When I was sixteen, I was a proud vegetarian. I toyed with the idea of going vegan, but after two and a half years as a solid vegetarian, I reverted back to eating meat. Now, I look back and I remember that my time as a vegetarian was the healthiest I had ever been; I was eating more fruits, vegetables, soy, and nuts than I do now, and had more energy than ever. Thus, I have decided to work towards becoming vegetarian once again.
While this is by no means an advocate for one diet over another, I wanted to reflect on my process of becoming a vegetarian again, and the ups and downs I might not have noticed before.
Starting is the hardest part.
Whenever the urge to stop eating meat would hit, I’d say to myself, “Okay, tomorrow is the day,” and allow myself one last meat dish to enjoy in dramatic fashion. The thing is, I naturally gravitate towards vegetarian alternates to meat products. But when I suddenly restrict myself, all I want is a a double cheeseburger.
Like any habit, it doesn’t become second nature over night.
On the morning of day four, I went to the student dining hall for breakfast. I remember a point when I was first vegetarian that the thought of eating meat never even crossed my mind. Somehow, my eyes would pass all meat dishes on menus and counters as if they weren’t even there.
On this day, though, my first thought was to get a sausage, egg, and cheese on a bagel. I went for pancakes and fruit instead, but I realized that at least, in the beginning, this was going to need to be a conscious choice.
Think creatively and simply.
I’m on a meal plan in my college and my options are more limited than they were when I was living at home and able to cook for myself. However, with a little bit of outside-the-box thinking, I am able to create the meals I want, even on the days they aren’t pre-made in the dining hall. Grilled cheese (with tomato!), yogurt with honey and dried fruit, salad with veggies and pasta — I found that I don’t need to work too hard to make yummy meals, sans-meat.
It’s okay to mess up.
This was never going to be easy. On an especially stressful day, I was back to square one after treating myself to buffalo chicken pizza (it was worth it). The important thing that I learned was not to berate myself for any backwards step. This isn’t a competition, and change is always slow. Plus, you can always start again tomorrow.