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Real Life: vegetarian for a week

Most of us here at Clemson University have had the unfortunate privilege of eating at the dining halls. As a self-diagnosed picky eater, my diet has only gotten worse in my two years eating in the dining halls. So last week, after a particularly unhealthy meal that would have made my doctor gasp, I decided to take the plunge and try to go vegetarian for a week. For those of you wondering what it takes to be a picky vegetarian equipped with a dining hall and a dream, here is a play-by-play of my long week as a vegetarian.
Day 1:
I’m not going to lie, this day was probably the easiest. Due to my hectic class schedule, I didn’t really have time to eat until the afternoon. So, for breakfast I usually have a granola bar while I am running (late) to class, and I have some trail mix as a lunch time snack during lab. It wasn’t until dinner time that I experienced my first obstacle of the week in the shape of a plate full of chicken alfredo. After debating if I wanted to keep this whole charade up, I took a good look at the questionable chicken and decided to remain strong and opt for a grilled cheese. While I was pretty proud of myself for overcoming my own unhealthy habits (kind of), I still had the rest of the week to go.
Day 2:
The implications of becoming vegetarian hit me a lot faster later that day than they probably should have. After getting a tad angrier than necessary during lab, I realized I was suffering from “hangry-ness.” Even though I was taking vitamins, there was a noticeable lack of protein in my diet necessary to get through the day. I stuck to my breakfast and snack time routines during the day, but was constantly left a little hungry and empty inside. After a meeting where I (to the surprise of everyone including myself) turned down free Chick-Fil-A, I raced to the dining hall. Stir-fry with hella spinach and mushroom was acquired, along with a sense of personal accomplishment. Despite a successful meatless day, I knew that if I was going to make it the rest of the week, I would have to make some changes in order to get the nutrients I was missing.
Day 3:
This was the hardest day of the week, by far. Not only was I tired all the time, but my stomach hurt and my morale and attention span were low. I came pretty close to giving up and going straight for the sandwich line, but luckily a miracle in the shape of a pizza box came to me. While yes, I had yet to eat a vegetable and had probably become more unhealthy than before I started this hell week, I opted for some free cheese pizza. It gave me the determination to make it through the week. You think I’m over exaggerating? This pizza gave me the strength to turn down chicken tenders, my known weakness, later that night. I went to sleep that night very tired, but proud of the decisions I had made.
Day 4:
At this point in the week, I was tired and knew I would not be able to keep it up for long. It was more a mental game than physical, though, I woke up knowing that this would be the day I would finally eat a salad. During classes, I could not summon up the energy to pay attention, despite the fact that I had gone to sleep super early the night before. This is where I realized I needed actually healthy foods and proteins, otherwise I was going to have to eat sleep for the rest of the week. I made a quick trip to the store to eat a “protein-packed” trail mix snack to make it through one last meeting of the day. Finally, after three days of trying to be healthy, I had the first, actually healthy vegetarian meal of my life, brought to you by the lovely Schilletter Dining Hall. A much-needed salad with spinach, tomato, eggs (for protein), peppers and cheese honestly worked wonders. As I was eating this meal, I felt like the pinnacle of health. This was probably the only time in my life I can say that a salad revived me. My senses came back to me, I could focus on the world and all of its activity. I felt like a new and improved college student. Day four is the day that gave me the drive to finish out one last day of this vegetarian experiment.
Day 5:
I had made it. I had gone the entire week without eating meat, something no one thought I would be able to do. At this point it was a matter of patience, of counting down the clock until I could go back to my normal meat-filled diet. Because I was so close to the finish line, I purposefully avoided eating at Core and opted for the farther but safer Schilletter. I knew that if Core served chicken nuggets on Friday, I would be done for. I spent the day snacking on fruit and granola, daydreaming about what meal I would be eating at midnight. And readers, when the clock struck midnight on Saturday morning, I felt like Cinderella; instead of fleeing the ball in terror, I was running happily towards the thing I had been fantasizing about all week: chicken nuggets. That first bite into the wonderful fried nugget of love was life changing. There was more color in my face and a new appreciation for life and all of the wonderful things in it. It felt like I had discovered new things about myself this week that I never would have experienced otherwise. This new Nicole also learned a few things this week. Not only did I prove to myself that I have the self-control to go without meat, I learned that there were some good things about being a vegetarian. There was never a line at the salad station, and it gave me an excuse to snack all day because all of the snacks were healthy. I also learned that I needed to start incorporating a few things into my diet. While meat supplied protein and iron, I needed to put more veggies and fruits in my diet. This also gave me a new appreciation for those brave souls that actually make this a lifestyle. The amount of meal planning involved is ridiculous, and while I will not be trying this again anytime soon, I definitely push everyone to try to become vegetarian for a few days and see what you discover about life and yourself.

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