Vegetarian Challenge: The Result

I did it….sort of.

Everything continued to be quite straightforward since the challenge began; I’m still amazed at how much I didn’t miss meat!! In fact, it was all so trouble-free that I totally forgot that I was a temporary vegetarian. Thirteen days into the challenge I went out for lunch with my aunt and cousins. Sitting in the unexpected sunshine we sat sipping iced tea outside a rustic, Italian cafe and without thought I ordered a beautiful, crispy, parma ham ciabatta sandwich; it took me another 40 minutes to realise what I had just done, big “oops”.

Although technically this means that I failed the test, I am tempted to argue the opposite view. This momentary lapse in focus proved none other than that I was not eating meat for the real reasons. As a contented meat-eater I was not in the mind set of being totally against the idea of digesting animal flesh; instead it was something that I had to work against.

For the next 2 weeks I was determined not to make another slip up and made a more conscious effort to think before I ate; surprisingly, however, I still didn’t yearn to eat meat. I continued to substitute beef, pork and chicken with eggs, potato and fish. If truth be told I became more and more concerned with the quality of what I was eating. For example, when buying eggs I began buying the free-range, farm reared ones from the town market instead of the cheapest ones I could find which had become the norm during my frugal student days. I also took an interest in the sustainability of the fish I was buying after watching several programmes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is a headline campaigner for The Big Fish Fight.

 

The importance of buying good quality, organic, free-range or sustainable products was never overly obvious to me, but since I took an interest this month I can honestly say that I would rather eat less substandard  meat in an attempt to eat better products that will help our farmers and fishermen to maintain good business and stock.

All in all, the month did not have the effects I thought it would. I had expected to be struggling to live without meat but find good alternatives and, although this was the case, a second, more important outcome resulted from the experiment; it provoked a greater consideration towards food as a whole, not just meat. With the country going ga-ga for British products, led by Mary Portas in the fashion manufacturing industry, it is becoming not only essential to support the British  economy, but somewhat fashionable. For whichever reason you may chose to become involved I would encourage everyone to take the view for a fortnight and see if it changes your attitude, if only a little.

Personally, I could not take on vegetarianism for good but I have definitely realised that I don’t need to eat as much I had perhaps thought. And although I do not feel any particular health benefits from eating less meat, I do not feel any worse for it; the simple fact is that I know no greater pleasure in life than a rare fillet steak or a rack or sticky ribs- one month without either was long enough!

Vegetarian Challenge

Did you know that March is Vegetarian Month? Me neither…until a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking; how much meat do I consume in an average week? The recommended daily allowance of red meat is around 500g a week, a limit around a third of us are going beyond. Experts suggest that consuming above this recommended amount could increase the chances of certain cancers.

Knowing this, I began to re-track what I ate the previous week: sausages, pork chops, minced lamb, bacon, chicken pie…..mmm, that 500g limit sounds dangerously reachable! “Right,” I said, “vegetarian month it is.” And so has begun my 31 meat-free days and to show you just how easy or hard it may be to do the same I am going a diary blog the next month…Here goes nothing…..
 

Week one

I set off the week with ample enthusiasm, in fact, far too much enthusiasm. I spent the day searching through the cupboards for beans and pulses, that I had bought with good intentions but have never got around to using, then trawling the internet for recipes that captured my imagination a little more than a three-bean salad (yawn). Spiced red lentil and red pepper, a recipe which not only contained red lentils, as entitled, but also a sturdy amount bulgar wheat. I have to say it tasted quite nice, so nice in fact that I ate it for dinner that night, lunch the next day and dinner the next day….BIG MISTAKE!

First tip of the month: Don’t bite off more than you can chew….or digest.


My body seemed to be dumbstruck by the sudden diet change and I was in a bloatful pain for around 12 hours. I therefore took day three as a comfort eating day and decided to indulge in a cheese, potato and tomato pasty made with thick, buttery puff-pastry, nom nom!

Day 4. I spent the day relaxing in the gym health suite (and not sweating in the gym, slapped wrist) and emerged feeling refreshed and most definitely not in the mood for fatty foods and so concocted an ensemble of avocado, tomato and pepper salad with a sweet chilli dressing, and most satisfying it was too!

Unsurprisingly, however, I awoke on day 6 ravenous and therefore tried something that I haven’t eaten for around three years, and never particularly liked. But this is an experiment; for March I am completely open to new things. To make things a little easier and more pleasant on the palette I added blueberries from the local market and a swirl of honey and I must say, I have rekindled some kind of relationship with the “super-food” rolled oats. With this buzz in my mind I came over all Mrs. Beeton-like and put together a vegetable pie. Shortcrust pastry, carrots, parsnips and potatoes…definitely no meat. This did not go down well with the rest of my family, whom I said I would cook for that evening and who, halfway through the meal, looked up at me from their plates, aghast.

