LIFE

I’ve Been A Vegetarian For 16 Years. Here’s What Happened When I Ate Meat Again

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

I can tell you the exact date I became a vegetarian: June 18, 2001.

I was 14 years old and, although it was unintentional, I later realized I’d made the decision to ditch meat on the birthday of one of the world’s most famous vegetarians — Paul McCartney. As a huge Beatles fan, I found the coincidence delightful, and I’ve celebrated my anniversary each year.

I was never that big of a meat eater to begin with, so it wasn’t a difficult transition. I know plenty of fellow vegetarians who like to sneak in a bite of bacon or other tempting meats (not that I blame them for slipping), but that was never an issue for me.

After spending over half my life as a vegetarian, I decided to take a step back into the meat-eating world to see if I was really missing out on anything after all these years. I know my 14-year-old-self would be screaming at me if she knew this was happening, but I tried to keep an open mind.

I was a little worried about how my body would react to such a drastic change. I really didn’t want to end up making myself sick just for an experiment, but I was actually surprised by how my body handled a full week of meat.

Take a look to see what meat dishes I dined on and how they made me feel.

What I Normally Eat

eggs and soy sausage
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

The photo above was taken on a rare occasion when I cooked for myself: eggs with cheese and kale, soy sausage, and spicy green sauce I’d stolen from a catered work-lunch.

I tend to order takeout too much and rely on frozen vegetarian meals for lunch during the work week — not ideal for my wallet, but it gets the job done.

I had also reintroduced fish into my diet a little over a year ago. Technically, that makes me a pescatarian, but it’s not like I go crazy with it on a daily basis. I just wanted to up my iron and previously non-existent omega-3 fatty acid intake.

Day 1: BLT

bacon
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

I was pretty overwhelmed looking at all of the options on my food delivery app while trying to decide what my inaugural meat meal would be.

Ultimately, I let my friend and coworker Grace make the decision and prepared myself to chow down on my first BLT in over half my life.

It felt like a good choice considering I’ve always been quite vocal about not understanding the fanatical love folks have for bacon. Even when I was a regular meat eater, I never thought much about the traditional breakfast meat.

That feeling didn’t change after finishing my BLT. In fact, my favorite bites were the ones that only included lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo.

Still, it was fun to post this photo on my Instagram and see all the shocked reactions from my friends and family.

Day 2: Barbacoa And Chorizo Tacos

chorizo taco
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

As unimpressed as I was with bacon, chorizo rated on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve had soy versions of the spicy sausage, but even my first bite of the real deal was so much better than I had ever imagined.

Grace joined me for the outing because, as a fellow mostly-vegetarian, she can never turn down the tender barbacoa tacos. I wasn’t as blown away by the flavor as she hyped the beef up to be, but I also didn’t hate it.

What I did hate, however, was the very real fear that I might throw up in the restaurant’s bathroom while a line of ladies waited outside. I don’t think it was the meat itself making me so queasy — more a combination of the grease and spice level that came with it. Luckily, I felt much better by the time I got home and managed to keep the meal down.

Day 3: BBQ Ribs, Brisket, And Chicken

<u>Day 3: BBQ Ribs, Brisket, And Chicken</u>
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

As someone who grew up in the South, I’ve listened to my family go on and on about how amazing BBQ is for years. My mom is especially obsessed with the smoky, saucy flavors.

And I was honestly expecting to follow in her footsteps when I dug into my meal. But it just didn’t do it for me. The ribs and brisket were probably the best part, but I don’t see myself craving either of them in the future. The chicken really didn’t make an impression on me at all.

And, like I said in my caption, I can put barbecue sauce on pretty much anything I want to eat anyway, so I didn’t really see what was so special about it.

Obviously, I live in New York — not Tennessee. So maybe this would have been a different story if I’d ordered from one of the grill masters down south.

Day 4: Chicken And Waffles

chicken and waffles
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

After complaining to my mom about how underwhelmed I had been by BBQ, she recommended trying more chicken, since that’s what I liked the most as a kid.

