Lots of people appreciate the idea of becoming a vegetarian in theory, but the lifestyle becomes much harder in practice when old habits and social pressures creep back in. The benefits of eating a plant-based diet are undeniable, but many aspiring vegetarians feel like they’re going at it alone without the support and resources they need.

SEE ALSO: 7 Reasons Why Vegetarians Are Better at Sex

Struggles of Aspiring Vegetarians

The challenges of leaving meat behind are physical, mental, social, and economical. Your entire body will begin to undergo a transformation as you experience cravings, criticism, and even self-doubt. Your daily routines will change, from the way you grocery shop to how you prepare meals and celebrate special occasions. Every aspiring vegetarian is unique, and some people transition more quickly than others.

Overcoming Old Habits

The saying that “old habits die hard” is certainly true when you’re trying to make a significant change in your diet. It can be difficult to adjust to the tastes of meat substitutes and switch up your entire eating routine. And if you prepare meals for more than just yourself, it can be even more difficult to get your whole family onboard with your new commitment.

In his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz suggested that new habits take about 21 days to adopt. But a more recent study conducted at the University College London found that the average time to adopt a new habit is actually 66 days, yet individuals varied anywhere between 18 and 254 days! 

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Rising Above Outside Pressures

Not only is it a challenge to resist old habits when you’re alone, but those pressures get multiplied when you’re not surrounded by a community of people who eat like you. Having a restricted diet of any kind can impact your social life, especially if your friends and family love going out to restaurants, hosting dinner parties, and throwing impromptu backyard barbecues.

The road to vegetarianism can be a lonely one that feels isolating at times, but rest assured that you are on the right path and that others are looking to follow your lead.

New Habit-Building Tips

Whether you’re brand new to the vegetarian lifestyle, dabble in it from time to time, or are a veggie veteran who just needs some encouragement, here are some pro tips for building new healthy habits and staying committed to the plant-based lifestyle.

I’ve adapted a few general habit-building tips from industry experts, like psychologist Timothy Pychyl, neuroscientist Elliot Berkman, and psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne, to address the needs of aspiring vegetarians just like you.

  • Determine and come to terms with your reasons for making a diet change.
  • Establish your new meal plan before disrupting your old one.
  • Eat with purpose and think about every bite you take.
  • Create (and write down!) “micro goals” and “macro goals.”
  • Eliminate excessive and unhealthy food options in your home.
  • Determine your moments of break down to avoid “ah, screw it!” moments.
  • Think of something that generally motivates you and apply that to your diet.
  • Be patient with yourself every day.

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And finally, here are some lifestyle tips that have helped many vegetarians I know stick with their commitment and embrace the vegetarian lifestyle once and for all. It might not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

  • Be open and honest with someone you trust about what you struggle with.
  • Listen to your body and understand the difference between “needs” and “wants”.
  • Learn more about the benefits of vegetarianism through medical studies and scientific research.
  • Become a regular at a local vegetarian restaurant and strike up conversations with other diners and the staff.
  • Carry healthy vegetarian snacks with you to avoid temptation and curb cravings.
  • Sign up for a vegetarian cooking class to have more fun in the kitchen.