“Erm, what meat is in this pie?”
“Ah. Well, you are all aware that I am not eating meat this month, I was quite hoping you wouldn’t notice and be supportive of this decision,” I replied. What followed was a lot of scraping chairs, clattering of pans and, causing me much jealousy, frying of bacon. You will all be proud to hear that I stood strong and as my own cheerleader and inspiration had vegetable pie on day 7 too!

So week one has come to an end and I am utterly in shock at how I have in no way missed meat, not one bit (okay, well maybe a tad) and am beginning to wonder if I may, in actual fact, last the entire month, which on February 29th I was doubting wholeheartedly. For week one I managed to take charge of the kitchen, but it may not last much longer as the family become fatigued by my ambitions. Perhaps the biggest challenge will come on Sunday when my mother draws a large roast from the oven. I’m not going to let my achievements of week one go to my head, week two will come back fighting, the novelty will wear off and my will power will be tested further…catch up with me next week to see if I made it…wish me luck!

Pretty Woman Lesson 2 – It’s Playtime!!

Yes, playsuits are back big time this spring so do what the name tells you and have some fun!!

I am so glad that playsuits are back on fashion radar after their hibernation over autumn/winter. Since I bought my first one five years ago I have been obsessed by these anti muffin-top beauties (no waistband = no overhang!) as an alternative to dresses.

I’ve always felt self-conscious wearing a dress or skirt as a casual or daytime look. Shorts, trousers and leggings offer a safety barrier to help my underwear stay undercover whereas dresses have always made me feel either daringly underdressed or totally overdressed. The playsuit solves my worries in one foul swoop – the crotch is my crutch! And playsuits offer all the positives I look for in a dress; a more girly look with pretty patterns, lovely shapes and the simplicity of an all-in-one item.

SO what’s hot in the coming season?

Miami style has hit the catwalks big this season with those summery, tropical patterns oozing 50s and 60s American glam. Play around with cut outs such as this River Island number with the classic Miami tie-front which will compliment anyone looking to disguise those pesky lovehandles but show off a flat stomach. Priced at just £18 it’s a sure bargain and it also covers another season trend; scarf print. 

If a classic, pretty look is what you usually go for and you’re thinking that playsuits aren’t really your style then think again. This puff-sleeve, chiffron number by Rare (available at Topshop) will look fantastic on its own or teamed with a bright blazer and this blue, dainty number from Miss Selfridge has a summery, 40’s country feel that would look fantastic assembled with a straw, wide-brimmed hat and to really top it off perhaps a pair of white lace, ultra French-20’s style gloves. Both boast lower neck-lines for those of us with larger “assets” giving a less frumpy look and the capped sleeves give that extra coverage for anyone a tad self-conscious of their bingo wings.

Now, be serious, when you think of playsuits the image of a toddler being dressed up by its parents in easily manageable, themed outfits springs to mind doesn’t it? Well those clever guys at River Island put two and two together and came out with one of THE most amazing playsuits I have seen this season. This sailor-style playsuit has everything; figure skimming, structured shape, a cute peterpan collar, simplicity, elegance, vintage style….tick tick tick tick tick!!!! Just don’t take things too far and get the matching hat with red bobble (you know the one I mean, you have the picture to prove it).

One of the main issues that playsuits cause is the attention that they can draw to the legs. If you’re thigh-shy make sure you keep your heels high to elongate you legs. To flatter those pins even more keep them bronzed and well moisturized with a tinted body lotion; I love Johnsons Holiday Skin as it comes without the biscuity smell of most fake tans, and if you want an instant glow that will wash off before bed then my secret weapon is the bargain “Faking It” instant tan from Primark at just £1.50 a tube!! Match your bronzed legs with an uber-summery outfit, perhaps a looser fitting piece, like this number from Dorothy Perkins.  The draped middle will add to the floaty, laid-back look and will look perfect with a trilby, sandals and plenty of bangles for a beach/ summer festival vibe.

However, with the weather we’ve been having recently you might have to wait a couple of weeks for a glimpse of sunshine…BUT on the upside, this month we have something even mooorrree exciting to look forward to LONDON FASHION WEEK!! Look for next month’s article when we’ll be looking at the new extremes being paraded down the catwalk and see if we can turn them into something totally fantabulous for REAL WOMEN to wear in the coming year. See you soon!