How to become a vegetarian?

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Before I start, I’d like to just clarify that the title of this post, “How to be vegetarian” is largely misleading, because although I eat a largely plant based diet, I don’t really consider myself a “vegetarian”. I do eat fish on occasion. However, I’ve had quite a few messages and emails from a few different people asking for any tips or tricks they can try to have a more plant-based diet and I thought I would answer them here but writing a title “Tips and tricks for how to eat less meat and a more plant based diet” just seemed a bit too long. But basically this isn’t a post about how to turn vegetarian, this is a post about how to include more freshness into your life. Along with a few little tips and tricks that have worked for me.

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When I started my yoga teacher training In January of 2015 (read about it here), we were told that since our training was taking place in a Buddhist Centre, we were to please refrain from bringing in meat and meat products into the training centre. (There was also an amazing cafe in the Buddhist Centre which made the most delicious veggie curries and dishes!). We trained for 3 weekends out of the month, so for those days – I didn’t eat any meat products definitely over breakfast and lunch time and in the evenings, it depended on what my lovely husband was cooking up for us. (Thanks husband).

Before this, as my personal yoga practice had deepened, I began to start thinking differently about meat. I was still eating it, but for the first time in my life (ever), I started really thinking about it. I will be completely honest, 5 years ago I actually remember having conversations with a Canadian Vegetarian friend of mine saying, “I know where meat comes from, I know what it is and how it gets to my plate, and it really doesn’t bother me.”
So for the first time in my life I had really started to question it all.

I actually remember sometime before Christmas 2014, I was tasked with going to collect the Christmas Pork from the butchers for a party of 15 people. Warren had given me his empty back-pack to put this giant Christmas pork in and off I went to the butchers. I remember feeling a bit weird when I walked into the shop, but I handed over the money and the butcher went into the back and brought out half a pig. Literally, half a pig. We made the transaction and I put the giant pork into my backpack. I stepped out the shop into the sunshine and swung the backpack over my shoulder.

As the giant half-pork in the empty backpack swung round and hit me in the back, I had the most overwhelming unnerving feeling. An actual fucking piggy-back. Right outside the butchers shop, in broad daylight, in front of everyone, I suddenly had to get this freaken thing off my back – so, on autopilot, I did a few wild-spider-web-esque-arm-slices combined with some very fancy footwork and a small yelp. Backpack plus pig-load dropped to the floor and I didn’t stick around to wait for the butchers no-doubted amused reaction.

I hurriedly (and with great embarrassment) picked up the backpack at arms length and rushed around the corner to phone Warren and tell him that, “I don’t actually think that I can carry this home!”. The backpack was literally too heavy for me to carry in my hand and I still needed to get some other groceries from the shop. After I had gotten off the phone with Warren (partly him consoling me, and partly me informing him that I have indeed lost my mind), I took off my scarf and made a barrier in the bag between me and the pork. I have no idea why this sticks out so much to me, but it does. I have never experienced such a strange physical/psychological reaction to meat before.

But yes, I did eat pork that Christmas. Sorry piggy.

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My teacher training commenced then from January to March of the following year and weekends became relatively meat free. Even the dinners that Warren began cooking in the evenings were less meat based, after I had started expressing how I was feeling about it all. (Just “weird” in general) Sometime after my training finished, I decided on a whim that I would see what it felt like to do three days in a row in the week completely meat free and just observe how I felt.

The answer is, I felt amazing.

I had way more energy, my digestive system was functioning so well, my body felt cleaner and lighter and I just felt like an all-round amazing human* (*results may vary).

The main thing that I got out of those three days was becoming MUCH more observant and aware of the foods and types of foods that I was consuming. Even grabbing a sandwich from the local Pret suddenly involved a bit more than “Ham & Cheese” or “Bacon & Egg”, suddenly I had to explore different things. Menus at restaurants actually (strangely) started opening up for me, because I was suddenly looking in veggie sections that I would never usually have looked in! Food was actually a bit exciting again!

Since then I have adopted a largely plant based lifestyle. I don’t call it a plant-based diet because it’s not. In fact, you would probably be rather surprised (once you become really observant about what you eat) at how many more calories are in a tiny piece of meat than there are in several hundred other vegetables and grains. Again, this is not a diet and it’s not about calorie counting – it’s about the work the body needs to do in order to break it all down and the type of food that fits well with the body.

