|I've had high cholesterol since I was a teenager, and I've tried all kinds of things to lower it. Everything from the standard "diet and exercise" (thanks doc, I'm glad I paid for that advice) to pills. Pills work great, but most doctors are hesitant to prescribe them to a person who'll likely be taking them for 50 or more years. A recent doctor visit presented me with the motivation to try something new: Become a vegetarian. I've heard that advice anecdotally from people who think cholesterol only comes from the food you eat (side note: it doesn't; 80% of the cholesterol in your body comes from your own goddamn body), but I've never taken the plunge. So I decided to conduct an experiment that would either make me a permanent vegetarian, or prove people wrong so I never have to have this stupid conversation again.
The first step was to figure out what meals I could eat in place of meat. It took a little effort, but I found that it's less of a "replace [meat] with [vegetable]" and more of a "replace [meaty meal] with [veg+carb meal]". Stir-fry meals are essential. Sometimes tofu (fried and diced) was involved to add a little bulk to the meal, but the idea that you would simply replace a piece of chicken with a piece of tofu is ludicrous. Final note: pizza and pasta are vegetarian, so I ate a lot of those.
I decided to give it a solid six month trial. One month is way too short (I think) to produce any type of biological change, and three months sounded short as well. During these six months, I never ate a single piece of animal flesh, and the only animal "product" I consumed was dairy -- not much milk or eggs, but holy hell lots of cheese.
Eating at restaurants was a little bit of a challenge, but not nearly as much as it likely was 20 or so years ago. Every place on earth has a vegetarian option. It's not hard to find. But don't come at me with some dumbass salad -- I'm a vegetarian, not a rabbit. It's not that I dislike salads, it's just kind of the most basic vegetarian thing in existence, and it gets old quick.
One of my biggest pet peeves is catering to other people's absurd preferences and dietary restrictions, so I made sure people didn't cater to mine. This was sometimes difficult because people are nice. It helps that I'm totally not a foodie; I'll literally eat snacks and call it a meal. Regardless, some people went out of their way and made fantastic vegetarian dishes, which was pretty cool.
Now for the results. I got a blood test before I started, and then six months later. My total cholesterol ... stayed almost exactly the same. The ratio stayed almost exactly the same. My triglycerides went up, possibly because of all the carbs I was eating.
In short, a total failure. Or at least that's what it felt like when I got the results. But it was an experiment, so there's really no failure or success, just a result. Either way the result was kind of disappointing, not because I necessarily wanted to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life (which wouldn't be terrible), but because yet another cholesterol-lowering thing produced exactly zero results. Oh well. #food