08/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Meatless Mondays: 52 Opportunities for Rejuvenation

Don't worry, this isn't a promotion for the latest skin treatment or time-share deal. It's less complicated but involves something that happens 52 times a year: Mondays. What do Mondays mean to you? Do you jump out of bed, excited to start a new work week? Or, are you a bit lethargic, seeing the world in shades of gray, with a bit of a gloomy attitude?

Monday's root meaning is new moon. New moons are often treated like January 1st: a time for renewal, rejuvenation and change. It seems like most people relish the first day of the New Year as an opportunity to reset their intentions and change their behaviors. Gyms are suddenly packed, people forsake desserts and take lunchtime power walks. However, by February, most people, unfortunately, have reverted to their old ways. The buzz at gyms has returned to the normal levels, cupcake sales are back up and power walks have been replaced by power lunches. But, if we treat every Monday like January 1st, we can improve our nation's health, save money on healthcare and have much happier Mondays 52 times a year.

The nation's long-term commitment to healthier diets and lifestyles is obviously not working as obesity rates continue to climb. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only Colorado has an obesity rate of less than 20% and a whopping 32 states have rates that are 25% or greater. This is astounding. Some of the effects of obesity include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and respiratory problems and result in 300,000 premature deaths annually. In addition to these serious health-consequences, the obesity epidemic costs our country a staggering 100 billion dollars annually in healthcare costs.

Our large meat consumption, topped off high levels of sugar and fatty foods is helping to fuel this epidemic. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, eating red meat every day increases your risk of dying from cancer or heart disease by 30% and also found higher morality rates amongst those who eat processed meats.

There are a lot of simple changes you can make to your life every single Monday that will have a profound impact on your health. One of the easiest and most profound ways to improve your health is by skipping meat and thereby eating lower on the food chain every Monday. This means eating fresh fruits and vegetables which are not processed or coated in high-fructose corn syrup or bathed in fat. Yes, you certainly can eat three vegetarian meals that are high-calorie and lacking any nutritional value. However, by cutting out meat, you're already taking a step in the right direction towards having healthier meals. Eating meat-free on Monday will offer you the change to have three meals that are lower in saturated fat, high in fiber and topped with cancer-fighting ingredients.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the numerous health benefits of a vegetarian diet include:
1. Prevents cancer. Veggie foods are low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and filled with cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
2. Prevents heart disease. According to the PCRM, "animal products are the main source of saturated fat and the only source of cholesterol in the diet."
3. Lowers blood pressure. Regardless of sodium levels, studies have found that vegetarians have lower blood pressure levels.
4. Prevents or reverses diabetes. A combination of regular exercise and a low-fat vegetarian diet can help to control or eliminate adult-onset diabetes.
5. Reduces your chance of developing gallstones or kidney stones. Again, numerous studies have linked vegetarian diets to reducing one's chances of developing them.
6. Decreases your risk of osteoporosis. In societies with primarily plant-based diets, there are generally lower rates of osteoporosis than in the US.

The benefits of going meatless only one day per week are obvious. But, if this might seem intimidating, don't fret. There's a wealth of resources available to help you make this simple, but impactful transition.

Here are some easy suggestions:
1. Visit your local farmers market to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies.
2. Plan your meals for the day. There are lots of delicious recipes available on the Meatless Monday and the Humane Society.
3. Want to eat out? Whether you're in Albuquerque, Adelaide or Anchorage, there are plenty of fantastic vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants worldwide.
4. Figure out what to do with the money you will save. Each Monday, you'll have some extra change left over by purchasing these lower-cost foods.
5. Have a friend or family member join you. It's a lot easier to make life changes when you have the support of others.

Meatless Mondays are a simple, yet radical way to change yourself and the planet. By choosing a plant-based diet for one day, you will not only nourish your body but rejuvenate your soul 52 times a year. And, who knows, you might feel so great that you could make every day meatless!

This blog originally appeared on the Meatless Monday site.