Dietary Virtues

I am trying to be more mindful of what I eat. I used to say “I’m about 40% vegetarian,” but had no way to back that up. It was a wild guess about how many meals I ate that were vegetarian vs. carnivore and, honestly, was probably a little high. Since meeting Christine, I’ve learned more about the meat industry. I don’t think I can ever be “100% vegetarian.” It’s just not in me. But I can certainly make more informed decisions about what I’m eating and where it’s sourced. I can start thinking of meat as a special treat, and not just an everyday default. But the first step in bettering yourself is knowing where you’re starting from. Just what percent of my meals actually are vegetarian?

But the first step in bettering yourself is knowing where you’re starting from.

Benjamin Franklin came up with a list of 13 virtues, to improve his character, and a method of tracking them. Being a printer (among other things), he custom printed sheets of paper with a grid page for the week. The days of the week go across the top. The virtues — things like Temperance, Frugality, Sincerity, Tranquility — go down the side. On any given week, he’d primarily focus on one virtue, listed at the top of the page, leaving the rest to chance — or habit. Reports are a little scattered about whether he marked successes, failures, or both. What I do know is that at the end of the day, he’d review what he did and how he behaved. He’d use that to mark the grid and reflect on how he could improve.

I used to be a big 3×5 card “hipster PDA” person. With the exception of the grocery shopping list, I’ve departed from a rigid hipster PDA methodology, but I do carry around and use a Field Notes notebook for random notes and scribbles. I thought I could maybe design a grid on a single index card that I can keep in the front of my notebook, to mark off my meal choices as I go through the week.

This will give me a baseline of how much (and what kind of) meat I eat throughout the week. With that visibility, I hope to be more mindful of my consumption. For each meal, I’ll put a dot in corresponding grid cell(s).

In addition to food, I’ve also added booze to the grid. I should probably cut back on that, too. Or at least track it and decide from there. Plus, there’s a small space at the bottom, if I discover I’ve forgotten something.

Tracking dietary virtues

So my hope is that I’ll stick with this a few weeks, then be able to report back here how I’m doing and whether/how I’d like to course-correct my dietary actions. Stay tuned!