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Make Your Mondays Meatless

By Carrie Arnold

The Center for a Livable Future (CLF) this past fall celebrated 10 years of supporting the Meatless Monday campaign to encourage Americans to eat meat-free one day a week. In 2003, advertising executive turned public health advocate Sid Lerner teamed up with CLF to give the campaign a strong technical assistance and scientific advisory resource. Since then, Meatless Monday has spread to 30 countries around the world.

In recognition of Lerner's vision and leadership to create a healthier America, the School awarded him the Dean's Medal, its highest honor, at a scientific symposium on the Meatless Monday anniversary in October 2013. "Sid took this idea introduced during both world wars and turned it into an innovative public health campaign, encouraging people to go without meat one day per week to improve not just their personal health, but also the health of the environment," says Allison Righter, MSPH '12, RD, a program officer at CLF. "It's grown tremendously despite no paid advertising budget."

Meatless Monday participation has increased dramatically, Righter says. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow have joined the campaign, as have universities, food bloggers and high-end New York restaurants. Thanks to these efforts, nearly half of all Americans are now aware of Meatless Monday, according to a 2012 national survey, and many are changing their behaviors as a result.

Changing your behavior just one day per week might not sound significant, but small changes may kick start larger behavioral shifts-both personally and culturally. CLF scientists backed up this concept with literature reviews that documented the efficacy of periodic prompts in changing behavior and Monday's cultural significance and usefulness in health promotion.

Building on the success of Meatless Monday, The Monday Campaigns organization has expanded into other "Healthy Monday" ideas, such as quitting smoking, encouraging kids to cook and hitting the gym. Scientists from the Department of Health, Behavior and Society published a study in October 2013 in JAMA showing that people are most likely to consider quitting smoking on a Monday. Their analysis of Google searches in six different languages found that people were most likely to search Google for information on quitting smoking on Mondays.

"Mondays are a chance to start fresh, which encourages people to make positive changes for their health," Righter says.