After I heard how factory farming animals were treated, all I wanted to do was to become a vegetarian, that was 20 years ago.
I’m still very happy I went meatless, but switching diet is a big deal and it took some education to make it work.
In fact, I’ve failed many times: alternating between meat binges and vegan fundamentalism.
Those years of experimentation taught me the formula that works for me: being on a 95% meat free diet . I chose this option simply because it gives me the benefits of a healthy diet yet I’m safe from the main hurdle of becoming a vegetarian: I can be invited at a barbecue party without frowning righteously at the skewers.
Here are the six rules that helped me go meatless without being an outcast:
Be curious about food
So many enthusiasts decide to stop eating meat overnight, they don’t learn the basics of a healthy diet, thinking that going vegan entitles them to feed exclusively on pizzas, coke and Ice-cream.
Unfortunately it’s not so great to eat junk, even as a vegetarian you still need to provide the right nutrients to your body, wrong choices can screw up your health seriously.
I didn’t fall in that trap, I love to learn the theory and that tendency helped me a lot become an informed vegetarian: I spent days studying the impact of meat on the body and the benefits of eating plants, sprouting seeds… Once I understood what my body needed to function optimally, I got an amazing surplus of energy.
Learning how to cook vegetarian dishes was great as well, I recommend digging in exotic food and old recipes from your own country.
If you’re the kind that likes to explore new territories you’ll love becoming vegetarian. It’ll open the path to fascinating discoveries, from weird nuts to amazing new fruits. Many of these trials will be short lived, but I’m sure that on the way you’ll find new and exciting dishes to fall in love with.
Find your own reasons
Even if you just had an epiphany and you’re sure you’ll never tolerate slaughtered animals in your plate anymore, that first impulse will wear off.
In the long run, you need solid reasons to keep your commitment strong. Once again: food is a big deal, not something you change easily.
I encourage you to find motives that touch you personally. If you can, try to scratch the surface to dig out the real reasons that tingle your set of core values.
What makes eating meat a turn-off for you?
In my case, I personally like animals and I use them as a reminder to be a vegetarian. When I feel like ordering fried chicken I picture mutilated hens caged for life or cows with their throats slit. I don’t save the gore: it’s the best way to shut down meat craving. I’m aware it’s not nice but works great for me.
If you more the health conscious type: compare how vegetarian people (Indian for instance) are doing VS meat eaters healthwise. Think about what it’s like to die of a colon cancer (much higher risks when you consume red-meat regularly). Think about your clogged arteries, your weakening heart. When it gets unbearable, remember than eating mostly vegetables protects you from those hazards.
Many other ways will work, you just have to find the one that works for you to stay motivated and not to step back in the habits you had courageously quit.
Don’t fight trolls
When you’re surrounded by meat lovers, avoid mentioning that you’re a vegetarian. They’ll troll you down.
Arguing doesn’t work in general, but it’s particularly true to conversations about diet: people have myriads of reasons to consider vegetarians weird and most of their arguments are mind-numbingly stupid:
- It’s unhealthy not to eat meat
- The bible said animals were created for men, so fine to kill them
- Vegetable have been proven to be sentient beings, therefore there’s no point in being vegetarian
And so on.
Seriously, it’s counter productive to keep discussing at that level of imbecility: save energy when you’re surrounded by bacon addicts.
On the other hand, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are interested in eating less meat. They’re often happy when they meet someone that knows how to replace meat by other types of food, they’ll probably love to taste your Vegetable Couscous for instance.
Also, when you feel your choice is not acclaimed by your friends and family, when you feel isolated, remember that Pythagoras, Socrates, Leonardo de Vinci, Albert Einstein and many others went meatless, so you’re in good company overall.
Be tolerant with yourself
I regress. Regularly. I’ll be strictly vegetarian for a month or so, then one evening after a tough day, I’ll just order a 12′ salami ‘n grilled beef sandwich. I decided that it’s OK…As long as it remains an exception.
I don’t think Vegetarianism should be a prison, sometimes I give myself a break. I found that a sustainable way to keep my commitment in the long run.
If you reflected enough and you found the right reasons to stop meat, an occasional getaway will be a natural and acceptable part of the process.
“fall seven times, stand up eight” As the Japanese proverb says.
What a great way to look at broken promises :)
Have vegetarian friends
Make sure you count vegetarians in your close connections, it’s so much easier to stick to your diet if you can role model others.
It’s also easier to have dinner with friends that are on the same page and will offer you cheese souffles as opposed to hams slices.
Nothing supports a radical change better than a good social network.
Strengthen your connection with animals
I love spending time with animals. They can be touching or disappointingly stupid, but they often display qualities that make me want to grow as a human being (ever tried to relax like a cat?).
And what’s for sure is that the more I know them, the more I don’t want them in my plate. They don’t want to die either! I guess they deserve to enjoy their time on earth for as long as possible, don’t they?
I assume that the pure-players among you, the ones that have a strictly vegetarian diet will find my approach half-assed, if not downright unacceptable. I have nothing to say in my defence.
Maybe one day I’ll go completely meatless, but for now I still enjoy the tricks mentioned above: they help me shut down my cannibal tendencies for the long haul without compromising my social life :)