There are probably as many ways to go vegetarian/vegan as there are people who choose to do it! In one of my first posts, I covered some of the various labels that are attached to different eating styles. Lacto-Ovo, Pescetarian, Fruitarian, etc. Frankly, I think that making any sort of commitment at each meal is hard enough without having to make sure you're in bounds with your label. We're all just doing the best we can out here :)
When it comes to transitioning to a vegetarian diet, there are two predominant ways to approach:
Baby Steps vs. Cliff Jumping
Statistically, people who take baby steps or phase out have the greater success rate for the long, joyful haul. Most human animals are averse to change - duh. Waving good bye to animal products over a longer period can be less painful. Perhaps the missing hamburger is less of an issue when you can still do a chicken sandwich. It all feels and looks the same on the plate which gives us a measure of comfort and familiarity. With any luck, when chicken turns to fish, you hardly remember the burger.
Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete shares a great concept of making the change in "legs". Begin by not eating animals with four legs (cows, pigs, sheep, goats). When that's comfortable, remove the two-legged animals (birds, ducks, turkeys, etc.) and finally remove the "legless" (seafood, shell fish).
The following excerpt from Matt Frazier's audio interview with Registered Dietitian (and Vegan) Matt Ruscigno has really stuck with me -
"I've been vegan almost 15 years now and the people I knew 10 years ago who were vegan aren't vegan anymore. But the people I knew 10 years ago who were all vegan except for ice cream and pizza are still all vegan except for ice cream and pizza. They don't call themselves vegan. They just say they're vegetarian but they've figured out where they are in the spectrum of plant-based nutrition - found where they're comfortable and that's where they stay."
This resonates so much with me because the positive impact over time is much greater by those who don't put the pressure of a "cherry label" on a huge Change Sundae! If you decide over night to become a vegan and fall apart in 10 days, you'll be back on the animal wagon before you know it. While you're there, enjoy the double whammy of (a) feeling like you failed and (b) not putting in enough time to really feel the health benefits. What are the odds that you'll try it again? It's just like exercise - what idiot just keeps on doing it when they see no results?
I've heard friends say "I would be vegetarian but I love Thanksgiving turkey too much!". So... eat turkey at Thanksgiving and be vegetarian the rest of the year. Could that work? Or, "I could never give up chicken. Ever!" Well, could you give up cow meat for 30 days and see how it goes?
This is a great opportunity to evaluate where you are in the spectrum. At the very least, it's an interesting exercise!
What are you already doing that's vegetarian? Expand those meals! Great salads? Rice and beans? Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches? Hummus & veggies? Tomato soup for lunch? Roasted Veggies, Spaghetti with fresh basil, Cereal or oatmeal? Veggie Burgers? Can you increase the frequency of those meals?
Are there any animals you just don't like to eat? Try drawing one line at a time and just see . During my 40th birthday cruise, I ordered veal. I'd never eaten veal mainly because other options just sounded better. Baby calves didn't seem all that appealing even when I was eating meat. It turns out that (to me) it tasted like crap. Veal - out - easy. Most of my friends already eat a limited amount of red meat. If only for the compelling health reasons, try saying that you don't eat cows for 30 days. If they sky doesn't come crashing down, perhaps you can add pigs to list next month!
Now for the other realm - my realm - Cliff Jumping! This isn't a shocker - no one who knows me would place "Lauren" and "moderation" together in a sentence. My life is a house built on change. Draw me a trench in the sand! I drew my first line at eating no other animals except for locally caught mahi mahi on Sunday afternoons. The Sunday fish happened once and then I was over it. Done deal.
I don't think Cliff Jumping works for very many people but if you know it in your heart or you've been wrestling with the idea for awhile - the fastest route might be the best route!
Which ever route and to whatever degree you choose, I can promise you that there is an awesome place waiting for you. A place that provides calm in your heart, peace in your mind and a whole lot less illness, violence and suffering in this world. You make a difference.
Eat with reckless compassion! Lauren