Last spring I decided to start running.  (My family calls it “walking.”) I used the Couch to 5K program and, to the amazement of my family and with the support of Annie, was able to complete my first 5K.

My goal in starting to run was not to get back into a string bikini.  (OK, I’ve never worn a bikini, let alone a string bikini.)  But rather to improve my overall fitness.  I consider myself an active person who enjoys walking, biking, skating and cross-country skiing.  But I am not a gym/workout devotee.  I admit to being skeeved a bit by gyms.  It probably harkens back to my Jazzercise days.  I loved Jazzercise as a physical and social outlet, especially when the kids were young.  As the kids got into the junior high and high school years it was much harder to find the time, especially in the evenings.  But in the winter when all the moisture would condense on the windows, and periodically break out in mold….well, you get the idea.

But I digress.  As I Jazzercised my way through the child-bearing years, I was “fit” but not losing five pounds after each kid.  Finally, Weight Watchers helped me shed those 20 pounds and realize that it’s all about choices and balance.

Then the 40s hit and a seismic shift occurred in my body.  Suddenly I felt matronly.  I’m not necessarily opposed to that, but I was confounded by the lumpy changes occurring in my body.  So I started reading and was inspired by the 21-Day Kickstart Challenge, until I realized it was a Vegan change.  It seems like an absolutely great premise – to try the lifestyle for 21 days – but not a practical one for my family life.

I saw the pounds creeping up and turned to Spark People, a great resource for managing calories.  I wanted to “try” to incorporate more vegetarian meals into the family dinner table. “Trying” is nice, but doesn’t always push me.

So I saw Lent as an opportunity to do something very difficult for me – give up meat.  Somehow, this was a sacrifice and a challenge that I felt I could meet.  It’s been several weeks now and I am feeling very satisfied, creatively challenged and I’ve lost a few pounds!

My kids don’t eat that much meat to begin with, so my goal is to get them eating more vegetables and to get creative with meals.  I have no desire for fake meats.  The only one I will eat is a veggie burger.  I’m trying to find filling and tasty alternatives.  Sometimes it’s easy to make the change.  So when I make my rigatoni bake, I just put the ground sausage on one side.  Or when we have tacos, I made mine with the bean dip.  I really don’t want to be making two meals, so it is challenging my creativity.  When my son was home on break I made a roast beef.  That was hard.  It smelled delicious and I didn’t have the time or energy to come up with a complementary idea.  But I filled up on a lot of vegetables and salad.

I have been trying various recipes via the web and Spark People and recently discovered “Meatless Monday.”  The idea is to try a meatless meal one day a week.  They have a lot of recipes there to get you started.  The other day I tried the eggplant casserole shown above.  It is loaded with wonderful vegetables and fantastic flavors.  However, I found mine to be a bit dry.  It calls for a lot of bread crumbs and I felt it needed some moisture or cheese.

This article on Spark People talks about the benefits of meatless meals and it is where I encountered the word “flexitarian”.  I like the idea and can see myself “being” one.  Perhaps I will find it easy to be a vegetarian after Lent.  But I like meat and would still like to enjoy it.  Maybe this is the time in my life that this change is necessary for a healthier lifestyle.  So I plan to focus on vegetable-based meals and add meat as a “side dish.”

If you have any favorite vegetarian dishes please feel free to give me links!