Let me take you on a bit of a journey. Why did I stop eating meat? For me, it was all about taking back control of my health. This was why I started asking myself ‘How do I stop eating meat and animal products?’
But why was I in the Doctor’s office? A while ago I was told that there were a number of cysts in my body that they believed needed particular attention.
As I sat in the Doctor’s office, she explained that in her opinion, it would be best to operate, like ‘now’. My eyes welled up with tears and I began to cry. As I walked out of the her office, I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I turned to my husband, “I don’t want to do it!” I said.
I knew that there had to be a better way. So, I started doing my research. Moving towards a whole-food plant-based diet seemed like the best option for me.
How do I stop eating meat?
In years gone by I had thought of Veganism as somewhat extreme.
I had seen Vegan protesters voicing their opinions. Graphic P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) advertisements and documentaries like Earthlings (as shown below). And all sorts of media about how animals are being maltreated.
I won’t sugar coat it, some of the footage is garish, shocking, and leaves me feeling emotionally raw. In my heart I understand the importance of saving innocent animals, and improving our planet. This is an admirable ideology embraced by many, and I applaud these people for their stance. But it’s not what motivated me to make the change.
Selfish as that may sound, the truth is that I was more motivated by understanding the health implications that I believed were important to me.
The overall ethos of cruelty free Veganism was a very close second for me. It was probably more appropriately framed as a ‘1.1’ really than a ‘2’ on the list, if you get my meaning. I do care about animals, but having grown up in a very strong ‘meat eating’ culture, I just saw it a little differently then.
I could talk on this shift for hours, but I think you understand that my reasons for changing were more relative to my wellbeing at the time. This is what shook my values system forever.
For many people, animal rights is not the only reason to go plant-based. For many like me, health has been an important motivator. So, let’s dive in to the topic at hand, and look closer at the question ‘How do I stop eating meat?’
My steps to stop eating meat
It can be daunting moving over from an omnivorous diet to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. I totally get it. I grew up in South Africa where chicken is considered a vegetable.
There are so many foods that I used to love, cheese being one of my all time favorites. But, at the end of the day, if it’s detrimental to your health, why eat it?
I found that I needed to move past my cravings, and stop focusing on what I was missing out on and start focusing on what I was gaining. Unless it’s unwanted fat, in which case; lose away.
When you start asking ‘How do I stop eating meat?’ I would have to say that education is paramount. This will help to build a basis for your reasons as to why you want to transition.
Get clarity and take the opportunity to come to the topic from an informed basis. I find that the more I learn about the science behind true health, the less desirable animal products become.
There are some amazing physicians from the United States that research, write, and speak on The Truth About Health. Here are some great resources that are packed with information. Just a handful to get you started:
- The China Study by T. Collin Campbell
- How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D
- The Pleasure Trap by Alan Goldhamer, D.C.
- The Plant-Based Solution by Joel K. Kahn M.D.
- Vegan Nutrition Pure and Simple by Michael Klaper, M.D, and
- Volumetrics Dr Barbara Rolls
I could go on and on, but the reality is that there are lots of Physicians and Scientists advocating the benefits of a whole-food plant-based (W.F.P.B.) lifestyle.
They have found that pharmaceutical medicine is not enough. It’s not fixing the problem. It’s described as being a band-aid at best. By the time somebody gets to the Doctor’s office, often it’s thought to be too late.
But that’s not entirely true.
I have come to learn that there are options, and we need to look for ways to prevent and reverse disease.
Make a decision to go plant-based.
I know, that probably sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many people just dip their toe in the water.
If you are not prepared to commit, then you won’t last the distance. I know that sounds harsh but it’s just the reality.
I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. If you can’t make a commitment to yourself for your own reasons, you’re probably not going to stick at it long term.
This is key to your journey in stopping eating meat.
Start choosing to reduce the consumption of animal products, and move towards whole plant-based food. Swap out meat with plants. Legumes are a great option that gives you texture, fiber and flavor.
When mu Husband and I first made the decision to go plant-based, we still had some animal products in our house. I wasn’t prepared to let all that food go to waste.
So, we agreed to incorporate larger amounts of plants into our meals and reduce the amount of animal products. I think this made the transition easier because I started to get use to the flavor and texture of foods without the meat and cheese.
