My Story of Becoming A Vegetarian

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Fresh veggiesI have been vegetarian for about 3 and a half years but it did not happen overnight, it has been a long transitional process over the past 25 years of my life. So, if you have ever wondered about the process of becoming a vegetarian, this is one woman’s story. While mine was gradual, many people make the change to eating vegetarian overnight due to health need or desire to protect animal rights. There are so many reasons that people become vegetarian but perhaps my story can shed some light on how it can evolve over time as you become more educated on what works best for you.

Step 1: Stop Eating Red Meat

At the age of twelve, my dad and grandmother were both diagnosed with high cholesterol and the doctors suggested they make some diet changes. They were asked to cut red meat, eggs and a few other things out of their diets. Well, being a very picky eater as a child, I was not to keen on the taste of beef so I used this family diet change to my advantage and stopped eating beef as well. This was a very easy switch for me as I really did not enjoy eating it anyway and there were lots of other options in my household which meant lots of chicken for the next 20 years of my life.

Step 2: Stop Eating Fatty Fast Food and Soda

I remained picky in my food choices and in high school, when I started playing basketball, I started paying more real attention to my diet. Growing up in a home with a single, working mom, my sister and I learned to cook a great deal. In fact, my Mom put each of us in charge of coming up with the menu for one dinner a night and preparing it, so we were really good at making Roasted Chicken, Spaghetti, Grilled Cheese and Tuna Casserole. But, living in a single-parent home also meant more eating out which with our budget, meant a great deal of fast food meals at Wendy’s, Arby’s, McDonald’s and the like (why do they all end with apostrophe “‘s”? Is it to make us feel like we are actually eating at the home of a friend or family member?!?) So, more sport-focus in my life also meant more exposure to nutrition and I quickly adapted to eating salads and water vs. a Big Mac and Coke when we ate out during my high school years.

Step 3: Stop Eating All Meat, Including Chicken

Grilled romaineFast forward through my Freshman Fifteen days in college and beyond to 2009 when I went to see Food, Inc., a documentary about factory farming and its impact on our nation’s obesity epidemic. Like every year, my husband and I had picked out the films we wanted to see at our annual local film festival, River Run Film Festival, and Food, Inc. was one of our 6-8 films we saw in 2009 during the festival. But, it was the film that had the most impact on our lives. We walked out of the movie and knew we would not be eating meat again today and probably for the next week. We did not know how far beyond the immediate, foreseeable future this no-meat diet would take us but we were disgusted and ready to learn more.

So, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about factory farming and vegetarian diets. I also talked to my doctor about my diet change to make sure I was on the right track with my plans. What I learned blew me away! Why don’t more people know that you can get all the nutrients and vitamins you need to survive and more in fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes?!? For example, spinach is rich with Iron, beans pack a serious protein pack and kale can prevent almost any disease you can think of when paired with a healthy diet filled with a variety of colors. I learned about quinoa, the supergrain that can sit in for a carb-laden pasta noodle any day.

Step 4: Learn to Cook

Lucky for me, all this food variety and encouragement led me to want to cook. My husband’s mom is a gourmet chef to the extreme so when I met her ten years ago and ate her food, I was inspired (and intimidated!) to learn more. I wanted to make people happy with the food I put on the table while also helping them make healthier food choices. So, I subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine, bought a few cookbooks and started cooking up meals that resembled a rainbow more than the boring brown and white plates I had eaten in the past. It was beautiful, inspiring to eat and so much fun to learn how different flavors work together. It actually made this once picky eater a much better eater! I now can be seen eating brussels sprouts and beets which were among my most hated foods as a kid.

Step 5: Eat Local

Stuffed acorn squashDuring this time of becoming vegetarian, I also started paying more attention to my impact on the environment as part of my eating. So, I started buying as much produce as I could at local farmer’s markets which not only tastes better and supports the local economy but also was cheaper! What a surprise. And probably the best part of eating local is getting to know all of the farmers, artisan bakers, etc. personally. Even the people you meet in the market are just amazing! It was a foodie’s paradise and I was quickly becoming a foodie and finding “my people”.

