Meatless Monday turned 10 years old last week, and to mark the occasion, a distinguished panel of physicians, researchers and advocates convened at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for a Scientific Symposium.
Sid Lerner, Founder and Chairman of The Monday Campaigns, Alfred Sommer, Dean Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Robert Lawrence, Director of the Center for a Livable Future, kicked off the panel Symposium by describing the origins of the Meatless Monday idea.
Dr. Lawrence pointed out that most people could benefit from a 15% reduction of meat in their diets, which reminded Lerner of a campaign from World Wars I and II called “Meatless Monday,” which urged Americans to cut back on meat to aid the war effort. Drs. Sommer and Lawrence joined Lerner to revive Meatless Monday as a public health campaign, driven by the easy-to-follow directive “One day a week, cut out meat.”
Experts from the Center for a Livable Future and Johns Hopkins Medical Center presented studies that show that diets high in red and processed meats are associated with a litany of preventable illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, stroke and various cancers. The increased production of meat is also associated with environmental issues; one pound of beef, for instance, requires as much as 2,500 gallons of water to produce.
Thursday’s panelists also spoke to the power of Monday as a day that encourages people to make positive lifestyle changes. Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, Director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and a member of the school’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society, described how a regular Monday checkup was conducive to weight loss and a key pillar of the emerging practice of mHealth, or “mobile health”. A new program called TRIMM (Tailored Rapid Interactive Mobile Messaging) updates users with periodic reminders about their eating habits. In the pilot program, the mean weight loss over 6 months was 8 pounds, a more than 600% increase over the control. Participants reported an average 4.4/5 satisfaction with TRIMM.
Dr. Joanna Cohen, Director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control, demonstrated how Monday provides a useful touchstone within other health initiatives as well. Tobacco quit lines, she said, receive dramatically more calls on Monday than any other day. Similarly, Google search queries for quitting hit their peak on Mondays.
Today, Meatless Monday provides a platform for everyone around the world who opts for a plant-based diet once a week. In recognition for his role, Lerner was awarded the Dean’s Medal, the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s highest honor. But if one thing was made clear at the 10th Anniversary Symposium, it’s that the work of Meatless Monday, is just beginning. The addition of new participants, programs, and content almost every week portends another 10 years of healthier habits.