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So for those interested in making some changes to your lifestyle eating patterns – here are some of my tips:

  1. Start with small manageable changes. For most people, eating a meat-heavy diet one day and then waking up and deciding to be a raw vegan the next, I’d say is pretty unsustainable. Make small manageable changes and monitor how your body responds. Adopt a meat-free day once a week, or meat free dinner times.
  2. Change your mindset. I think one of the hardest things to change can be because we have become so conditioned to thinking of meat as the ‘main attraction’ to a meal and the vegetables as a side dish. To take a line from Masterchef, “start hero-ing the vegetables”
  3. In line with the point above, experiment with meat-free recipes that mimic meat recipes. For example, this zucchini and pea burger is one of the first meals I made from Deliciously Ella and it really felt great because it “felt” like I was eating a hamburger (a traditionally ‘meat’ meal). There are loads of these from lentil bolognaise and lasagnes to nut-based “meat balls” and veggie rolls.
  4. Up the quinoa, lentil, legume intake. Protein: it’s a tricky one – the more you delve into it, the more you may see that we actually need way less “protein” than we have been conditioned to believe. Yes we need protein and amino acids for cellular repair but the amount we need is largely inflated. (Did somebody say, meat industry?!) And protein in some form or other exists in all foods. (As a rough idea: 26g of protein in 100g of black beans and 14g of protein in 100g lean beef). If you are interested in maintaining good nutrition especially if you are an athlete, this is a great site! (Thanks Rhianne)
  5. Bulk up your breakfast smoothies – I used to be a raging cereal-holic (I still am in theory, I mean, I would never turn down a good granola. But after seeing how much sugar goes into so many of them, I should probably rather just eat an ice-cream for breakfast. Anyway, I digress.) I have changed to include more smoothies in the morning and I love to bulk them up with protein powders (this is a great vegan one) and nuts and avocado to get all the feel good fats in there! Definitely whack in some spinach to your smoothies to get some good ol’ fashioned Popeye-iron. Simple Green Smoothies is a great resource for smoothies!
  6. Do your own research. Nobody knows your own body better than you. Do your research and figure out what works best for you and your needs. And if your choices help out a few animals and the environment along the way, added bonus. This is a really interesting TEDtalk (non-gory) on how the way in which we consume food has changed over the years – staking a more environmental and social angle.
  7. Get your partner on board. This can be EXTREMELY tricky to navigate with people who live (and cook) together who share different food/lifestyle goals. Have an honest and open conversation. Ask if there are areas where they would be interested in testing out with you or what they would be open to (one veggie supper a week?). If the partner won’t budge at all and you’d like to give it a go, then yes cooking will be slightly more tricky than before. But for example, making non-meat patties to freeze, makes burger night relatively easy; this patty for you, this patty for me. If you think about it, I’d say it’s usually only dinners that partners eat together, so maybe adopt a less meat approach to lunch and breakfast! A great way of convincing them though is point 3 above.
  8. Don’t beat yourself up. For anyone who is making these changes for health or dietary reasons, I think that it can be pretty difficult at first to navigate it all. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up or eat something that your mind is telling you, you shouldn’t. We all have those days where we fall off the band-wagon. Just jump back on. For anyone who is making the changes for health reasons – (creating an anti-inflammatory diet – Kris Carr is a great resource for recipes and inspiration)
  9. GET EXCITED! Feeling excited about the changes you are making is, I think is the best way to stay motivated. In London, there are loads of really great vegetarian, vegan and whole foods restaurants – so browse around your home town for the same. There are also great websites with amazing recipes that you can make at home – like Thug Kitchen or The Vegan Stoner  – (love the doodles in this one!). I do think though, that once you see and feel the difference that these changes can make to your body – it will also be very motivating!

Warren and I eat meat free dinners together during the week. Often now, if say, we buy separate soups from Tescos, he will opt for a meat free one of his own accord. I eat plant based during the day, and Warren eats whatever he wants whilst at work. This works for us. At the moment, I have been trying to cut back on caffeine and dairy milk – (I still have coffee with milk over the weekends so it’s not out completely!), but I have been substituting it with rooibos tea and coconut + almond milk during the week. Although… just typing that last sentence thinking about that cup of coffee….

ok guys, coffee break.

Gotta go.

xo

NB: Please note, I am not a nutritional expert or dietician, the thoughts shared above are solely my own experience and a bit of the (tons of) research I’ve done online. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them! Either drop me a comment below or leave a comment on the Che Dyer Yoga Facebook Page.  I’m interested in those who have clicked over to this post, do you already eat a largely plant based diet? Are you toying with the idea of making the change? What are your reasons?

  1. Rhianne on March 31, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Yeay, I got way too excited to see my name there ha. I’m glad that website was helpful, I think its awesome.

