I myself decided to take the plunge a year ago. It was my new year’s resolution. I did not exactly go cold turkey, so to speak, because I had abstained from eating mammals for decades. But my original motivation had been health and humanitarian. I had read about the cholesterol advantages of avoiding meat, and also about the inefficient production of protein by feeding grains to animals in a world where millions of people were starving.
Only much more recently did I learn about factory farming, and also that by far the most numerous abused creatures on this planet are poultry and fish. There was nothing for it, then, but to give up eating all animals as well as dairy and eggs.
If you're determined to fulfill a Vegan Resolution in 2012 -- for your own health, for the sake of the animals or because you care about the planet -- let me offer a few tips for staying on track. Remember, be specific. Every journey begins with that first step.
1. Set specific goals. Decide if you want to go "cold turkey" or take it slow and steady. Do what will work best for you.
2. Make a specific plan. Maybe you might want to give "Meatless Mondays" a try. Then gradually add one more day each week. Or maybe you could start with that favorite food that is impossible to give up (like cheese, for example - always a tough one!).
3. Follow up on a daily basis. Check in with yourself to see how you're doing and how you're feeling. Those who keep food diaries have the most success when changing their eating habits.
4. Be mindful of what you eat. The simple act of thinking about food and where it comes from has a tremendous impact on what goes into your mouth. When you find yourself saying "do I really want to eat that?" you will have come a long way.
5. Do some research. Vegan cookbooks and websites are plentiful. You could spend a lifetime reading them. Fortunately, most of the work has been done for you. [Check out my "Great Reads" in the Sidebar.One of the best for jumpstarting a vegan journey is Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin].
6. Discover new restaurants. Make dining out a pleasure by experimenting with new ethnic cuisine (Thai, Ethiopian, Japanese, and Indian have many delicious options) or go to your favorite places and ask the chef if he/she can create a vegan dish for you. There are many vegetarian restaurants in the New Haven area and New York City andBoston are vegan meccas. Explore!
7. Experiment at home. Try one new recipe a week from those fabulous vegan cookbooks you found. Go to vegan potluck dinners. Share your favorites with friends and family. They'll love you for it (especially if you bring desserts!)
8. Find a buddy. It always helps to know someone who is struggling at the same time so you can help each other out. Talk to someone who has been there before (I've been through it all, just ask). Or look online for vegan meetups in your neighborhood and make some new friends.
9. Enjoy your food. Really. It's new. It's different. And you don't have to feel deprived. You will soon discover an amazing array of options you never dreamed existed. Now, who could possibly be upset about eating these Sweet Nothings?
10. Be kind to yourself. Your choice to adopt a vegan diet is a big decision and will require dedication. Don't worry if you "fall off the wagon" or "cheat." It's not a guilt trip. It's not about perfection. Every little thing you can do to minimize the suffering of animals, improve your health and respect the environment has a positive impact on all those around you. The effect multiplies. And you'll feel pretty good in the process.