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How I Quit Red Meat

I literally remember craving for that steak after that tweet.

Looking at it now, it doesn’t “trigger” me at all.

Nothing does, actually. You can put all the delicious red meat dishes in front of me–a moist medium rare fillet mignon, pork sisig, kare-kare, inihaw (lol. I can’t even think of red meat dishes anymore)–and I probably will skip dinner if those are the only thing in front of me.

It was very hard at first. The thought of not having a cheeseburger again. But then it got easier. Until it became automatic.

I don’t really think in terms of “It’s been 1 year, 8 months, 8 days since I’ve had meat.” because I think counting like that puts it in the forefront of your brain again, like something you have to actively work on every single day. As if it were still an uphill climb.

I’m sure I thought about it like that at first. I distinctly remember the first time I decided to be pescetarian all of a sudden, and was still thinking to myself “I haven’t had x-food in x-days.” two months in.

That lasted 2 months.

(I wish I documented how I did it, but I think part of the success was letting it be an automatic lifestyle change, instead of constantly thinking about it.)

The steps I took went a little like this:

Made a decision and set a date to start. I decided on New Year’s, and made it my only “resolution” that year. I consider it a bad habit, but I can’t help but believe in the “power” of New Years. I didn’t really plan too hard around it. Maybe just the night before, thinking of food items in the house that I could eat.

Tracked it for awhile. It’s going to be difficult for the first few weeks, obviously. I think it took me only 2 weeks of active avoidance before it became significantly easier. Maybe because I had experience quitting red meat before? Seeing yourself accomplish streaks do help with keeping me on the mindset.

Changed my mindset from “I can’t” to “I don’t”. I firmly believe this little change leads to BIG results (I only wish I’m as good as adopting it for other habits I want to change). “Can’t” implies complexities that make every “no” kind of an agony… because it begets explanations. To yourself and other people. “Don’t” is simple, and more importantly, it’s a decision that you personally made (and continue to make). No one / circumstance is coercing you.

I think it’s this mindset that turned this change into a success for me.

Told people. It’s easier said than done, to tell people. Because I think we’re all worried about being judged for our decisions all the time. Plus, it’s really difficult to own your decision and potentially make people in your social circle make adjustments for you. But, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I think it also helped that I didn’t explain my decision because 1) it’s a personal one and 2) I don’t owe it to anybody. And really, people were quick to just accept it as a truth about who I was, which made things a lot more easier.

There are–to this day–some moments where I have to figure out a workaround if I want to eat, but you start to be more observant of options and again, reassert that powerful “I don’t” in situations where you ask if there’s a non-pork/beef option because you simply don’t eat those kinds of food.

It’s way easier now, too, because everyone in my social circle knows this about me. Sometimes, they make adjustments (which is nice) but more importantly, I’ve lost that self-conscious feeling that I’m being irrationally picky.

Understand that it’s not all-or-nothing. I used to think that one “slip up” means to start from the beginning until I asked myself why that would be. Of course there will be some moments where I’m famished and there’s no other alternative, or I don’t know what meat is in front of me and try a bite anyway. But why would a tiny “slip up” suddenly mean I’m a meat-eater again?

While the Can’t vs Don’t mindset made my habit-change successful, this step kept it successful to this day.

I decided that it’s okay if I slip up sometimes, because I’m not really doing this to prevent a dire medical condition. It’s more to change something deeply ingrained within me to see if I could change. (And I could!)

I can probably be better at this habit (like plan ahead, and not substitute the meat-eating with chicken–that I still do eat) but I think those steps helped me lay some pretty solid groundwork.

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