    I’ve been considering a vegan month (I barely eat dairy) but I’ve been putting it off because I think its going to stick once I start it and I’m more worried about things like eating at our parents houses and having other people preparing food for me (which sounds like a really odd to be concerned about I know). I think small changes over time is really great advice though – I think I’ll start doing that, slowly cutting things out until its not really a big deal any more. Also totally bumping up my smoothies with other things, thats a great idea!

    I’ve heard coconut milk in coffee as a great milk substitute.

    • Ché Dyer on March 31, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Ah Rhianne! I think that one of the hardest things is eating at other people’s houses. I think that is the largest reason of why I haven’t blasted out everywhere, I AM A VEGETARIAN. I DON’T EAT MEAT!! If I am at someone’s house and they have taken the time effort and energy to make a meal for me that contains meat, then I will eat it. This might change, I don’t know. But I do think that it’s something that can be a big concern for a lot of people, because it IS terrible to feel like “that person”. (I think this in a vegan context is even more tricky, because it’s even more foreign to most people). In my [limited] experience with this, for the people who have seen/read me eating less meat, I would say they prefer to rather know and make something that you would enjoy eating, than not know and have you sit with internal monologue throughout the entire evening. (Internal-meat-monologue is a LEGITIMATE real thing!!) I’ve experienced it numerous times… but I’m working on it! x

    • Ché Dyer on March 31, 2016 at 10:19 am

      re: the coconut milk, yes it’s not bad in coffee – I don’t have sugar in my coffee though, and I found switching to coconut milk the coffee was VERY bitter! Anyway, I stuck with it (coconut milk) for a week or so and then after that had a regular milk coffee and I just COULD NOT believe how sweet it was! Lots of this is all about conditioning your tastebuds! I still only put coconut and almond milk in smoothies – and have mainly been cutting back on coffee because I want to cut back on the milk! (Haven’t had a coffee yet this week, (besides Monday) – which was basically the weekend. obviously. haha x But i’m also not depriving myself – so may have a good cuppa this afternoon! x

  2. Keri Bainborough on March 31, 2016 at 9:56 am

    An actual piggy back! OMG. So funny to think back when we went for pizza in Hilton at the end of 2014 and you ordered the veggie pizza and I was like “ALL THE MEAT PLEASE”. How things have changed! 🙂 Brilliant post with some great tips here – especially the Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself. XXX
    K, I’m going to go make coffee now (met uys)!

    • Ché Dyer on March 31, 2016 at 10:09 am

      hahaha yes indeed! that freaken carrot pizza must’ve been the thing that broke my tooth. haha

  3. Michelle Finlay on April 2, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Hi there. This is a really great post and I will have some of my friends who are considering a more veggie way of life read it. I’m vegan and have been for the past 5 years. But I’m not a judgey-my-way-or-the-high-way kind of vegan. If people ask me about it then I will share but I never go around telling people what they should eat. What I will say in response to Rhianne above is that you’d be surprised how accommodating your loved ones will be if you were to decide to make the change more permanent. My Step Dad who is the biggest carnivore out there now gets really excited about finding things I can eat when I visit! Plus finding easy vegan options is getting easier and easier all the time and eating out isn’t half as difficult as it was 5 years ago. I really love seeing people discover a more veggie lifestyle for themselves and realising the benefits to their own health. If I share one vegan-ised alternative that in my view is way better than the original it is this: Try “Hotel Chocolat” dark hot chocolate with Hazelnut Milk. It’s like liquid nutella and it’s heavenly and I promise you will never go back to the regular option once you’ve tasted this!!

    • Ché Dyer on April 2, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Yes I think that people generally are way more accommodating than we would think which is awesome – although I think it’s still quite hard (for me at least!) to feel like we are forcing people to prepare food in a way that they wouldn’t usually – although it is something that I am becoming more and more aware of as my own internal monologue! I think that being less preachy about the food choices we make (and therefore less “judgey”) is a way better motivator for encouraging people to try out different food options for themselves than telling people what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Just live your vibrant life and people will also want in! That’s what I believe! (And by the sounds of it, you too!) 🙂 Definitely feel grateful that there are so many great veggie and vegan places – especially in London! Makes exploring them such fun – even with the carnivores! haha! I am DEFINITELY going to try that Hotel Chocolat – it sounds divine!! Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment! xxx

  4. Allie on April 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Great Post Che, love all the tips and couldn’t agree more! I call myself a “wanna-be” vegetarian, I eat meat free about 75% of the time, but find it challenging when it comes to the partner aspect.

    The man wants eat, but he’s very willing to eat veggies too, so it’s all about finding a balance!

    Thanks again for a great post, happy hump day!

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