Tag Archives: improving health

My 30 Days No Meat Challenge – Review

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge-Review

 

In January, I went for a full month without eating meat. It was an experiment I called My 30-Day No Meat Challenge.

I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for quite some time; but the timing wasn’t always right. Well, last month I decided to take the plunge.

I committed to just a few personal ground rules:

  • No red meat or processed versions of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • No poultry or processed versions of chicken or turkey.
  • Explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • Yes to fish, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could continue over a much longer period.

Well, after a month without meat, I’ve made a few discoveries that I wish to share with you.

 

My 30-Day No Meat Challenge in Review

  • In the beginning, the challenge was more difficult than I thought. My appetite for meat appeared to be heightened. Savory meaty meals were everywhere!
  • On one occasion when I attended the Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo with the family, as soon as we entered the coliseum, I was smacked with the smell of all kinds of barbecue. It was pretty tempting. The year before we ordered barbecue turkey legs and chicken kabobs. In spite of all that, we didn’t relapse because we had a plan. Instead, we snacked on foods we’d packed ahead of time that meet with our Challenge guidelines.
  • As the month went on, the Challenge became much easier. I think this was because my family participated. We also limited restaurant dining out to only one time that month. In the last week our children had chicken but that was ok since I felt that the experiment was really mine in the first place.
  • I consumed salmon three times. Two times at home and the other when our family dined at a Japanese restaurant.
  • An area of concern was my protein intake. I worried because there’s a perception that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein. So I consumed lots of cashews, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, eggs, cheese, beans, spinach, almond milk, etc as recommended by my resourceful wife and my good friend Terri. I plan to read more on the subject to lift this cloud of doubt.
  • My social interaction with family and friends was also a concern. Again, not eating out helped alleviate this potential problem. But, overall, most people were not only understanding but also supportive and encouraging. I’m also grateful for the comments, links of meals and resources you supplied. Much appreciated!
  • Breakfast was the most difficult meal by far. In general, I’m not a breakfast person. As such, it seemed like there were less choices after eliminating meat from my diet. I did however, become pretty expert at making all kinds of smoothies. The kids seemed to enjoy this and made special requests for my smoothie concoctions.
  • This said, I was not as prepared for my no-meat challenge as I might have been. The meal preparation process in our home is typically on autopilot. However, when the children were hungry, I found myself throwing things together more often than I wanted. I kind of felt like a fish out of water, not exactly sure what to cook at times during the experiment. I’m grateful for my talented wife when this was the case. She saved the day each time.
  • I did branch out with a few original dishes on my own. But the bottom-line is that I need to learn to cook more vegetarian cuisine. I’ve been a carnivore all my life, cooking meaty meals with no need for a recipe. I cook on a natural instinct so vegetarian cookbooks are a bit intimidating. I’ll have to be aware of this and get courageous with vegetarian cookbooks or online recipes from here on.
  • On some days my energy was a bit lethargic. I believe this was due to me not eating a proper breakfast.
  • I wish my experiment had had a scientific element. A visit to my doctor and a nutritionist might have helped a lot or taking blood samples before and after my challenge to gauge any changes.
  • My no-meat challenge reminded me of how powerful our minds can be. It was hard saying no to some of my favorite dishes. I know 30 days is not a long time, but I was able to say no even when my desire was saying the opposite. I consider my challenge a success in this area.
  • In some cases, my no-meat challenge became deeply spiritual in nature. There are people who have no choice about their meat consumption. When I abstained from meat, I felt a connection with my brothers and sisters who lived in abject poverty.

What’s next?

I do miss and still crave a few of my favorite meaty meals. So much of my Caribbeanness is centered around food.

A few questions that come to mind at this point are these:

What about the cultural implications of my no-meat diet? Will I be drawing attention to myself when eating with my Caribbean family and friends?

What about my international, humanitarian trips? I’m big on socializing with the locals over meals, which in most countries centers around meat. What will I do when a vegetarian diet is not available?

I think that from here on, I’ll stick to the original no meat rules, but allow a little bit of fluidity when I travel. I need more time to continue learning and exploring before committing to this new diet. 30 days was not enough time.

What are your thoughts?

Last, I was featured on YolandaVAcree.com. I had fun doing this interview where I shared about minimalism, relationships, priorities and more. Check it out here.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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My 30-Day No Meat Challenge

by Kelvin Belfon

No-Meat-Challenge

I’ve been thinking about my meat consumption. Over the years, a few casual conversations, documentaries and books have caused me to question my food choices.