The health benefits of eating local should not be ignored either. When you buy at the grocery store, most produce and meats come from all over the country and the world. I remember one time when I really paid attention to what I was in my shopping cart: avocados from Mexico, salmon from China (!) and blood oranges from Spain! I mean, I love to travel as much as the next girl, but my food should not have to travel from so far away to get to me and if it does, you know it was not picked at the peak of ripeness or I would not be able to enjoy it now! So, this got me researching another thing: how can I get the maximum nutrition from produce (or any food) and the scientific answer was the same as the obvious one – pick it when it is ripe and eat it, this is how you get the full nutrition out of food. So local became my first choice whenever time and season allows.

Thinking of Going Vegetarian?

So, now that you have read my story of how I got to my current diet of eating vegetarian, perhaps you want to take a step-by-step gradual approach as well. Or maybe you want to just go for it! Either way, be patient with yourself. You may lapse at times, especially at first and most likely when eating at a friend’s home who has made you dinner. Make your intentions clear to your friends and family about your diet and the reasons you are doing it. Most will support you and help adapt meals to allow you to eat alongside them with ease. Some may not understand and be more resistant to your dietary changes. Many of my friends and family thought it was just a phase I was going through – at every step of the way! – but I have held strong and feel physically, mentally and emotionally strong as result.

Share your Becoming Vegetarian Stories

Are you going through your shift to vegetarian eating now? Or perhaps you are already a vegetarian? Share you stories with us in the comments below so we can create a network of support for one another. I wish you good health and much success!

Michelle is passionate about living a healthy life. She shops farmers markets, cooks organic, and eats vegetarian. Juicing and smoothies are a part of everyday life in her home. So are recycling, composting, and gardening. I guess you could say Michelle has a green thumb. Even when a plant doesn't make it under her care, she is still dedicated to making the earth a greener place for future generations.

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18 Comments on "My Story of Becoming A Vegetarian"

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Jason Eden
I just made the shift to becoming a vegetarian. I’m 40 years old, grew up on a rural beef farm. Blogged about my transition:

https://www.thebookofwonder.org/2015/04/personal-being-consistent-when-it-hurts/

Sadie Cornelius
Jason, that’s great to hear you have made the transition! I too am a vegetarian and know it can be a challenge sometimes but be strong, and stick with it! Hope you feel the healthy benefits and thanks for sharing your story too!
Jason Eden
Thanks! So far, it hasn’t been difficult at all. Once I figured out a way to look at it from a viable, equivalent Golden Rule scenario, it was like someone flipped a switch. I haven’t wanted to eat meat since. It still smells good, but something inside me has changed and I genuinely don’t want it. Hopefully that lasts… 🙂
Sadie Cornelius
Jason, glad to hear! I agree once you get over the hump, you don’t really miss meat at all! Enjoy the healthier lifestyle!
Julia Brindle
WHAT is the golden rule scenario?
Melissa
People keep telling me to invest in farming for meat and meat production resources. However, as a vegetarian and someone who carefully watches the food market, I find it hard to believe that meat will grow. 80% of the US population has now heard of Meatless Monday and sales of meats in the US are down increasingly YOY. I think it would be a short term gain with this kind of investment but in the long term we cannot support the continued growth with the limited resources we have for land, food and water. Not to mention the greenhouse gases it is creating that are ruining our air, food and water supplies.

So, I guess I am not sure I believe in this as an investment and most definitely do not believe in it personally.

Kathy Faust
I sometimes think that I was born with a steak in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve thought about what it would be like to become a vegetarian many times, and even attempted it once, but it’s just not for me. However, I do see the importance of having meat-free meals from time to time. Not only does it save money, but it can also be much lower in fat and calories. Of course, the biggest reason I would become a vegetarian has nothing to do with fat and calories or cost. What bothers me about eating meat is the slaughtering of animals.

I’m an animal lover and absolutely cannot think about the fact that I’m eating a creature that once walked the earth. On the other hand though, I can’t give up meat. I know how healthy lean protein is and how important it is to the body. Obviously, the Lord gave us molars and canine teeth for a reason. Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept where meat comes from.

I do admire those that are able to live a meat-free life. It’s something that must take a lot of effort, especially when you were raised in a home that served meat.

Anonymous
This article was so inspirational! Not only does the author advocate being vegetarian, but clearly is encouraging being healthy. I, too, saw the film Food, Inc., but I also saw another documentary about a woman who was vegetarian, but still managed to put on a lot of weight eating fried fatty foods and pasta all the time. This seems to be a common issue: I notice that a lot of people who go vegetarian do not necessarily take steps to better their health.

