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I made a bet back on New Year’s Day that the Bengals would beat the Ravens. They did not, and, as a result, I had to be a vegetarian for a week.

The bet didn’t take effect immediately, so I had time to prepare. I picked last week as the time to do it, strategically starting Sunday early evening on January 29th so I could start eating meat again on the evening of February 5th–just in time for the Super Bowl.

Incidentally, my last meal before starting vegetarian was Skyline Chili Dip. My first meal back–Skyline Chili Dip as well. I could go on for days about how delicious that is, but let’s get to the vegetarian week.

Here’s what I learned:

  • You don’t have to eat vegetables to be a vegetarian. I could have survived all week on PB&J, Ring Dings and ice cream. I didn’t, but I could have.
  • While it’s not that hard to cut out meat for only a week, it’s not something I want to do. I love chicken too much.
  • Being a vegetarian is more expensive (especially meal-time). It’s either expensive with regard to time (cooking / preparing food) or money (veggie burgers are more expensive than regular burgers).
  • Being a vegetarian can be inconvenient. If you choose to cook the food, you have to have the time and energy to cook it, eat it and clean it (‘it’ being the dishes in the last case). If you’re on the run, it’s harder to find hearty vegetarian meals at fast food places and bodegas.
  • Vegetarian dishes that try to pretend to be meat are upsetting. My preference for vegetarian meals are those that have a unique flavor or style of their own. Trying to cook tofu or seitan like chicken or beef just makes you angry because you’re eating tofu or seitan and not chicken or beef.
  • I tried to use the week as an excuse to try new foods. Here’s what stuck out from the week: despite my previous bullet point, vegetarian chicken fingers are good; pierogies are awesome; steamed broccoli isn’t as bad as I remembered; seitan is meh; peanut butter is delicious on everything.

Here’s what I ate:

  • Monday 1/30: OJ and Frosted Flakes; Celery with peanut butter; PB&J with potato chips; Carrots; Baked potato with butter and cheese; Black raspberry chip ice cream.
  • Tuesday 1/31: Banana and Frosted Flakes; Carrots; PB&J with potato chips; Vanilla cupcake; Granola bar; Chocolate milk; Pita and hummus, seitan with mashed potatoes spinach and green beans; 4 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures.
  • Wednesday 2/1: OJ and Toasted bagel with butter / cinnamon sugar; Grapes and protein bar; Chocolate ice cream and cookie/pudding dessert; Cheese pizza rolls; Banana; Peanuts, veggie burger, cheese fries, Doritos and 2 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures.
  • Thursday 2/2: Banana and Frosted Flakes; Protein bar; Carrots, PB&J with potato chips; 3 slices of cheese pizza; 6 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures; OJ.
  • Friday 2/3: Pastry; Carrots, PB&J with potato chips; Granola bar; 3 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures; Celery with peanut butter; Salad, pierogies, mac n cheese and chocolate custard.
  • Saturday 2/4: OJ and bagel with butter and cinnamon; Vegetarian chicken fingers with green beans, 2 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures; Banana; PB&J with Doritos and Chocolate milkshake; Slice of pizza; 2 S’mores cupcakes; Slice of pizza.
  • Sunday 2/5: OJ and Eggo waffles; Celery with peanut butter; Vegetarian chicken fingers; Carrots/cucumber slices… FINISH!

Final Thoughts

Overall the week wasn’t that difficult. I won’t be going vegetarian anytime soon (ever probably), but it was a good challenge and I learned a thing or two. I’ll probably try veggie burgers more often and every now and then choose a vegetarian option over a meat one.

I do think I’ll have to try eating vegan for a week (in the distant future). Not for any health reasons, I just apparently like to torture myself.

For a good vegetarian only restaurant, check out Candle Cafe (1307 3rd Ave, at 75th street).

For a good vegetarian friendly restaurant, check out Veselka (9 E 1st St, between Bowery and 2nd Ave). Go for the pierogies, stay for the chocolate custard.

