Tick, tock, tick tock. That’s the meat clock talking. Only five days to go.
It’s National Vegetarian Week. I learned that on Monday when into my inbox at Cork’s 96fm popped a press release from Dee’s Wholefoods, a Cork company that makes vegan ready-meals, burgers and sausages that are pretty tasty.
Oh great, I thought (with no small amount of superiority), we’ll get a listener to volunteer for it. Some steak-guzzling sausage hog who never ate a leaf of spinach and cringes at the sight of a chickpea. That’ll make great radio.
After a weekend spent doing yoga and kayaking in West Cork (I had to do something while himself was on his stag, and I figured going somewhere with no phone reception was wise), I was full of the joys on Monday, and possibly also full of karmic peace. So, like an eejit, I volunteered to go off animal flesh for the week in solidarity with one of our listeners.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt; it’s also probably the strongest force known to man. It makes you want whatever it is you’re being denied… even if you were never that bothered about it in the first place. I have regularly gone without meat for a few days at a time without even noticing. But tell someone they can’t have something? It changes everything.
But as I walked to the bus past all sorts of fast food joints, the smell of gravy wafted from a fried chicken shop, the fish sang their watery song from my favourite chipper and even the chorizo on top of a pizza in the local pizzeria was assaulting my senses.
I arrived home on Monday already planning a lovely veggie dinner of spaghetti with spinach and lemon. Then some fascists, sorry, vegetarians, on Twitter pointed out that Parmesan - a key ingredient of this tasty recipe - has animal rennet in it. I added more butter instead.
It wasn’t the same, and a nagging voice in my head, which sounded remarkably like a rumbling tummy, kept telling me how nice it would’ve been with a bit of smoked salmon. Other things I can’t eat this week include jellies (gelatine is made from hooves) and strawberry yoghurts (also gelatine, apparently).
Apparently, willpower is like a muscle, and if you don’t use it often enough it goes a bit, well, floppy. So Christians who strictly observe Lent, Muslims who strictly observe Ramadan, and athletes who regularly train in the rain, hail and snow have a better chance of dieting successfully giving up smoking. That, at least, is according to Stanford University health psychologist Dr Kelly McGonigal.
Unfortunately, her findings also indicate that our willpower, like our muscles, gets tired. Which explains why so many of us start the week on Mondays eating rice cakes and low-fat spread and build our rubbish intake gradually up to a Friday crescendo of 18-inch pizzas.
“As with physical exercise, using your self-control muscle may be tiring, but over time the workout increases your strength and stamina. So what starts out difficult becomes easier over time,” McGonigal told the Stanford blog, Scope.com.
This does not tally with my new findings (in a sample study of one person, carried out over five days so far) that the more I am denied something, the more I want it.
As for my yoga-loving, hippy, newly vegetarian personality? Well… it’s, eh, irritable. It might be nothing to do with the lack of meat but there is definitely less of a spring in my step, and people are suffering. Well, the dog, who is looking at me balefully because my leftovers are no fun any more.
Maybe meat is murder, but if I don’t get some soon, there could be some serious casualties. As for how my denial muscle is going?
Next month, I hope to give up sorting out world peace. You can thank me when we start seeing results. Tick, tock.