By Heather Reifsnyder
“My name is Carlin, and I’m a meat lover.” At this joke the room full of brand-new vegetarians breaks into laughter.
This group of individuals, most of them students from the School of Public Health, gathered January 9 to support each other in the quest to eat no meat for at least 30 days. They are meeting each Wednesday during the month-long challenge.
The support group has two functions: to provide psychosocial support as well as practical advice on being vegetarian. Vegetarian lunch is also provided.
People’s motivations for participating in this experiment vary. Some are considering making the switch to vegetarianism permanently. Others are just trying it out. Epidemiology student Allison DeVries is hoping to incorporate more vegetarian food into her diet once the 30 days are over.
Carlin Eng, another epidemiology student and the self-proclaimed meat lover, thinks the concept of vegetarianism is attractive. But he says he needed an impetus in order to try it.
He found his impetus in a challenge from the dean of the School of Public Health, David Dyjack, DrPH, CIH. In anticipation of the School’s upcoming 5th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, Dr. Dyjack decided to eat vegetarian for a month. And he challenged others to join him.
About 50 individuals have done so—students, faculty, and staff from the School of Public Health, as well as a handful of recruits from the School of Allied Health Professions, including SAHP dean Craig Jackson, JD, MSW.
“A vegetarian lifestyle benefits the earth and our bodies,” Dr. Dyjack says. “Corporate animal husbandry practices are unsustainable and wasteful, and there is a growing body of evidence that suggests such practices place the public’s health at risk.
After the initial month passes, Dr. Dyjack's goal is to remain vegetarian for the most part, eating meat perhaps only once or twice a year.
Dr. Dyjack is keeping a blog about his experience. It can be read at www.willhemakeit.org.
Nutrition student Natasha Chong believes that the health benefits of vegetarianism are undeniable.
“I’ve tried being vegetarian before. It lasted about two weeks, but I was by myself. Hopefully with this support group, I can make it,” she explained to the group.