After 20 years of basking in the meaty texture of a raw filet mignon, putting bacon on anything with avocado and ridding steakhouses of their famed Brazilian sausages, I’ve become a plant-eater — a vegetarian who persistently resists the churrasco entrée at local restaurants and the Insta-worthy oysters of downtown Richmond for the healthier things in life. 

It began when I downed a Jack Brown’s burger in about 2 ½ minutes. While on most occasions The Elvis, a famed peanut butter bacon burger (don’t knock it ‘till you try it) hits the spot in ways I can’t explain, I left feeling like I couldn't move — and not in a good way. So I decided to do what many thought I lack the capability to do: be a healthy vegetarian. 

I wanted to have a positive relationship with food, one where it was more than just a meal I could put in saliva-inducing slow-motion videos on my Snapstories. I’d been wanting to make changes for a while that would benefit my body, my skin and my overall happiness. So naturally I turned to Instagram for inspiration and Googled so much my fingers became numb.

Be curious

I’m by no means an expert, but that’s the best part. When I went onto Insta’s explore page, I came across a variety of fitness accounts that showed before and after pictures of women who’ve adopted a plant-based diet and a lifestyle of frequent exercise. 

Usually, I’d exit out and sprint toward the nearest jar of Nutella, further wallowing in my sorrows by chasing it with double dark chocolate gelato.

But this time, I wanted to know more — everything from how she got to where she was to the exercises she implemented into her routine. And it did not involve consuming trays of Oreos despite their vegan nature.

I researched how to transition into a healthier lifestyle, where my trash didn’t consist of a Big Boy cheesy bread from Chanello's.  And my, oh my, are there resources available with a tap of a search button. People are more than willing to share their journey of challenges and success. The benefits of plant-based diets are out there. Tips for how to persevere. You best believe I bookmarked those bad boys.

Research a meal plan that works

I had no idea vegetarian meals were more than just salads.

Yes, they involve meal planning and cooking, but there’s a weirdly satisfying feeling when you whip up zucchini noodles with a hazelnut carrot sauce and the smell lingers in the air. Especially when you were once labelled as the woman who’d mess up cereal.

In the midst of our hectic-prone lives, we might not always be able to concoct these intricate chef-like meals but it doesn’t matter. I stumbled upon Hurry the Food Up and YouTube videos of High Carb Hannah not only providing free meal plans but encouraging my favorite hobby: eating. I NEED flavor in my life. I need spices and excitement in my meals. Most of the recipes they offered were ready in under 30 minutes, which is perfect considering I’m impatient and eat half the ingredients as I’m preparing it all. 

You learn what you like and dislike and after a while, are able to mold these recipes and meal plans into what works best for what you want. Slowly in the course of a month, my skin cleared up, I felt energetic and looked even more forward to my food than I did when I’d guiltily eat a 20-piece chicken nugget meal and a large fry from McDonald’s. 

Find people who share similar interests

Here’s the truth: some girls just want to be thick with three c’s and have a butt that Sir Mix-A-Lot raps about. And let me tell you folks, I. Am. One. Of. Those. People. If I was going to pursue this lifestyle, I wasn’t going to half-booty it. I was going all the way.

This is how I came across Madalin Giorgetta, whose gym guide targets exactly that along with strength training. Her account shows the truth behind getting fit: it’s a long process, but it’s worth it to keep going. Along with her gym guide comes the availability of a Facebook group, where people on the same healthy lifestyle journey as you ask questions, support and motivate #girlpower. This is where I then found my love of doing HIIT sessions.

I’ve since become more comfortable in the gym, getting on with my bad self while doing lateral rises with my eight pound weights because hey, everyone starts somewhere. And it doesn’t have to be with tracking calories or depriving yourself of that chocolate. Sometimes it just takes the Internet, one dumbbell and an avocado brie sandwich at a time.