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Fall, Halloween, pumpkins and breast cancer awareness are a few of the things that are celebrated in October. This month is also National Vegetarian Awareness Month, and Central Michigan University students are taking notice.
A group of students involved in the Honors Program have embarked on a challenge of eating no meat for all of October and taking on the lifestyle of a vegetarian.
As an excited participant of CMU’s month-long vegetarian challenge, Illinois freshman Reed Kolany shared his reasoning for participating.
“I wanted to become a vegetarian for the month because it is a lifestyle that I am not used to and I would like to appreciate the values of those who live this way,” Kolany said.
Some students even elevated the challenge and devoted the entire month to becoming vegan. This challenge, organized and encouraged by the Honors Program, is teaching students about the challenges of this strict lifestyle while providing a fun and educational experience.
Director of University Honors, Phame Camarena, explained how this specific event is especially eye-opening.
“Honors students choose to take part in this event for various reasons, but the most interesting thing about the students’ participation in the event is the realization they come to once the month is complete,” Camarena said. “They begin with the motive of discovering what a vegetarian lifestyle is like or to learn about the reasons behind the choice to eat a vegetarian diet. However, after maintaining this lifestyle, they realize that society often views vegetarians differently.”
Each student’s experience is different, but all are filled with ups and downs. Troy freshman Mary Grace Stark explained the roller coaster ride her experience has been.
“I never realized until doing Vegetarian Month how often I eat meat and how frequently I choose it over other things as my meal option,” Stark said. “I’ve been really close to caving multiple times because I’ve been tempted by what the residential restaurants serve. It’s been especially hard because the foods (containing meat) are some of my favorites and the vegetarian options aren’t what I would normally eat.”
While some students are riddled with temptation, some have found the transition easier than they thought, including Port Huron freshman Calli Morris.
“Once I stopped eating meat, it was easy to continue with the diet,” Morris said. “I think I might even stay vegetarian because it was so simple to switch and I feel healthier.”
The vegetarian diet has been around for ages, but people really started taking notice in 1977 with the foundation of National Vegetarian Awareness Day on Oct. 1 by the North American Vegetarian Society. Gradually, the focus shifted to the entire month of October.
The purpose of the month is to educate people on the vegetarian lifestyle and to give anyone ambitious enough the opportunity to try it out for his or herself. Many aspects of the vegetarian diet are emphasized throughout the month, with the goal of encouraging others to make the transition.
Full-time vegetarians choose to follow this diet for a variety of reasons. Some choose to exclude meat for moral or religious purposes, while others do it out of respect for the environment.
For Bath freshman Hannah Bleech, this daily diet is something she’s been committed to for a long time.
“I think this event is a great opportunity for people who normally see vegetarians as taboo or crazy to realize it’s really not that big of a lifestyle change and it doesn’t take that much effort,” Bleech said. “Vegetarian Month is a positive way for people to experience a lifestyle that is different from their own.”
Regardless of the reasoning, it’s obvious that many food establishments are taking note of this dietary movement. College campuses and restaurants are diversifying their menu options to accommodate the needs of customers. With the copious amounts of vegetarian options available today, there is no doubt the vegetarian lifestyle is more abundant than ever.
Despite the trials students may face during this challenge, they will surely come out of this experience with a whole new appreciation for their vegetarian peers.
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