This isn't a very good photo, but you get the point

This isn't a very good photo, but you get the point


This year I did a New Year’s Resolution, I can’t remember ever having done one before. Usually it’s something like write a novel, or get ripped abs by Summer. Then, Summer is two hot weeks in May and my schedule is all out of whack, my abs remain unripped, and my novel remains unfinished [Though I have the title – the Thommunist Hoffmanifesto].

Cognitive Dissonance is the psychologist’s term for the uncomfortable gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do do, and this spreads across all our lives. Phoning our family, drinking too much, failing to exercise enough, give to charity… the list is long. I fail at all of these things. I guess it always feels like there’s another day to do them and so they don’t happen enough.

One thing that struck me last year was how difficult it is to ignore the harmful effect of eating meat. Whichever way you add it up, meat is pretty bad for the environment. It is tasty, correct, but the memory of taste doesn’t linger very long, and my growing unease with meat has been getting stronger.

I decided full-on vegetarianism would be a bit of a stretch for me, but I wanted to shift my relationship with meat. I had heard of Meat free Mondays, but that sounded a bit too easy, so I decided I would do ‘Meat free Mondays and Tuesdays’.

As this has come up in conversation over the year, I’ve been surprised by how people’s reactions vary. Some people think this is the easiest thing ever, and some people think it’s almost impossible. It goes to show how our relationships with food are so ingrained.

This was a challenge to that ingrained nature. When it comes to making decisions we are often driven by our unconscious, meaning that things like habit and taste have a disproportionate effect on our decision making, compared to longer term health, wellbeing, or social implications.

I wanted to pick two specific days because just picking any two days of the week seemed like I would still be being guided by my own tastes. I wanted to disrupt that a bit. Put myself in situations and experience them as a vegetarian. If I went to a dinner party I have to do the vegetarian thing, BBQ, I’m having some mushrooms. And finally… What is the last Tuesday of the year…? I looked it up in around August, it was Christmas…

Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

It was a great meal, and it’s fine to do it without meat, not a big sacrifice at all.

My Tips are: stock up on chickpeas and lentils, super easy to cook. Vegetable curries are ace. Mushrooms are THE BEST things, and eat a lot of soup. Homemade soup is off the hook tasty and very cheap. Develop an obsession with falafel.

I think there is something intrinsically interesting about actively fighting your normal patterns of behaviour and ‘forcing’ yourself to make positive choices that bridge the gap towards the person you like being. It really isn't a big sacrifice, but it's a small thing thats had a long-term difference I'm really glad I did it.

It’s hard to see how anything bad could come from this. I would recommend it as an experiment to everyone. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do for 2013, apart from write my novel, learn Swedish and get some sweet ripped guns, but my relationship with meat is better in 2013 than it was in 2011.

Happy New Year,

‘Change the things I can, accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.’

*I did accidentally eat chicken soup on a Monday after I’d been in bed ill for 5 days and lost track of what day it was.  Initially I was really annoyed that I’d failed my challenge, but I traded it off with no meat for the rest of the week.

** I think I ate some chicken crisps on New Year’s Eve

***Here is a good recipe for a Mushroom Ale and Lentil Pie mmm