When the meat was gone, we chose not to replace it.
I understand that some people may feel that it’s better to go cold turkey, but I honestly don’t think that works for everybody.
The people who completely abstain from animal products and are able to commit to it long-term right from the get go are outliers. I think they’re amazing, but I just didn’t have the willpower to commit to such a big lifestyle change.
You need to be open to new ideas and embrace the opportunities for learning.
Your taste buds might not like the new flavors initially, and that’s okay, Just keep trying. Over time you’ll grow to like the taste of different foods.
Remember that most standard American diets (S.A.D.) as the popularized fast food Western diet are laden with salt, fats, and sugar (S.O.S.).
The flavor enhancers from the salts, fats, and sugars are addictive and make real food that isn’t pumped full of these taste more bland. As you eat more whole plant-based foods, your tastes will come to like the more natural flavors without all the additives.
You’ll notice how sweet carrots and fresh peas are. And you may even find that candy and soda become so sweet that you just don’t want them anymore. This process does take time.
Personally, if I eat food from fast food joints or restaurants, I often find the flavors unpleasant.
I recently had a vegan burger from a fast food chain. The burger patty was plant based and designed to imitate meat. I can’t say I was all that excited by it.
It was really salty, and my mouth felt dried out afterwards. The next day I experienced the dreaded three-thirty-itis. I can’t remember the last time I experienced that dopey feeling in the afternoon. That was the only thing that changed.
Have a plan and stick to it. Preparation is the key to your success here.
If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.
Every week I look on social media, mainly Instagram to get ideas for plant-based meals. If I can’t find a recipe, I make note of what is appealing and try to make my own version of it. I also like going onto www.forksoverknives.com to get recipe ideas.
Write your shopping list
Here’s what to do. Write a list of all the meals you’re going to make and the ingredients that you need from the supermarket.
We usually get our produce at the fruit and vegetable shop or the Farmer’s Markets. This way we’re often getting a good price and we’re not tempted by the processed foods or animal products that are set up to catch you on an impulse buy. This is really important in the early days.
Just because it’s ‘Vegan’ doesn’t make it healthy
This is why I have such a strong focus on Whole Plant-Based foods. This is not an accident, in order to be healthy we must eat whole foods, not chemical laden processed foods.
Food preparation for me is a big topic. Every weekend, I cook a big batch of rice, beans, lentils, or quinoa. Often I will chop lots of different vegetables and cook them into a curry, casserole or soup. Then when everything has cooled I portion the meals into containers for the week and freeze the excess for later.
I have found that this in the best way for me to stay on track because I am less tempted to get a lazy take out meal if I’m tired, or indulge in less healthy stuff.
Eat wholesome healthy foods before you leave the house
Take fresh fruit with you so that you’re not tempted to grab something on the run. You will be at your most vulnerable when you are hungry. Plan ahead of time to keep yourself on track.
Find a community of like-minded people
This could be a social media site like Facebook or Instagram. Or you might like to network using Meetups or Eventbrite where you can learn to cook new recipes and discuss some of your challenges.
It’s great being able to ask questions and gain new perspective from those who have walk this road before you.
Going Plant-Based in 4 Weeks
Week 1 – Breakfast
If you like cereal, just try changing the cows milk to a dairy free alternative. There are lots of great options available – soy, rice, oat, and coconut.
Overnight oats is my go to for breakfast. On Sunday I grab five jars for me, and five for my Husband.
Fill the jar about 1/3rd of the way with oats. Then cover the oats with dairy free milk alternative. Add a layer of dried or frozen fruit, nuts or even chocolate chia pudding.
Top it up with another 1/3rd of the jar of oats and dairy free milk alternative. It’s so quick and easy.
Get creative, think carrot cake – cinnamon, carrots, sultanas or raisins, chopped apple, oats and dairy free milk alternative.
If you need a little sweetness try adding two or three dates.
Week 2 – Lunch
Keep going with the breakfasts. Start adding lunch to your W.F.P.B. menu.
For example, I like making Buddha bowls. Spicy beans with tomato sauce, rice, avocado and some herbs like cilantro (Coriander).
