If you’re coming to veganism or vegetarianism later than infancy, you, like most people, have already been exposed to the burger and fries lifestyle in the U.S. and have probably become addicted to meat and cheese. Don’t worry; this is not your fault. The fast food industry is designed specifically to make that happen. They make you think that eating a dead animal is glamorous (remember the Paris Hilton/Carl’s Junior ad?), makes you healthy (remember the statement by McDonald’s that they didn’t see anything unhealthy on their menu), but more importantly, that it’s actually food (meat and meat by-products mixed with white flour, sugar and grease are not food.) But since you’ve decided to go vegan, how are you going break your addiction to the Standard American Diet and its meat focus?
There are a lot of things that you can try but it all depends on why you’re going vegan. If it is at least partially because of animal cruelty, I find that aversion therapy is the best way to go. Americans have created a barrier of information between the sterile packages of meat in the supermarket and the source of the meat. Generally, we no longer associate the burger from a fast food place with having once been a cow. That is what we need to change in your head so that you won’t be even remotely tempted to eat the product of animal torture.
1. Visit a factory farm. Now that more and more people know about how factory farms are run, this is not an easy thing to do, but it is the number one way of curing your love affair with meat. Once you see the pure hell that these animals go through every minute, you won’t be able to eat them again. Once you witness the confined spaces, pain and death you will start to be conscious that the meat you’ve been consuming came from a living, breathing creature that had feelings and parents and friends.
2. If you can’t get a factory farm to agree to allow you in (most don’t what the conditions inside exposed to the public), read Animal Factories or The CAFO Reader. You can’t possibly continue eating meat after reading these books.
3. View any of the art by Sue Coe. She paints the conditions at factory farms. After one look, you’ll have nightmares for weeks. You can also see her artwork in the film From The Slaughterhouse to Your House. She is braver than most of us. We can’t have these pictures in our heads on a daily basis. They tend to bring on hysteria.
4. Go to an Asian Supermarket. These markets are not the sterile American markets that we are used to. Go to the meat department. Sure, you’ll see the steaks and chicken breasts you’ve come to know, but you will also be assaulted by aisles of metal tables filled with ice displaying mountains of dead fish, blood seeping into the ice. Large tanks filled with live lobsters, mollusks and fish line the walls. When a customer asks for one of these animals, the butcher will either put it in a sack live, frightened and wiggling, (in the case of lobsters) or will butcher it right before them (in the case of fish.) But the most horrifying are the big plastic tubs filled with live frogs, diseased and crowded, wallowing in their own filth; piles of live crabs made motionless by rubber bands holding their claws to their bodies; and, live oysters on ice. Fish not a problem for you? Step down to the meat counter. Behind the glass they’ll have pig snouts for $1.49 a pound, chicken feet complete with nails, pig tails and ears, and cow rectums, all for sale. Want a whole chicken? In Asian markets, the majority of chickens are sold whole, I mean really whole. They have heads and feet, which it is presumed you are planning to eat.
5. If you’re changing to a vegan diet as a way of getting healthier, adopt habits that help you remember meat is a detriment to your health. If your biggest temptation is stopping for fast food, keep a picture of a very obese person in your car. Or if you work better under positive re-enforcement, go to Pinterest and find inspiration. Remember that a healthy and fit body cannot be had on a meat based, grease filled diet. It simply isn’t possible. Go to YouTube and watch Dara Dubinet for a positive peaceful message on a clean diet or type in “don’t eat meat” and watch what comes up.
6. Don’t watch television or read magazines, at least not for the first three weeks. It takes 21 days for humans to develop new habits, don’t tempt yourself while you’re making the switch. Visual marketing is specifically created to make you want to go out and buy products; don’t give them the power to make you change your mind about veganism.
7. When you go shopping make a list of what you want to buy before you go. Buy only those items and force yourself to follow this rule.
8. Remember the rule of 3s. The first 3 days are the hardest when you’re first converting. You can do anything for 3 days. After that it becomes a lot easier. Even if you cave and get a burger, you’ll realize how awful you feel the next day and it will be easy to get right back on track. After three weeks, you will have developed a habit of not eating meat.
9. Buy a really great cookbook and start making other things. Although I don’t eat a lot of faux meats and cheeses, if it helps you make the conversion, go for it. There are tons of choices that will give you the texture and heartiness of meat without the animal.
10. Give yourself small achievable goals to work toward. If you have to wean yourself off meat, start with red meat. Give yourself two weeks to get used to it. Then stop eating poultry. Another two weeks and give up fish. Then start on dairy, honey, and all the processed food additives.
Veganism is a big lifestyle change. Some people have a hard time giving up the meat. If that describes you, don’t give up. The important thing is to choose whichever of these tips is going to for your personality, and follow through. Keep going and eventually you will find it the easiest thing in the world.