It happens every year like clockwork. My husband and I stuff ourselves over the holidays and after New Year’s we always end up feeling bloated, like our arteries are clogging by the minute and disgusted by our gluttony. We always agree we have to do something and so we come up with these elaborate plans and good intentions to eat better, to drink less and exercise more. Our diet plans sound like software releases; I think we’re up to 3.5 now. And none of them have made it past the end of January.

There was one in which we vowed to stop drinking on week nights. I think that lasted until Tuesday. (Don’t judge… we have kids!) Another time, we decided not to have second helpings—so we just ate off bigger plates. And so on and so forth. Most of the time, our attempts at “healthy living” are short-lived. It’s Winter, it’s depressing… what else is there to do but eat and drink? And hell if I’m going to exercise in this weather! (Where’s the remote?!) So after a couple of weeks (or even a few days), you can find us back to our old ways, shoveling in the mac and cheese by the ladleful and drinking gallons of bourbon.

2017 was no different. We—no, I take that back. This was all my husband’s idea—HE came up with the idea to eat vegetarian every other week. “What do you mean by vegetarian?” I asked skeptically. “No meat or no meat, chicken or fish?”

“No meat, chicken or fish. Eggs are OK though.” At least we could eat eggs.

The first week was torturous. I admit, I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought omitting meat from my favorite recipes would be OK. All that did was make me crave the missing meat even more! One dinner I couldn’t even finish. I pushed my plate away and made myself some toast instead.

The next week was meat week, and it was… glorious! I made pulled pork, pasta with sausage, burgers… I was on a bender and I knew it. But like any addict, I couldn’t help myself. Someone told me that maybe a whole week was too extreme, that maybe we should just try to include more vegetarian meals in between meals with meat. That’s not how we roll. Because ultimately, it’s about the gimmick… it’s about the challenge. Can we do it? Are we strong enough? I wasn’t sure. We’d never succeeded before. And this was even harder!

As I meal-planned for the next vege week, I realized that I had to change my mindset from cooking meals that omit meat to cooking meals that embraced veggies. It was a challenge for me to make meals outside of my comfort zone and repertoire, and experiment with new ingredients and techniques. I soon found myself working through potential dishes at night before falling asleep or in meetings at work. If all else fails, I told myself, just put cheese on it.

Now we’re over a month in (I admit, I wouldn’t be writing about it if we had failed) and still going strong. I’m actually shocked my meat-loving husband is still on board. No, I haven’t lost weight. No, I’m not thinking of going vegetarian full-time. And vegan is and has never been an option (I’m not insane). But I have have noticed that my grocery bill is a lot smaller when I don’t buy any meat and when I eat meat now, I can’t eat as much without feeling like I overdid it.

I mentioned this to my husband the other and he said, “At first, I really missed that ‘full’ feeling I used to have. And now, I like eating dinner and not feeling so full afterwards.” OK, not exactly a huge “a-ha” moment for most people but for us, it’s a big deal.

Because then there’s so much more room for ice cream.

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