How to Become a Vegetarian

Simply ask, “why do I eat one of these baby animals (pictured above) and not the other?” That is really what it has come down to for me. Whenever I question my choice to be vegetarian, I think about the fact that I named my dog, feed him twice a day, cuddle him all the time and bring him to a doctor for regular check ups, while other animals are being slaughtered for food.

Melanie Joy, Author of  Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows coined the term carnism: the belief system that enables us to eat some animals and not others. Why is a dog’s life more precious than the life of a cow or a pig?

Now, I know it’s not that easy to make a big diet/lifestyle change, and it didn’t start out easy for me. If you decide to become a vegetarian, it is important to know why you want to give up meat. Eating plants and other meat free food is not for everyone, but it is for me. That being said, the reason I stopped eating meat in 2006 is different from the reason I don’t eat meat today.

In September of 2006, I stopped eating meat, two months after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Research shows that MS patients, and people dealing with other autoimmune conditions that don’t eat much in the way of saturated fats and “inflammatory foods”, maintain better health than the ones that do. (I would challenge that this goes for most everyone) Giving up meat was one of the best ways I could really “do something” about my new diagnosis. I stopped eating meat to achieve better health.


How I did it

Some of my favorite foods included salami, meatballs, grilled chicken and garlic burgers and I struggled the first two months that I tried to give up meat. I had a few cheats at events and dining out, so I decided to go all the way!

For 30 days in November, 2006, I went RAW. I stuck to a 100% raw vegan diet and lifestyle. I bought a dehydrator and made my own crackers, I went to raw food seminars and ate raw carrot cake and seaweed chips. I dined at raw food restaurants, enjoyed raw pizza and pasta and I ate salads every day.  I was committed, for 30 days. While I appreciated some of the health benefits of a raw diet, I missed hot soup and baking cupcakes, and found the diet to be very isolating. I do know many raw foodies who are very happy and healthy with their diet, but it was not for me.

The best part of my 30 day raw vegan diet is that it erased most of my carnivorous cravings. I even stayed away from all dairy products for several months and still do not drink cow’s milk today. It was a great way to reset my dietary sensors (if there is such a thing) and really learn to appreciate a vegetarian diet.


Why I still do it

Avoiding meat and most animal products has helped me to stay healthy, even with MS. My vegetarian diet, combined with exercise and drug therapy has contributed to reduced disease activity. I haven’t had an MS relapse in more than three years and MRI scans of my brain show no MS progress. This is a lot to say about a disease with a naturally progressive course.

While I really enjoy the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, that is not what motivates me to stay meat – free. When I started my veg journey, I started reading. I read about raising animals for meat. I read about factory farming. I learned about the impact of our actions on our bodies, animals and the earth. By really opening my eyes and heart to how meat was put on my plate, I lost my appetite for it. Better health motivated me to stop and compassion sealed the deal.


What I recommend if you are considering becoming a vegetarian

Research vegetarianism and see if it is right for you. If you think it will benefit your health, or if you don’t feel good about eating meat because of the animal cruelty factor, give it a try. You don’t have to be extreme and quit everything at once. You might try eliminating one type of a meat at a time. Start slow with Meatless Mondays, or challenge yourself to try to eat meat free for three or four days and see how it feels. You will feel, and probably see the benefits after two weeks of eliminating meat and dairy from your diet.


Vegetarian resources

Leo Babauta: zenhabits.net/how-to-become-a-vegetarian-the-easy-way/

Rudy Hadisentosa: http://veggie123.com/

http://www.goveg.com/vegetarian101.asp

Food Inc – movie trailer

Forks over knives – movie trailer

Earthlings – movie trailer (very graphic – Ellen DeGeneres said,  “Earthlings made Food Inc. look like a Disney movie.”)

Please watch for my “tips and book recommendations for newbie vegetarians” post coming next week.

puppy pic photo credit

baby cow photo credit

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Comments

  1. says

    Courtney // Thanks for sharing such a personal journey. It’s fantastic to see how vegetarianism appeals to different people for different reasons. While we were never big meat eaters, my wife and I went full-time last October and haven’t looked back since. Variety in meals keeps it interesting and flavorful! Even with three small kids, we are able to use vegetarianism as a vehicle for teaching and learning the interconnectedness of all life. We don’t force it on them (they can choose for themselves) but it’s great to see them making the connection between their behaviors and the impact on the world around them.

    I saw Earthlings… That pretty much sealed the deal. I’ve considered going further by going vegan but I just can’t give up cheese! Be well!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Bill, cheese has always been a struggle for me, but I eat way less of it than I used to. The majority of my baking is vegan. It is amazing that you can substitute eggs and dairy with healthy alternatives and still end up with a tasty cake or cookie! My husband and daughter both still eat some meat, but most of our family meals are vegetarian. I agree with you that you can’t choose this for someone.

  2. says

    I really enjoyed reading about your path to vegetarianism. I’ve been a vegetarian for a couple of years now primarily because I have such a soft heart for animals. I definitely feel better eating this way!

  3. says

    I’d love to hear more about becoming a vegetarian. I’ve tried it, and I felt so much worse! I seemed to have a stomach ache all the time, so I obviously need to try a more gradual approach. I have dramatically reduced the amount of meat I eat and the serving sizes.

    It doesn’t help that I rarely make time to actually cook, and there are very few HEALTHY vegetarian convenience foods!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Gip, I wonder what is giving you a stomach ache. I think Dairy is a big culprit when it comes to gastro issues so maybe that has to go too! I will keep posting on ideas & resources to go veg!

