On March 1st, 2017, I became a Vegetarian. Since then, I have seen my actions inspire others to eat less meat and have gained a better perspective for how Vegetarianism and conscious food choices can have a positive impact on our bodies and our planet.
In this post, I’d like to frame the conversation around four repeatable and transferable strategies that might help others on journeys of their own.
1. Know Your Why
Before discussing any tactics like knowing which combination of beans are the perfect protein replacement for the amino acids in meat, it is imperative to know deep down inside what your reasons are for becoming a vegetarian.
Without internalizing these intentions, the roadblocks that you encounter on the way will derail you. In our modern society, it is shockingly easy to succumb to the ease of eating meat.
Oddly enough, for me the motivator was politics. As soon as recently elected President Trump began his initiatives to roll back climate protections and appointed a known climate change sceptic to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, I knew that I wanted to be part of the resistance against these policies.
Yet there is a large gap between wanting to do something positive about the environment and knowing what would have a large impact. Many research sources suggest changing your lightbulbs, recycling your paper and plastic, or commuting by bicycle, three things I was already doing.
Digging deeper into the research, I was shocked to learn about the environmental impacts that consuming animal products has on our environment. Going vegetarian can provide more Carbon Dioxide savings than installing solar panels on your house, purchasing a hybrid car, or a number of other expensive environmental actions.
This knowledge propelled me to take action, and to do it now. Ultimately, the important aspect was discovering my why, the driving force that would reinforce my decision-making ability long after willpower evaporated.
2. Get Help
Humans are social creatures. We crave social interactions, acceptance from peers, and the desire to fit in is directly integrated into our DNA. When making any change in your life, it’s important to surround yourself with people who support that decision.
By sharing my intention to become Vegetarian with the people I interact with daily, both friends and colleagues, I was able to identify a supportive group of individuals who wanted to help me along on this journey.
But it wasn’t all easy. There was also an overwhelming majority who instead made the decision to ridicule me. No matter who you are with or where you are, there will always be nay-sayers. The important part here is to achieve buy-in from a select group of people, then try to navigate your lifestyle to make eating decisions when they are around.
For example, if you identify that one of your colleagues is already a Vegetarian, you can ask them to accompany you to the cafeteria at work to help make easier decisions, or just observe what they eat for lunch.
Additionally, if you know that a friend of yours is also interested in becoming Vegetarian, you can go out to eat with them. Together you can try out a veggie-friendly restaurant, discover new ingredients, and emulate the recipes at home.
At the end of the day, the most important people in your journey to become a Vegetarian will always be the people you live with. Getting buy-in and support from your roommates or family members is absolutely vital, so share your WHY from Part 1 with them and ask for support.
3. Start Small
BJ Fogg is a leading behavioral science researcher from Stanford university who has devoted his career to studying the secrets of long-term behavior change. He has developed a system, called Tiny Habits, that has systematically proven to lead to lasting change.
The thinking behind Tiny Habits is that anyone who goes cold turkey and tries to make a drastic shift overnight may be successful for the first few weeks, but will eventually regress to their old behaviors. On the other hand, people who start with small changes and steadily build positive momentum are much more likely to achieve and sustain their goals months and years down the line.
Although March 1st was the day I made the mental decision to stop eating meat, it was a moment I had been building towards for months. I started by eating meat less frequently, then eating vegetarian at home, before finally being ready to make the jump for good.
For the goal of becoming a Vegetarian, there are a number of Tiny Habits that you can employ to help you get the ball rolling and achieve a much larger eventual goal:
- Cook one vegetarian meal
- Eat vegetarian one day of the week
- Switch from beef to chicken or fish
- Start eating vegetarian for one meal everyday
- Next time you go to a restaurant, try the vegetarian option
4. Calculate The Changes
Let’s touch back on your WHY from Part 1. Are you becoming a vegetarian to live healthier? To have a positive impact on the environment? Or maybe to treat animals with the respect they deserve?
Whatever your WHY may be, pull out something that you can measure. It can be your blood pressure, your daily happiness levels, the amount of carbon dioxide you have saved from being released into the atmosphere, or the swaths of land that will remain forest instead of being devoted to cattle grazing.
Attaching your positive change to a number value can be the perfect motivator to ground your actions and develop positive momentum.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the impact of animal products on the environment, I recommend starting with this video: The Hidden Cost Of Hamburgers
For diving deeper into the facts and learning more about traditional organization’s resistance to sharing the impact of meat and dairy consumption, watch Cowspiracy.
For learning more about the health impacts of eating meat, watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.
For the science and research behind the tiny habits method, check out TinyHabits.com