Alternatively, I might have a salad or a soup depending on the time of year. Recently I’ve been really enjoying having a quinoa salad with rocket salad leaves, bell peppers (capsicum) and artichoke hearts. It’s so good and keeps me feeling sustained all afternoon.
These meals can all be planned in advance. We cook the rice, lentils and legumes on the weekend and it provides ready made lunch or dinners for the week.
Week 3 – Dinner
We make bean burritos, and curries at home all the time.
I don’t need to think about it when I get home because I’ve already done the work on the weekends.
Occasionally I’ll mix things up a bit. For example I love roasted vegetable e.g carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. Try placing the vegetables in a bowl, adding garlic and ginger paste and covering the vegetables to then bake.
I like to cover the vegetables for about half the cooking time to seal in the flavors. Then uncover the vegetables to allow them to brown a bit.
Cook for about 20-30 minutes total. Serve with hummus or another dip, maybe squeeze a little lemon juice over the vegetables.
So delicious! I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Week 4 – Treat yourself
There are a number of sweet treats that are animal free. We have a couple of recipe’s that you might like to try:
- Vegan Chocolate Avocado Mousse
- Raw Vegan Red Velvet Cake
- Fresh fruit with dairy free yogurt is always a winner in our house
Dinning Out and Takeaways
How do I stop eating meat when I’m dining out or getting takeaways?
Look for plant-based alternatives. Rather that choosing the beef burrito, choose the bean burrito. Or maybe elect to have the vegetarian sushi rather than the chicken or the fish.
Chinese, Indian, and Thai cuisines have lots of great Vegetarian and Vegan options.
There are fake meat’s like those sold by Beyond Meat, which are okay occasionally. These can often contain ingredients that you’ll need to think about. They might be Vegan, however, I would prefer not to eating processed foods.
In my mind, if you’re going to eat processed foods, you might as well just eat meat because they’re just as bad as each other from a health perspective.
I am transitioning to a Whole Food Plant Based lifestyle, and processed foods don’t fit into my idea of being healthy. I’m not perfect and there are some things, which probably fall outside of the W.F.P.B. eating plan like my burrito wraps. A good alternative would be a lettuce or cabbage leaf, which by the way tastes really good.
Look, we all get tempted from time to time. This is a normal.
Recently, we went to a friends birthday party and the spread was incredible. I was so grateful because our friends we very considerate about making sure there were great options available for us. But the cheese was calling me, and it tasted so good.
What I found interesting though was that once I’d had some, I didn’t fell the need to keep going back for more and more.
In the past I could easily eat a whole wheel of brie, but now I’m not so inclined.
I guess knowing what I know now, I don’t want to harm my body by eating things that are carcinogenic or acidic. So, over time that desire and addiction has diminished.
Set small milestones for yourself. Initially it might be one day at a time, then each week is a win. It might be worth doing a 21-day Vegan Challenge. All these mini challenges and wins will set you up for success.
Celebrate all wins and learning. In the beginning you need to train your brain to enjoy the change. Treat yourself. Do a little victory dance, maybe playing your favorite song and dance like no-body’s watching.
Or if you prefer something a little more low key, go and watch a movie. What ever you decided to reward yourself with, remember, you deserve it. You deserve to be healthy and happy. And you deserve to celebrate your successes and your life.
Sometimes you’re going to have a ‘bad day’.
That’s okay. What did you learn from the experience? Don’t beat yourself up. Set a new goal and focus on what you can do today to move you closer to your desired outcome.
It feels good knowing that making the change for health reasons that matter to you. You will also have a beneficial environmental impact and the kind human that you are will also have a new light to shine in.
Knowing that this lifestyle change has a pebble in the pond effect makes me feel good. And that is worth celebrating!
When I started looking for ways to answer my burning question ‘How do I stop eating meat?’ it was an intimidating thought to make such a big change.
For me it was a matter of making short term decisions rather that focusing on the long term.
Avoid thinking about what you’ll be missing out on. Think about the swaps as mentioned above. Start focusing on all the things you would gain by incorporating more plants into your lifestyle.
Think of all the incredible new flavors, textures and recipes you’ll be able to taste. You will be surprised at how much easier it is to transition across and stop eating meat.