I was so fortunate that when I first read The China Study, just from sharing snippets that blew my mind, my husband Mike was right on board with me. By the time I finished that book, we made up our minds to cut animals and animal products out of our diet. But we weren’t really sure exactly what to do, and wanted to make sure we were smart about it.
We were both on board together about making this change “cold turkey.” We were actually vacationing in Alaska at the time, and even though we were eating out all the time, we were making menu selections that didn’t contain meat or cheese. I knew that if I could succeed while on vacation and eating out 100% of the time, we’d be able to do this at home too.
Having a partner and support system isn’t mandatory but it was a huge part of our success. When we came home, we emptied our pantry and fridge of all things animal related, except for all the dog stuff of course. It was surprisingly challenging to decide who to give all the meat and cheese to… because it didn’t really feel like much of a gift at all. I suppose it would be similar to a smoker or an alcoholic ridding their house of cigarettes and liquor – who do you want to give that crap to??
Anyway, going cold turkey made it easiest for us. Otherwise, every meal would have required a decision, an evaluation, a thought about “I’ll just have a little” and then maybe feeling guilty after. Instead, each meal was created with one prevailing thought – how many vegetables and whole grains can I pack in? Are there animal products in it? If so, then I’ll pass. Simple as that.
Admittedly, an overnight change is not right for everyone. If it seems daunting, you may prefer to ‘cut out’ one thing at a time. So what I would recommend if you don’t want to go all-out in one day:
Start ADDING more meat-free meals. Have oatmeal with soy milk for breakfast most days. Have a salad as an appetizer more often than you used to. At dinner, double up on the veggies. Add loads of whole grains – brown rice, quinoa (a favorite), whole wheat pasta. Learn to love beans – black beans, chick peas, lentils, and so many more. Think of this not as a restrictive diet where you can’t eat anything – realize instead that you’re about to eat more than you ever have before, more variety than you’re used to, and so many unique vegetables you’ve always overlooked in the produce section. And by the way, when you’re not cooking with butter (remember that’s dairy…), you’re going to taste your food for the very first time. Be prepared!
Before you even start cutting out one thing or another, focus first on adding in more of the good stuff, and then continue adding more and more every day. Before you know it, you’ll be so satisfied and full of the good stuff that you’ll no longer want the other stuff.
Important Note: If you’re finding that you’re still craving one thing or another (usually fatty stuff), you may find you have much better success by going cold-turkey. The major drawback to making a slow and gradual transition is that your body still gets a dose every once in a while and that tends to trigger cravings for fat and sugar. Think about a smoker mostly cutting out cigarettes but still having a drag every other day or so. The craving is likely to linger indefinitely. Or a crack addict – can they have a hit just once in a while and stay clean the rest of the time? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s WAY harder that way! Going off the habit completely is the best way to get off it for good.
It’s not about where you start, nor really how you get there, but it’s about where you finish!