Here is a little personal background.

I grew up an omnivore. In Grenada I consumed fish, chicken, beef, pork, mutton, and lamb. Meat was the main part of every meal. One of my favorite dishes is curry chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, and a side salad. Yum!

When I migrated to the United States I piled on more meat. As I got exposed to American favorites, I added those to my menu of choices hamburgers, steaks, turkeys, BBQs, and traditional island cuisines such as jerk chicken.

Because I am naturally skinny, I’ve never felt the need to pay much attention to the health risks involved in consuming too much meat. But lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching.

You see, our meat is not what it used to be.

This is the case in America as much as it is in the islands, which have seen a significant increase of imported meats. The animals we eat are injected with an alarming amount of hormones to increase production. Then there are factors of inhumane animals practices that I’ve learned about over the recent years. The treatment of animals raised for food is deeply troubling me.

The health reasons are also significant:

Like most American, I’ve maintained an arms length awareness about the risks of consuming too much meat. Giving up meat altogether is a difficult decision. There’s a certain emotional payoff that comes with meat eating especially when it’s a central part of celebrations and holidays. Also, in my mind, a dish without meat is incomplete. It’s a reminder to me of poor upbringings.

So My 30-Day No Meat Challenge is just as much a health challenge as much as it is a reshaping of how and what I think about meat. It’s a test of my personal boundaries. I want to push the limits of my thinking to see what my life would be without consuming meats for the next 30 days (I started January 1).

Here’s my personal ground rule:

  • I will not consume red meat or any processed version of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
  • I will not consume any poultry or processed version of chicken or turkey.
  • I will explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
  • I won’t exclude fish in this experiment, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
  • I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could give up over a much longer period.

I’d love to hear from other about this subject. Have you given up meat before? If so, what were the challenges you faced?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to Going Uncomplicated, comment below or join me on Facebook.

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Improving My Health

by Kelvin Belfon

improving-diet-exercise-health

Keeping an exercise routine wasn’t something I scheduled into my life back home on my island. Because transportation was limited, we walked to go everywhere: grocery store, school, post office, church and special events. If I was late, I ran. And I was late quite frequently. Then there was the seasonal farming, which was a serious “workout” under the hot tropical sun.

In school things were more formal. Physical education class required demanding exercise drills followed by cricket and soccer games or track. Games after school with the neighbors were a ritual we looked forward to as kids. We were very active and always took advantage of being outdoors.

Our diet wasn’t perfect. The starches we ate fueled our active lifestyle. But they only became a problem as people got older and sedentary. No one talked about being a vegetarian or vegan except the Rasta man, known to abstain from meats, especially pork.

I don’t recall using the word dessert in my vocabulary. If you were hungry after dinner, you went outside and found fruits such as golden apples, skin up or sugar apples. Julie mangoes remain my all-time favorite.

When I moved to Miami, Florida in the 90s, I tried to continue my “healthy lifestyle.” I jogged a little and ate well but it was tough. The fast food I saw advertised was cheaper and seemed to fit my busier schedule. It was also much easier to vegetate.

Though my wife embraced natural habits, I became lazy about fitness. And because we moved around a bit, living in different states, I always had the perfect excuses:

  • “I’m too busy”
  • “I’m too cold”
  • “It’s too expensive to eat healthy”
  • “I’m a married man with kids to focus on raising”

Then during a certain period, some time ago, I came across the hot topic suggesting that the leading causes of death in America are preventable by a healthier diet and regular exercise. Moreover, weight did not always factor in what was considered “healthy.” The fact that one can be unhealthy and appear “good” on the outward scared me. When I began focusing on simplicity last year, improving my health was an obvious decision.

So I make some changes. Juicing, reducing the consumption of animal fat and eliminating most processed foods from my diet were key. Regular exercise helped reduce stress, kept my mind alert and motivated. It provided a time for meditation and kept me from becoming lethargic during a time of unemployment.

On several occasions, I even went jogging in below freezing temperatures. These were some of the most refreshing times. They gave me an excitement about my ability to face the tough times and anticipate success.

But getting outdoors wasn’t only for me. I enjoyed all kinds of activities at the park with my wife and kids. Everyone benefits from an active lifestyle and a healthier eating habit.

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