So on Saturday morning, my roommate Courtney and I set out to find a nice brunch spot with the most appealing chicken options. We happened to find a place with chicken and waffles and our decision was made.

I was initially reluctant to order it, but only because I’m not a huge fan of sweets. I never order waffles on their own, but the promise of spicy syrup on top made it sound more appetizing.

For the first time, I not only loved the meal — I didn’t even feel the slightest bit queasy after eating it, either. It was just so dang delicious and fried to perfection. My mom was happy to hear her advice paid off.

Day 5: Lamb Over Rice

lamb over rice
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

I joined both of my roommates, Courtney and Casey, at our favorite neighborhood bar for Saturday night. We ended up staying until after closing time — meaning we didn’t get home til after 5:00 a.m. So you can probably imagine how rough I was feeling Sunday afternoon when I crawled out of my bedroom.

Unfortunately, I had to brave the bright, outside world to run some errands and decided to pick up a quick meal while I was out. Depending on how I feel, a typical hangover meal is either an omelette filled with veggies or shrimp tacos.

When I passed by my favorite halal cart (they make the best falafels in New York), I remembered my work buddies telling me I should try their lamb over rice. Even though I had originally planned to keep my experiment to strictly cows, pigs, and birds, I made the exception — and it was by far my favorite meal of the week.

I felt so guilty considering it wasn’t just meat, but the meat of a very young animal. Still, I couldn’t deny how tender and perfectly spiced every single bite tasted.

Day 6: Buffalo Chicken Wings

buffalo wings
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

I asked a lot of people for advice while making my meat-eating decisions, and buffalo chicken was one I had heard from multiple friends and family.

It seemed like fate when I stopped by the grocery store across the street from my apartment and saw the wings on their buffet. I know I probably should have gone to an establishment that specializes in the dish, but convenience has always been the biggest factor in my daily meals.

I only got about four wings since I was feeling pretty weighed-down by all the new protein my body had been processing. My goofy smile in the photo was meant in jest — they tasted fine, but I absolutely hated maneuvering around the bones and gristle.

I know there are boneless options out there, but I’d still rather just slather the sauce on my favorite soy chicken nuggets instead.

Day 7: Hamburger And Hot Dog

burger and hot dog
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

Before I started, I knew I wanted to have a burger as my last meal. While waiting in line to make my order, I decided to add a hot dog to the mix since the restaurant offered the popular Chicago-style I’ve always been intrigued by.

I’ll be honest, I only took one bite of the cheeseburger. It was nice and juicy, and I could see it being an enjoyable meal, but it had been a long week of so much meat that I just couldn’t force myself to finish it.

The hot dog was OK, but I mostly enjoyed the pickle, onions, and other veggies surrounding it.

How My Body Reacted

meat zits
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

Apart from the initial queasiness, and generally feeling like I’d gained 500 pounds with the impact inside my stomach, the biggest change was on my face.

I’m no stranger to the perils of adult acne, but this was the worst case of breakouts I’ve had in years. Instead of the one or two blemishes I’m used to covering up, my cheeks, chin, and forehead were polka-dotted with tons of pesky pimples.

Final Thoughts On Eating Meat

vegetarian fake meat sandwich
Jess Catcher for LittleThings

I really didn’t hate the experience, but it was a lot to cram in just a week’s worth of time. I felt like I had to try every single possible dish that regular meat eaters rave about, which was definitely overwhelming.

I might eat meat again in the future, but probably not any time soon. I’m sure I would feel the same way if I restricted myself to just three different types of vegetables for an entire week, too.

I’m really surprised by my favorite meals from the week: chorizo, deep-fried chicken, and lamb over rice. The lamb especially took me by surprise. I have to admit that there’s really no fake meat that could ever get close to that delicious flavor.

Were you shocked by any of my results? Be sure to SHARE my meat-eating experience with your friends on Facebook!