So you can imagine that I was a little skeptical going into the article. By the author’s second step of quitting fast food and soda, though, I knew the advice here was a cut above. Except for Steps one and three about giving up meats, the advice is universal for good health and sustainability, really. I want to add that there are trends going on such as “meatless Mondays”, where you can essentially get by without having go cold-turkey at Step one. Plus, learning to cook and buying eating local are priceless bits of information for anyone wanting to better his or her life. And vegetarianism, like cooking, is a lifelong pursuit that only gets better with time.

Anonymous
I thank you for this post. I think that it’s great that someone is willing to share their real journey towards vegetarianism. I think in past years, a lot of vegetarians acted like it wasn’t a hard switch at all. They were disgusted by the treatment of animals or by how unhealthy meat was, and they wanted to make the switch and didn’t struggle or do it in steps at all.

I am noticing a trend though now of a lot of bloggers that are vegetarian or vegans that are sharing their journey and the things they struggled with. I love it when people admit that it’s hard to make tempeh taste good. I know that it’s supposed to be healthy for you, but it is a challenge. I think reading real world perspectives on these types of things are the catalysts for more people to become authentic vegetarians. The lifestyle becomes more accessible to us and we can actually see ourselves gradually making vegetarian food choices and eventually living the lifestyle every day. I think that the steps you have given here are perfectly doable. This could even be called a how-to guide.

Anonymous
Becoming a vegetarian is something that I have been considering as a life change for quite some time now. Roughly four years ago, I too found out that my family has genetically high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There is no mystery that eating meat, specifically red meat, but also chicken and fish, can seriously drive this problem to the point of dangerous levels.

At times I have dieted and gone strictly to a fruit and vegetable diet and the results have been very good. I can only imagine that going to a all meatless existence would benefit the human body quite a bit. The trick is finding ways to get the proper amounts of proteins and other vitamins you cannot naturally get from eating only fruits and vegetables.

This article has proved quite helpful in opening my eyes on ways to do this. The different supplements and alternative foods that are out there now to help a human body are much more available and varied that at any point in the past. I will continue to explore my options and see about going all veggie.

Anonymous
This blog has been making me think deeply about my food choices and my environmental choices. I am grateful for such comprehensive information and such in depth articles. I am really pleased with this blog.

Thank you for sharing your story about going vegetarian too. It is something that I’m considering for so many reasons. It is a hard switch and I have tried going cold turkey several times to no avail. I really appreciate that you shared that your switch took time and that it wasn’t overnight. So many of us feel guilty and want to go vegetarian I think and try. Then we want meat again or just have no skills to create a meal that is more than just bread and soy butter, and we give up. Your steps make a lot of sense. I know others like me have felt guilty about not going cold turkey, but now I see that it can take a year or more to make the transition and that this is also considered normal, this feels great for me. I feel empowered to gradually make better choices this time. Thanks again!

Anonymous
Even though I have never tried being a vegetarian, this article writer’s suggestions sound accurate to me. My husband has cirrhosis of the liver and his doctor asked him to cut out red meat and dairy products from his diet. The second thing he did was cut out fast food and caffeinated beverages. I have tried cutting red meat out of my diet, but that was difficult. I like beef too much. Anyway, if someone has the will power to become a vegetarian, power to that person.

Frankly, being vegetarian is better for a person’s health. A vegetarian may need to watch out for vegetable recalls, but they don’t need to worry about meat contamination or what happens in factory farming. I was surprised to see that not eating red meat can lower cholesterol; what I heard before was mainly hearsay. That’s pretty amazing! If people in this country just cut out beef and venison from their diet, they can lower their cholesterol. There are many other ways to lower your cholesterol, such as cutting out fast food and junk food. Being a vegetarian has many more benefits than people know.

Kathy Faust
I’ll admit that I’ve never given too much thought to becoming a vegetarian, other than a brief vegetarian experience in middle school. I’ll admit that if I had to see the animals that I would be eating, it would definitely change my mind. However, I’m a firm believer that meat is healthy for you. I understand that you can combine different fruits and vegetables and grains to obtain similar nutrition, but humans were given canine teeth for a reason. The same way we were given molars for a reason.

