When I tell people that I don’t eat meat, the first reaction I get is along the lines of “Really? How do you do that? I could never give up meat”. I never thought that I could stop eating meat either, until I read a book that vividly described what happens inside of a slaughterhouse and those graphic images decided to lodge themselves permanently in my head. After that, I could not bring myself to eat meat.
That is not to say that I quit eating meat cold turkey (pardon the expression). It was something I thought long and hard about because I realized what a huge lifestyle change this was going to be. I know there are many others who are interested in becoming a vegetarian or even a part-time vegetarian (for the record, I despise this expression. It’s like saying someone is a little bit pregnant. It’s not possible) but they think it’s too hard or too much work. Completely not true!
There are steps you can take before you decide to stop eating meat that will help make the decision and the transition easier for you. Here are the ones that worked for me:
- Eliminate one meat at a time. When I ate meat, I really only ate chicken and beef. I found most other meats disgusting for a variety of reasons, and by the time I stopped altogether, it was just down to these two. Giving these up was easy for me. But for others, maybe not so much. So I suggest that you pick one meat a week, a month, whatever, and start removing it from your diet. When you don’t miss that one anymore, pick another one and start all over again.
- Take it one day at a time. Or even one meal at a time. When meat is an integral part of your diet, it’s hard to remove it entirely. So start with removing it for one day (like the trendy Meatless Mondays). Then try the next day. And the next. If thinking about one entire day is too hard, just try to remove meat from one meal a day and work from there. It’s not a race and no one expects you to make this kind of commitment all at once if you don’t want to.
- Discuss your plans with the people you share meals with. You need to make sure that the person or people you share meals with are aware of, and support, your new choice. It becomes quite difficult if you don’t share. When I decided I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, I felt I needed to discuss it with my husband. This was a huge change for us and he is a meat eater. He will always be a meat eater. I needed to assure him that my beliefs would have no impact on his beliefs, and that even though I was opting out of meat consumption, I would not force him to do the same. We figured out an arrangement for meals that worked for both of us.
- Figure out what works for you. There are so many mealtime options for vegetarians that if there’s something you don’t like, or something you do like a whole lot, you can incorporate that. For instance, I hate tofu. I hate everything about tofu, particularly the texture. If I were being force fed tofu on a daily basis, there’s no way I’d still be a vegetarian. So I don’t eat it. I figured out how to make tofu-free meals because that’s what worked for me.
Not eating meat has far reaching benefits: environmental, health, financial. I concede that it’s not for everyone and I certainly am not trying to force anyone to stop eating meat. While I choose not to eat meat, I respect the decision of those who continue to do so. It is a very personal choice and I would be out of line to suggest otherwise. But should you want to entertain the thought of even being a part-time vegetarian, these steps will make the transition easier.
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The livestock industry is one of the most damaging things for the environment, so cutting out meat has a huge environmental impact.
I’ve been a vegetarian/pescaterian for over 7 years now and haven’t eaten any meat (except fish) during that time. A lot of people ask “How do you do it?” and I tell them it’s really not as hard as they think. In the U.S. it’s becoming much more commonplace and many people are more aware from it than before. Plus, if you live in the Northeast, like me, it’s probably even more prevalent than it might be in the other parts of the country.
I definitely recommend just switching over little by little. As you said, changing one meal or day at a time is a great way to gradually work up to going all the way with it.
Hey, welcome. Glad to hear you have been making an effort to eat less meat. That is great. You are right too about the gradual thing. Going slow definitely helps you make the change.
Jeffrey, I’m in the mid-Atlantic part of the East Coast and people look at me cross-eyed when I tell them I don’t eat meat. I agree with you that it’s definitely becoming more commonplace but depending on where you live will definitely impact the reaction of the people around you.
I have no problem with what other people decide to do and would never judge another’s decision on the subject, but for me, I enjoy the taste of various meats and wouldn’t give it up unless I was told my life depended on it by a doctor. I’ve seen the documentaries, and the studies, and it may be insensitive to say but it doesn’t alter my way of thinking. I’ve pretty much given up on soda and totally eliminated packaged food from my diet, but meat is a staple and will be for the foreseeable future.
I agree. We should respect others decisions. I guess for me the one big this is eco impact. Farms are one of the worst for this. If we all ate less meat we could make a real difference.
I respect what a personal decision this is, Eric. I certainly would never force my choice on someone else nor would I condemn someone for not choosing the same as me. I know people who do that and it’s not pretty.
I’m afraid that if I saw slaughter house photos, I’d probably lean towards vegetarian. I don’t consider myself a big meat eater, but I definitely include it in my meals. As much as I’d like to make the switch, and maybe incorporate fish into my diet and remove beef and chicken, since I’m not the cook in the house, it’s not going to happen.
I’ve seen the photos and videos. I also grew up in a farm town and have seen plenty of animals slaughtered in person. Food’s food.
The photos and videos that get circulated are the exceptions. Most animals die quickly, and the slaughterhouses work to make that happen.
It’s not a moral stance, it’s a money issue. If an animal is kicking around, workers get hurt. Worker’s Comp is expensive. If an animal dies slowly, it takes longer to get it to the end of the assembly line.
Interesting take. Didn’t think of that. To each his own. I personally don’t like whole killing thing period despite how quick it is. To each his own though.
Jason, I agree that many of the videos that get circulated are for shock value but it still is way too disgusting for me to think about. I don’t care how humane the killing might be, the thought of eating a dead animal turns my stomach. At one point, I was fine with it but after the images, I just can’t do it.
Talk with your cook. See if you can try a meat free dish once a week and go from there. There are a ton of awesome recipes you could try. And yes, if you knew how the food got to your plate I am sure you would second guess eating it.
I’m definitely not ready to change over either. I can appreciate the health and green benefits of being a vegetarian, but it is just not in the cards. I can do moderation but not outright denial.
Every little step counts. Do what you can and don’t rush it because if you do you will just despise the change. Try one meat free a week for a while and see how that goes.
I don’t eat meat, except for pork, chicken, beef, fish, and the occasional alligator. I’m a carnitarian. 🙂
I just hate the idea of all of those vegetables being trucked in from California. In Minnesota, in the winter, eating local means eating meat.
We are vegetarians for one meal a week. Sometimes it grows to two meals. The transistion is slowly working.
Glad to hear you are making the effort. There is this misconception that vegetarian food tastes bad. This is not true. There are a ton of great recipes out there.
Every little bit counts! Glad to hear you are making the effort!
Over here, vegetarians are quite common place so it is no big deal. I do like meat but not in excess.
We were away over the weekend with some Jewish friends. One of them loves bacon (a Sabat Special), the other is a vegetarian. But they do eat eggs and keep chickens. It’s a funny old world! As long as you don’t try to impose your tastes (!) on everyone else, particularly in your house, it’s fine.
Agreed. People should be free to make their own choices.
I’m an omnivore, but respect anyone’s choice as long as it doesn’t get forced on me.
That’s fine with me. Everyone is free to make their own choices.
There are many reasons to choose a vegan lifestyle. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life-altering choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org
I know that I couldn’t make a major lifestyle change like that without some sort of transition like you describe. I suppose meat is one of my vices.
Watch Food Inc. Your views on meat production (heck, the whole food distribution system) will change forever.
I think Jana would agree with you. She wrote the post and hates how animals are treated. I don’t like it either which is why I too am a vegetarian. Very well done documentary.