In today’s issue of Personal Development Week, we’re going to cover health.  You’ve spent all that time building up wealth, now lets get you to a point where you can actually live to enjoy it.

The first thing to realize is that there are really two kinds of health: physical, and mental/emotional.

Physical Health

The first kind of health, physical, is what most people think of when they hear the word “health.”  This is the general fitness related to getting your body in shape – low blood pressure, good body mass index, etc.

The secret to being physically healthy isn’t really all that secret, it only requires three things: eating right, exercising, and discipline.  Since you’re already building your discipline from the Goals and Discipline post, you’ve only got 2 more to go.

Part 1: Eating Right

Eating right, or “healthy” is probably the most challenging for me, as I’m a picky eater.  But the thing you have to remember is that we eat to nourish our bodies, NOT for pleasure.

All physiological needs are just that: needs.  They shouldn’t be desires, otherwise they have a tendency to work against you.  Eating, sleeping, breathing, and excreting are all needs of our human bodies, and should be treated as such.  I’m not saying you can never indulge, or that you should only put “fuel” in your body, but just remember foods real purpose the next time you’re going for seconds of that greasy fried chicken, and ask if your body is really going to need that.

Part 2: Exercising

For some people, exercise is the hardest part to gaining physical health, and it really shouldn’t be.  There’s no magical secret to exercise, just go out and do something.

Sure, some forms of exercise are better than others (e.g. 20 mile bike ride vs. 1 mile walk), but that shouldn’t stop you from taking the 1 mile walk.  The key is that our bodies are truly amazing machines as they adapt over time.  That means that, over time, the same 1 mile walk doesn’t create the same health benefits it once used to because the body got more efficient (wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to ever do was walk 1 mile?)

But as long as you are pushing yourself (within safe means) in each workout, whether you’re doing yoga, lifting weights, or rock climbing, you are taking steps to becoming healthier.  And like everything else this week, start small with manageable goals and exercises.

Mental Health

Mental/emotional health is a much harder issue to tackle – mostly because things like emotions are highly illogical.

Whereas there is a pretty strict cause/effect relationship regarding physical health, it’s harder to pinpoint for mental health.  For those of you not exactly sure what I mean by mental health, check out this Healthguide article on the topic.

The first thing to note about mental health is that some of the preventative measures are actually things you should do for better physical health as well (improving diet, getting enough rest, exercising).  It’s also incredibly important to mention that, unlike some aspects of physical health (barring things requiring medical treatment, but more general things like exercise), it can be tough to improve your mental health on your own, it’s a much tougher shell to crack.

Remember – emotions are illogical.  So while it may seem like you should be able to “will” yourself out of depression, or make yourself anxiety and stress free, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to do so.

At a minimum, find a close friend you can share your current state with, sometimes a shoulder to lean/cry/yell on is all you need.  If things are serious, certainly seek professional assistance in the form of a counselor, doctor or therapist.

“Fighting” Emotions

When I went through a small bout with depression in college, I attempted to hide it from the world (and was mostly successful, in fact this will be a surprise to many of you reading this).  It never got to the point that I would consider it “clinical depression” where I sought out assistance from a professional service, but it was bad enough that it affected my daily activities.

In the end what really helped me through were some amazing friends that would just sit and listen, sharing stories and making me laugh, and, of course, the passage of time.

The hardest part about getting over some things, especially stupid emotions, is that it really just takes time.  Time for it to sink in that the world is not over, that things can be better than they ever were before.

And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.  It takes a ballsy person to be able to say, “I need help.”  It doesn’t make you any less of an amazing person.  This thing called “life” is quite a challenge – it can be tough just to live long enough to reach your death bed.

Keeping the Doohickey Healthy

Health is a serious issue, and I certainly can’t provide all of the answers regarding the subject.  Do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with your doctor and check how the old “body” is doing.  While there, ask questions regarding your mental health as well, and really make it a point to learn to take care of your body and mind.

After all, the body is the only thing we got to transfer this brain thing around, and this brain is the only thing we have to move this body doohickey we’re stuck with.  Make sure both are in working order so that you can relish in your glory of achieving success and happiness.