09/27/2010 04:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Meatless Monday: So Why Monday?

Funny how when you say Monday, what comes to mind for many people is music. There's those fine ladies with the big earrings, and the post-Joy boys, and Sir Bob's mordant musings, and a song so nice they named it twice. But when it comes to meatless, why Monday?

For one, it has snappy alliteration. Meatless Monday just sounds right. It rolls off the tongue. But also it has an interesting historical precedent. During World War I, the newly formed U.S Food Administration encouraged rationing in support of the troops by declaring "Food will win the war!" American families back then voluntarily participated in Wheatless Wednesdays and Meatless Mondays. But there's something else.

It can be summed up in a simple phrase: "Monday is the January of the week." These are the oft-quoted words of Sid Lerner, chairman and founder of The Monday Campaigns. It's all about a weekly new beginning. Framing Monday as the chance to start the week right. To hit the reboot button after a potentially indulgent weekend.

The idea might seems intuitive, and in fact Johns Hopkins has done research to show that people are already using Monday. By a factor of 5, people are more likely to go to the gym, to start a diet, to try to quit smoking, on Monday versus other days. Indeed, 74% of people say that a Monday start will help them stick to their weekly health regimen. And 70% are open to weekly reminders to help them uphold healthy intentions.

So what, you may be asking, is at the behavioral root of this power of Monday? It comes down to our shared cultural experience. As we move through our daily lives, we tend to think in terms of weeks. Our calendar reflects this. The week is critical in shaping human lives, and for a great majority of us, because of work or school, the week begins on Monday.

As the start of the week, Monday is a natural time to start something new. Particularly if it's, say, trying to overcome an ingrained problematic behavior. Monday provides 52 chances a year to begin or reset healthy intentions. It's all about incremental change, slow and steady, one week at a time. Plus, there's always another Monday around the corner if you've fallen off the wagon.

Further, as a shared notion, Monday provides a social context for change. Seeing other people start their week right or reset their healthy intentions, we're more likely to join in and do the hard work ourselves. More likely to see the comraderie and fun in working together.

There's no question that, historically, negative associations have been linked with Monday, evidenced by the songs at the top. But one of the central notions of the Monday Campaigns is that together we can overcome those associations. Together we can help turn Monday into an empowering spur -- "the day all health breaks loose," according to Lerner.


Which brings us back to Meatless Monday. One day a week, cut out meat. It's not Meatless Lifetime, nor Meatless Year, nor even Meatless Month -- it's just one day a week. Using the power of Monday to encourage people to improve their health and the health of the planet. And if you miss one Monday, or five Mondays in a row, it's cool -- there's always another one on the calendar somewhere.

It's more about sharing delicious recipes, healthy experiences and new ways to think a little more about the food we eat and how it affects our bodies and our environment. Because, ultimately, we all need a little kick-in-the-pants now and then so that it's not just another ______ Monday?