Becoming a vegetarian is as simple as eliminating animal meat from your diet. Becoming and staying a vegetarian, like many habit changes, can be more challenging. When undergoing a big change that will affect your health, it’s best to let your physician know what you have planned. A naturopath or nutritionist may have helpful recommendations too.

While it’s important to include medical professionals, if you want to know what it’s really like to be a vegetarian, ask a vegetarian. I stopped eating meat in 2006 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I learned so much about how meat and animal products affect our health. Research shows that MS patients, and people dealing with other autoimmune conditions, that eat fewer saturated fats and “inflammatory foods” maintain better health (I would challenge that this goes for most everyone.). Giving up meat was one of the best ways I could really “do something” about my new diagnosis. I stopped eating meat to achieve better health.

When I started my vegetarian journey, I started reading. I read about raising animals for meat. I read about factory farming. I learned about the impact of our actions on our bodies, animals, and the earth. By really opening my eyes and heart to how meat was put on my plate, I lost my appetite for it.

I was motivated by health and changed with compassion.

My story is one of many. When you become a vegetarian, share your story on how to become a vegetarian. It will keep you focused on your commitment for better health and a gentler world, and it may inspire someone else to make a change.

The following are proven ways to become and stay vegetarian:

Identify your whys

Think about why you want to become a vegetarian. Make a list of all the benefits that make this change important to you. They may be reasons like: compassion for animals, better heart health, lower cholesterol, because I love my dog so much. Make a long list of whys to support your new lifestyle, and keep that list available. When you are having second thoughts or craving a burger, take a look at your list for inspiration.

Start slowly

Instead of eliminating all meat from your diet, eliminate one animal at a time. For instance, start with cows. Don’t eat any meat that comes from a cow for 30 days. Then elimnate meat that comes from pigs in addition to meat that comes from a cow. Continue to eliminate a category of meat every 30 days. Eventually you’ll elimate all meat and seafood, but because of the gradual approach, it won’t feel unmanageable. Adjust the timeline to better suit your needs.

Read about being a vegetarian

While you are making the switch to becoming a vegetarian, read vegetarian blogs, Vegetarian Times magazine and books like Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, Eat Awesome by Paul Jarvis, Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr. Educate yourself with more reasons to stay off the meat.

Hang with vegetarians

So much of our social experience centers around food, so surround yourself with like minded diners. You can exchange ideas, share recipes, and cement your commitment to become a vegetarian.

Visit a farm

Before you order another plate of ribs, visit the animals at a local farm. Watch how they interact with you and each other. Burgers and turkey sandwiches begin to lose their appeal when you get up close and personal with the live version of your meal.

Focus on colors, not calories

Create a plate full of colorful fruits and veggies without worrying about overeating or gaining weight. If you choose them in season, they will taste better than anything from can or bag. By choosing different colored fruits and veggies, you can eat your way towards a better health and more energy.

  • Red for Lycopene, a cancer fighter found in tomatoes, cherries, watermelon, and beets.
  • White/Green for antioxident flavinoids and Allicin, which has anti-tumor properties found in garlic, onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, pears, and green grapes.
  • Yellow/Orange for vitamin C to support the immune system and Carotene for heart and vision health, found in oranges, carrots,  yellow pears, lemons, butternut squash, and sweet corn.
  • Blue/Purple for antioxidants to help protect cells from free radicals within the body. Antioxidants also helps to fight off aging, improves memory function, and can reduce the risks of some cancers. They can be found in grapes, blueberries, eggplant, and beets.
  • Green for cancer-fighting chemicals that can block carcinogens, found in broccoli, collards, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. Green-colored produce can also help promote stronger bones and teeth.

Be kind to meat eaters

You may experience resistance and questions about becoming a vegetarian, especially from close friends and family that don’t want to change. Be kind when answering questions and don’t expect anyone to join you. Share great vegetarian meals. Say no thank you when offered meat, and focus on your own commitment instead of what other people say or think.

Be kind to yourself

Becoming a vegetarian is an act of compassion, so let that compassion apply to your behavior as well. If you slip or struggle with becoming a vegetarian, remind yourself how well you’ve done and start fresh, recognizing that habit changes take time.

Congratulations on becoming a vegetarian or on taking the first step to a meat free lifestyle!

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Featured photo credit: Fresh and colorful apples in basket, selective focus via Shutterstock

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