  4. says

    Hi Courtney, thank you for sharing your journey into vegetarianism. I’ve read a few books on sustainability and environmental issues of eating meat and most recently I read Killing Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I have to say it’s by far the most compelling book and argument for banishing meat in our diet. It hit me in the gut. Factory farming is a vile business with hardly any regulations. Still most of us in this part of the world that consumes the most meat are, for the most part, are oblivious to its atrocious nature.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Belinda, It is all about awareness and accountability. The more people know, the harder it will be to ignore. Thanks for your comment. I think the book you read was Eating Animals, and yes, it was amazing! I am going to include that as a resource in my follow up post next week.

  5. says

    I really enjoyed this post, Courtney, and your story of how you became a vegetarian. In some ways, I could relate to it a lot more than some other stories I’ve heard simply because it’s a bit less strident and a bit more real-life-bites-you-in-the-ass so you change things.

    Because a lot of my friends are (or have been) vegetarians, I’ve often considered giving it a go. But I haven’t made it yet. What I have become is more conscious of what I eat, though. G and I don’t eat processed foods of any kind, no boxed meals, no frozen meals, no canned soups, mixes, nothing. We rely on fresh fruit and veg from the outdoor farmer’s market, fresh cheese and dairy from our local cheese chop, and fresh local meats from one of the best butchers here in town. Everything is homemade, even my cakes and cookies and pies. I make my own salad dressings (if I need to — olive oil and lemon or vinegar is usually fine).

    Does it take a lot more time than packaged meals? Sometimes. But we feel like it’s worth it. (We are also blessed to live in Greece where we not only are provided with these wonderful sources of food but with the time to prepare homemade meals. I know this is not true in America [we've seen Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation, too]. And I think it’s time that this began to change.)

    G and I don’t eat any meat in the evenings. I think we could probably stretch this at some point into something like Meatless Mondays, as well.

    Anyway, thank you for letting me rant a little. I’m looking forward to more posts from you on ideas and resources for going VEG. :)

  6. says

    Hi Courtney,
    I’m not a vegetarian. I do eat chicken and turkey and fish. I doubt I’ll be eating a lot of fish in the future after the oil spill.

    Killing animals isn’t something I like to think about too much. I do love my pets very much.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  7. says

    Hello Courtney
    I realise I’m a bit late commenting here but I’m reading through your archives and this hit a chord for me.
    I am 47 and was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago. I always knew it was better for MS sufferers to be vegetarian and although I tried for 6 months at the time I didn’t stick to it. I did, however, have another go and have now been veggie for almost 2 years. But it is not just the MS that makes me want to do this – I know it’s better for the Earth and for animals and my health in general too and all these reasons mean that, in all concsiousness, I couldn’t do anything else.
    I’m looking forward to reading more about living life on purpose :-)
    Teresa x

    • Courtney Carver says

      Teresa, Thanks for you thoughtful comment. My MS is best when I am meat and dairy free. (I need to work on the cheese!). Looking forward to your feedback moving forward. Have a great day! Courtney

    • Courtney Carver says

      Lisa, let me know if you have any questions or if I can be helpful as you are working on vegetarianism.

  8. says

    Another reason moving house in Germany could be expensive is that getting free cardboard boxes is virtually impossible. One cannot go to some local supermarket or newsagent to inquire about discarded boxes. My way through Germany is being recycled – a cardboard box that when held cans of dog food or washing powder is invariably coming with a recycling plant before one has an opportunity to ask. Most German removal firms offer therefore green, recyclable boxes either for sale or hire – in a high price.

  9. says

    I think a great way to become a vegetarian is to get information. I am getting the help i need to become a vegetarian with Vegetarian’s Beginner’s Guide 30 Day Course. It is truly an amazing course for newbies like me!

  10. Victoria says

    I watched Food Inc to introduce myself to the harsh realities of our food and it assured me that going veggie was the right thing for me. I just watched the earthlings trailer. I’m traumatized. I’ve been crying for the past ten minutes over the trailer. I’m going vegan. I’m not religious but I hope there is a hell for these kind of people.

  11. nadia says

    hi courtney,

    found your blog after googling vegetarian newbie. I love your non judgmental approach and also your compassion that stamped your lifestyle. I have been toying with the idea of going vegetarian for years driven by my love of animals but never fully found the drive to DO it. Last year I made a small change: began using cruelty free products. That started the ball rolling. I suffer from severe emotional wreck at the thought of animal suffering, so research wasn’t needed to convince me to change my diet. My problem was I grew up not eating veggies so it was really hard for me to change my diet. However last October, I started toying with making green smoothies, which grew into introducing veggies into my lunches, and now I would eat meat ONLY if I had to (meat eating is a big part of where I am from and also my culture – and family and friends usually would be offended if I said no). I came to realize that I was afraid to make such a statement and commitment of turning vegetarian because I’d hate myself if I ended up relapsing.

    But this past one month of successfully eliminating meat in most of my meal has convinced me I have what it takes to be a vegetarian. I would do it for the animals.

    sorry about the essay!

  12. Diane says

    May I recommend anyone considering this change (I was vegetarian for 18 years, switched to vegan nearly 3 years ago), please YouTube any or all of the following – Dr Neal Barndard, Dr John McDougall, Dr Caldwell Esselsyn Jnr, Rip Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, Doug Lisle, Colin T. Campbell, Dr Michael Klaper, Dr Michael Greger, Dr Alan Goldhamer, Chef A.J., the Chef and the Dietician. They all have websites too and many have books. For recipes check out straightupfood.com and the Happy Herbivore. “Processed People” and “Got the Facts on Milk?” are also good DVDs

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