I stood over the meatballs, staring longingly into the marinara-soaked pan. It would be so easy to reach out, grab the spoon and absent-mindedly plop three or four on my sad, lettuce-filled plate. Two weeks ago, I would’ve, with one minor discrepancy — there wouldn’t be lettuce on the plate. If there were any greenery featured at all, it would’ve been solely a pretense: the little lie we tell ourselves as we carefully construct a salad in the serving line, and then promptly ignore it in favor of the meat and carbs.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a new Netflix series that piqued my interest. It was one of those Thursday nights where I nominated to stay in, telling some variation of the same lie to those who asked (“too much to do,” “too tired”), when in reality I just didn’t feel like feigning interest in tipsy socializing for the entirety of an evening in wedges (because that is tiring). Instead, I delved headfirst into this quirky new series, in which one scene depicted a young, hapless young woman watching a PETA documentary by way of a new, environmentally conscious love interest.
I grimaced and watched through squinty, half-covered eyes the way I usually do when I anticipate anything even remotely unpleasant coming onscreen, as gratuitous clips of this nameless documentary depicted the horrific animal cruelty of the faceless and deplorable meat-packing industry. Half-disgusted and half-intrigued, I opened my laptop to research further, having completely forgotten the plot line unfolding on my overworked Internet TV. How legitimate were these scenes?
It took approximately two blog posts to convince me I was going to try vegetarianism: one from a “meatless athlete” who runs marathons regularly and never indulges in even the occasional corndog, and the other an admittedly sketchy, half-baked site with a list of “100 Ways Vegetarianism Can Improve Your Life,” including heightened energy levels (did you know it takes your body three days to fully digest a steak?). Easily convinced once already determined, I slammed the laptop shut. No more meat for me.
My entire life, I have lacked self-control. My mom used to physically hide our candy and desserts when I was growing up because I’d finish boxes of Hot Tamales and family-size packs of Swedish Fish in a sitting or two.
This lack of self-discipline transcends food — I have gone to great lengths to avoid discomfort. Lent season was especially disheartening for me as a kid: My vows to avoid sweets or chocolate (or whatever my temptation-of-choice was in 7th grade) lasting a day or two — or until that temptation presented itself for the first or second time. It wasn’t long before I abandoned the habit of pledging a Godly sacrifice entirely.
I was really, truly tempted for the first time at a tailgate on Saturday that featured glorious, full-size corndogs. If there were ever a kryptonite in my life, it’s corndogs. I absolutely love them. Coupled with the fact that I was two Kentucky Bourbon/Cokes into the tailgate, I thought I was absolutely toast. Done-for. A one-week, pathetic excuse for a vegetarian with poor impulse control and lack of conviction.
But somehow, I stayed away from the corndog crockpot. I filled my plate with other, less satisfying options, and left feeling better for it.
Somewhere along the line, not eating meat transitioned from an animal issue to a personal one.
It’s empowering to deny yourself — to shut down the greedy, only-child monster in your brain pounding on its walls demanding you concede. And as someone who has never once denied herself anything, especially food, it’s particularly meaningful.
It isn’t about the meat (or lack thereof) anymore. It’s about proving to myself that I can stick to a plan once the wanton inspiration fades — because, as we all know, the inspiration always fades — it’s the necessary spark to ignite action, certainly, but it fades. What you’re left with when it’s gone is what sustains you.
Whether you’re inspired to work out more, to study harder in your toughest class, to read a book each week or to go out less, don’t be discouraged when the inspiration dissipates and you’re faced with your first “meatball test." Just scoop yourself an extra helping of dessert and stick to your guns.
Thanks for reading! KG