Like so many others, I complain about "the holidays." I complain about the family get-togethers and the random gifts I've gotten that I don't know what to do with, just like everybody else does. But many of you have likely noticed that my complaining extends past this. Thanksgiving? An annual Holocaust for turkeys, I say. Christmas? Preaches "peace on Earth," but repeats the culinary slaughter all over again.
This year, I'm taking aim at yet another holiday: New Year's.
New Year's is a bizarre event. Presumably, we celebrate the arrival of this random second because we have completed another successful trip around the sun. What did you expect to happen? Aren't you afraid of alienating Jewish people who are on a different calendar? Or Chinese people? Or Druids?
But this isn't so much what I'm concerned about. What bothers me most are the New Year's resolutions. During the first couple weeks of January there are fewer smokers and drinkers and more joggers and vegetarians than at any other time of the year. During January, we live in a veritable utopia.
But by Groundhog Day, slaughterhouses are again awash with blood and humans are back to eating meat -- and to ruining the planet and their health because of it. This is not to say I don't advocate personal improvement.
(Sorry about the weird graphic. I just needed something to break up all this text and couldn't find anything else good about "personal improvement.")
Most people are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and New Year's that they ignore what they should really be worried about: what they eat between New Year's and Christmas.
So this year I implore you to examine how you feel during that magical time just after New Year's when your convictions are in line with your actions. I would never ask anyone to "go on a diet" or to do anything as unhelpful (and often harmful) as that. But I am asking you to try eating vegetarian or vegan. And I promise you -- it won't feel like a sacrifice. It will feel like a step up. I think of it as eating everything in the world except animal products. I know we humans are creatures of routine that hate change of any kind, but if you go into this with a sense of the abundance of options, vegan cooking and eating will open your eyes to a world of foods you may never have known existed. We're not just talking plates of raw vegetables here, people. Do I look like a person who eats plates of raw vegetables?
Even if you cut out animal products just [insert (hopefully large) number] days a week, you can make a huge difference in your health and the health of the planet. Any time you eschew meat, you are indeed saving the lives of others and are helping to save and improve your own life.
Oscar Wilde wrote: "A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other," which seems to be not only funny but true. Some 40-45% of American adults use New Year's to make resolutions; and although many may eventually ditch their resolutions, statistics show that setting goals is valuable: 75% make it past the first week and 46% make it past the 6-month mark. And these are Americans we're talking about.
If you think you're going to quit eating meat for life and then you get wasted and eat a slice of pepperoni pizza, don't take that to mean you're destined for a life of carnism.
According to statistics, people who keep their resolutions for at least 2 years report an average of 14 slips or setbacks during that time. But those slips didn't stop them from continuing to fulfill their resolution.
Forcing a radical change that you won't be able to stick with isn't what I'm advocating because I think that's one of the problems with New Year's resolutions. But easing into a lifestyle of health and compassion at a pace and depth that feels comfortable is what I'm after. And I'm betting that if you do it part-time, you'll only want to go further.
Note: For those of you who have made New Year's resolutions, I'd love to hear what they are and how it's going! The comment section is eagerly awaiting your tales of fasting and jazzercising...