.

Biggest Success: Sticking to my running plan! I’m not a natural long-distance runner, and I was a bit nervous that I’d run out of energy to do these longer runs (well, long for me at least).

Favorite Recipe: This Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry from Pinch of Yum. My sister Erin and I found a lot of our favorite vegetarian recipes on the Pinch of Yum site, and I highly recommend it as a resource for anyone looking to build up their veggie recipe arsenal. For lunch, I also made Holly’s Protein-Boost Veggie Bowl, and it seriously gave me a huge burst of life each day (especially when I forgot to eat breakfast).


Week 2

Okay, y’all. It’s time to get real. I started this week off horribly. Friday was the first day of this second week, and I kicked my day off strong, eating oatmeal with dried cherries and almonds for breakfast and then eating some cottage cheese and strawberries with a small salad for lunch. I even ate a boiled egg as an afternoon snack! But one of my dearest friends who’d moved away a year ago was in town and had a get-together at one of my favorite bars, which has one of my favorite food trucks on the back patio. Recipe. For. Disaster.

I drank two glasses of wine before even going out and then had four whiskey Cokes. I didn’t break my vegetarian rule, but I had beet fries and a peanut butter curry bun. Curse you, Austin, for your very delicious but decidedly not-healthy vegetarian food options! Mostly though, I drank way too much. The next morning I felt like crap and did not get my run in, which threw me off for the rest of the week.

Biggest Challenge: Getting back on my running plan. I started off by missing my Saturday run, and then later that week went to my parents’ house to celebrate my mom’s birthday. While visiting, I didn’t get any running in, so I only ran once this whole week. This was also the first time I felt truly, desperately hungry. The first time it happened was after the New Friends, New Life luncheon that I attended in Dallas. Once again, I failed to eat breakfast and while the food we ate was delicious, it wasn’t quite enough since I hadn’t eaten enough beforehand. I was extremely tempted to eat the meat on my plate. My sister (who also attended) encouraged me to resist, and we made it to our grandmother’s house where we were staying for the night. She had an array of veggies, fruits, and all sorts of healthy snacks, which made me feel so much better. But I didn’t learn my lesson and skipped breakfast the next day, too. My sister and I were out running errands, so I became extremely irritable and moody until I finally got a peanut butter sandwich and a boiled egg to stave off the hunger.

Courtney's One-Month Vegetarian Challenge | Model Behaviors

Biggest Success: Getting to share a few delicious vegetarian recipes with my family while we were visiting. Erin and I had already told my parents that we weren’t eating meat, but it was nice to feel so supported by their interest in our decision. They wanted to try our cauliflower burgers and asked us a lot of questions about how we liked it so far and if we thought we’d keep going after the month was out.

Favorite Recipe: Again came from Pinch of Yum! On our first night at my parents’ house, they were having burgers. My sister found this recipe for Spicy Cauliflower Burgers, so we decided to make those to stick with the burger theme! Everyone, even my parents and brother, gave a thumbs-up to the cauliflower burgers. Honorable mention goes to these Portabella Mushroom Cheesesteaks from Oh My Veggies.

Week 3

After the many challenges from week 2, I wanted to get back on track and really commit to finding balance in this veggie diet. So I promised myself that I would 1) eat breakfast every day and 2) make sure I had a morning and afternoon snack to keep me energized. Even though I took Holly’s advice and watched my protein intake, I’d still get hangry and need snacks.

Biggest Challenge: My last-minute decision to go to a funeral. I’d been going back and forth on whether I wanted to attend or not because work was busy, life was busy, and it wasn’t a short trip. In the end, I decided to go because if I lost someone close to me, I’d want as much family and friends there as possible. I was so glad I went. It was great to get to hug people I hadn’t seen in years and be there for those who needed love and support. Unfortunately, because I didn’t have a plan in place for when and what I was going to eat, I ended up eating some meat on the trip. It was in a very small town with not a lot of vegetarian options, and there weren’t a lot of opportunities for snacking, either.

Biggest Success: Sticking to my breakfast and snack goals (up until the funeral). Also, once I got back to Austin, I got right back on track.

Favorite Recipe: This Spicy Southwestern Salad with Avocado Dressing from—you guessed it—Pinch of Yum! I added quinoa to give it an extra boost of protein.

I have one small note about this week. While we were visiting my parents’ house, my brother cooked pork chops with a raspberry chipotle glaze. They looked absolutely glorious out there on the grill, flame-kissed and perfectly charred. The smell wafting in through our open kitchen windows made my mouth water. This was the only time throughout the whole month that I felt like I was missing out by not eating meat. But my mom urged my sister and I to stay firm in our resolve, and we did. Thanks for the support, Mom!

Courtney's One-Month Vegetarian Challenge | Model Behaviors

Week 4

At this point, despite my setback the week before, I was feeling pretty confident that I’d make it the rest of the month without eating meat, and that I could officially chalk this up as a success.

Biggest Challenge: Sticking to my running schedule and resisting alcohol. With the 25- to 30-minute runs, if I drank alcohol the day before, it felt like a huge feat to get through my run. One day, I gave up halfway through because I had zero energy. That felt pretty crappy, so I redoubled my efforts not to drink on nights when I had a run the next day. I really enjoy a glass of wine or a simple cocktail at the end of my day, so I just have to be extra conscious about my running goals.

Biggest Success: Going on a road trip with my band mates and all three of us staying veggie the whole time! Our drummer, Savanah, is a full-time vegetarian, so it was great that we could all experience that together on the road because we made food before leaving and had quite a few picnics out of the back of her SUV (our “tour van”)!

Courtney's One-Month Vegetarian Challenge | Model Behaviors

Favorite Recipe: One that Erin and I made up—Vegetarian Chipotle Crème Enchiladas! I shared the full recipe earlier this month, and you can either use black beans or tofu (or both) to “beef up” the filling.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, I didn’t quite make it the whole month without meat, but I’m still counting it as a victory! Mostly because I believe I got a good feel for what it would be like if I ever decide to go veggie full time.

I also learned a couple valuable things about myself. First, I’m not a meat lover. Besides those scrumptious-smelling pork chops, I didn’t actually miss eating meat. And in fact, before going veggie I hardly ever ate red meat anyway. It was mostly chicken and fish. Second, if I ever decide to go veggie full time, I’ll have to get a lot better at meal and snack planning. On those days when I didn’t stick to eating five times, I felt really miserable. It’s probably not good for my overall well-being to get that hungry on a regular basis. Therefore, I’d have to be super dedicated to sustain a vegetarian lifestyle.

In case you were curious, it didn’t really help my skin. This could be because I didn’t do it long enough, but either way, I went to the doctor soon after the month was over and, like I mentioned, got some gel prescribed to me to help with the rosacea.

For now, I’m going to stick to eating either chicken or fish once a week, and then, having veggie meals the rest of the time. With more practice and dedication, I could definitely see myself adopting a vegetarian lifestyle in the future!

Since meal planning was the hardest part of my challenge, I wanted to create something that would make life a little easier for myself and for you guys! So I’ve put together a meal-planning workbook that you can download, print out, and fill out each week. There’s also a page at the end where you can write out your grocery list after planning your meals. That way everything’s together and you don’t forget anything! (One time my sister and I went to the store, and we forgot three things we needed for the week.) Even if you aren’t implementing a vegetarian lifestyle, meal planning helps save you time and money. Try it out and let me know how it goes!


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