What I’m trying to say is that I believe in a balanced diet of whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. However, that doesn’t mean I would ever try to make a vegetarian eat meat. We all have to choose what we feel is right for our bodies.

I also greatly admire those that are able to give up meat. I know it’s something I could probably never do, unless I was in a position in which I saw the animals that would become my food. I’m sure it takes a lot of willpower to go from meat-eater to a vegetarian. Thanks for sharing your journey and for offering advice to those that want to change.

Anonymous
I love your article. It was so inspirational, I am also on my way to becoming a vegetarian. My diet change was kick started by the documentary “Food Inc.” The way the animals were treated was heart wrenching, especially the way the sick cattle was treated. After watching it, I lost my appetite for meat, as it is I have trouble digesting red meat. But overall, I no longer felt drawn towards fried chicken or the lot.

Once in a while I relapse and eat meat in like Chinese or other Asian food. I love Indian tandoori chicken, but my meat consumption has become very low, and is usually not existent.

But now after reading the article, I have found more reason than ever to turn vegetarian, for the environmentally friendly impact. Some of my lovable meat eating friends tend to joke that vegetarians cause global warming by eating all the plants. I am thinking of emailing them this article, and telling them to view some of the documentaries you mentioned!

Kathy Faust
I think that becoming a vegetarian is a really personal choice. I have often thought about it and the health benefits that come with it. But I do enjoy meat. I think part of that is just habit. I mean you kind of grow up with this thing of having meat on the table at least once a day, which is kind of odd when you consider that so many Americans have meat at every single meal while years ago and even today in some countries meat might beat at the table once a day.

Lately I have been eating more vegetables and fruits. I know that part of my fear was that I would not be able to get creative enough with just vegetables. We tend to think of them as side dishes rather than as main courses. Facebook as actually helped me a lot to this end because I see so many pictures of these really great looking vegetable dishes. Those pictures sometimes inspire me to look at food in a different light. Sometimes, they even give me cravings for a specific vegetable.

I don’t know that cutting meat out entirely is what I really want to do, but I do want to at least cut down on how much meat I eat.

Kathy Faust
I have really been thinking about making the move to the vegetarian lifestyle. My problem is that I really like beef. But lately I have been eating mushrooms when I want beef. Sometimes I also replace it with turkey meat and just season it so it has a beefy flavor. Except for bacon, I am not a big fan of pork. In fact, I sometimes get sick when I eat it, so I tend to avoid it.

I think the really big drawback right now is that my garden did not produce enough for me to consider going vegetarian based on my own garden. If the weather had not been so bad, I would have gotten more out of it and been more inclined to give up meat.

I am getting older and everything is changing. A visit to the doctor is sometimes more than routine now. Sometimes it seems crucial. I know my eating habits have quite a bit to do with it. In fact, they have just about everything to do with it. So for now, rather than just becoming a vegetarian, I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables. If I don’t eat meat that day, I congratulate myself. If I do, I am still happy because I am eating less of it. At least I am making an effort toward a healthier lifestyle.

Kathy Faust
This was an interesting article. I once tried to become a vegetarian, but quickly found out that it wasn’t for me. I personally believe in a balanced diet that includes lean meat, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and minimal fat. However, I can see the benefits to a vegetarian diet.

I like that this article provides a step-by-step approach to changing to a meat-free diet. Many people who have grown up eating meat will most certainly have a hard time giving up meat all at once. I think transitioning from red meat to chicken and then to firm tofu or Portobello mushrooms can help meat eaters adapt to a vegetarian diet. I also think finding recipes that use ingredients that taste and have the same texture of meat would keep previous meat eaters satisfied.

I like that you also mentioned to eat locally. If you’re going to be a vegetarian, it’s important to get the best produce possible. Not only does this ensure that there are higher nutrients in the vegetables, but that they have the best taste possible. Not to mention that many processed vegetables contain animal products.

SueMo
So many people are extreme when it comes to diets. It is great to see an article where you can do small steps at a time. It is easy to eat a lot of the “wrong” foods when you become a vegetarian; when you replace meat with french fries and lots of pasta, the affects can be worse that eating the red meat. Thanks for showing the smart way to do it!

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