Wednesday, 24 November 2010

One Day at a Time

I recently watched a programme which showed some of the disgusting eating practices elsewhere in the world. I won’t go into too much detail, but one scene which particularly stuck with me was that of a man breaking open eggs and eating the almost-ready-to-hatch chicks from inside. Not only did it turn my stomach, but it also turned my mind to the hypocrisy of my attitude. What was the essential difference, I asked myself, between eating fluffy baby chicks fresh from the egg, and letting them live for a few weeks and then killing and eating them?

So, in a rash moment, I decided to become a vegetarian.

This was a pretty big decision for me, because on the whole I don’t much like fruit and vegetables, and I love meat. It has led to some raised eyebrows and general dubiousness from my family, but since I do the cooking and I was happy still to cook meat for them, they couldn’t really protest.

I’ve now been vegetarian for a two months and have broadened my culinary horizons considerably. I’ve tried lots of dishes I would never have had before, and really enjoyed them. Carrot and cauliflower curry, pasta with pesto, pine nuts and parmesan, and soybean stir fry. (The alliteration of food is excellent when you’re vegetarian, as you’ll have noticed.)

I’m not saying it’s easy, but a few tips have really helped:
· Don’t think about never eating meat again. At the moment, I’m still telling myself that it’s temporary, and come Christmas I will tuck into the turkey and bacon rolls with everyone else. (But I’d really like it if I found I didn’t want to, of course.)
· Take one day at a time. I can cope with not eating meat today, or for the next meal. I’m facing this challenge in bite-sized chunks.
· Plan ahead. I plan in the morning everything I will eat that day, and make sure it includes something to look forward to. Today it is a piece of sun dried tomato focaccia to go with my mushroom stoganoff. I also make the decision in advance that, however tempting the buffet looks, I will not be putting the sausages on my plate.
· Avoid temptation. For me, that means keeping out of MacDonald’s. It also means that I will avoid people who challenge my resolve. When I announced my decision on Facebook, one of my “friends” told me he was going to waft a bacon sandwich in front of my nose. I may need to avoid him for a while.
· Get support. One of my best friends is vegetarian, and has been for several years. Speaking to her regularly is very helpful and she gives me lots of recipe tips and encouragement.
Remember the reasons. I feel a lot healthier, and a lot better about myself. I’m also feeling slightly smug at finding out that I can do something I had never thought I’d be capable of.

If any of this looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same framework of advice given by Alcoholics Anonymous to those giving up alcohol, and Narcotics Anonymous to those giving up drugs. Within the framework of a twelve-step programme, these simple principles have helped many thousands of people achieve sobriety and turn their lives around.

While it may be much harder to give up an addiction than it is to give up meat, I can testify that it really does work.

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