"One is dearest to God
who has no enemies among the living beings,
who is nonviolent to all creatures."
"One is dearest to God
-- from the Bhagavad Gita
Life seems to constantly present us with changing scenery. In fact, change may be the only constant part of life! The more we embrace and welcome change, the easier and smoother our transitions become. When we make a change because of love, the change is usually lasting. However, when fear motivates us to change, the change is usually short-lived. Making dietary changes is no different. If you decide to become a vegetarian for loving reasons, such as loving your body, your spiritual gifts, animals, and the environment, you'll enjoy the transition more. However, if you are motivated by fear -- such as wanting to lose weight to please someone else -- you're apt to struggle with food cravings and dissatisfaction. One simple way of modeling a life change is by using the "ADA 3-Step Process": A is for Awareness D is for Decision A is for Action
Life seems to constantly present us with changing scenery. In fact, change may be the only constant part of life! The more we embrace and welcome change, the easier and smoother our transitions become. When we make a change because of love, the change is usually lasting. However, when fear motivates us to change, the change is usually short-lived.
Making dietary changes is no different. If you decide to become a vegetarian for loving reasons, such as loving your body, your spiritual gifts, animals, and the environment, you'll enjoy the transition more. However, if you are motivated by fear -- such as wanting to lose weight to please someone else -- you're apt to struggle with food cravings and dissatisfaction.
One simple way of modeling a life change is by using the "ADA 3-Step Process":
A is for Awareness
D is for Decision
A is for Action
Step 1: Awareness.
Awareness means that you have a conscious awareness of the issue, or your reasons for desiring a change. Upon becoming aware, we can then take . . .
Step 2: Decision.
Making a decision is making a choice, to do or not to do, after which . . .
Step 3: Action comes into play
Action incorporates our follow-through. It's important to associate Step 1 as much as possible with Step 3 so that change can occur with the realization that a personal decision (Step 2) has been made. This is opposed to being forced into a change, which usually leads to resentment.
Sometimes Step 2 (Decision) can cause people to get stuck, and then confusion sets in. Change involves risk. Knowing the degree to which you are willing to change assists in the change process and helps to keep you open. Sometimes people get stuck while trying to make a decision. Time passes, and ultimately no decision is made, which is actually a decision in itself.
Human behavior usually causes us to take the easiest choice when we have alternatives available to us. So, it's easier to procrastinate, keep living a sedentary lifestyle, or continue eating fatty animal foods than to change. Here are some ways to motivate yourself if you become stuck in this way:
Make a list of pros and cons.
Write down the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a vegetarian. If you have more pros than cons, keep reviewing the list each time you feel unsure of your decision.
Test-drive your future.
Imagine how your body, health, energy level, relationships, and career will be affected if you become a vegetarian. Then, imagine the alternative. How will your future look if you continue with your present lifestyle?
Ask your gut.
Go within and ask your inner self, "How do you feel about becoming a vegetarian?" Then, pay attention to any changes in your gut feelings. Does it tighten? Become lighter and brighter? Do you seem to get a positive or negative reaction from your gut? Mentally interview your gut, and ask it, "Why do you feel that way?" and "What do you want?" Your gut feelings will guide you to honestly listen to your soul's needs, instead of your body's Earthly desires.
Watch out for all-or-nothing mental traps.
Sometimes we resist making changes because they feel too overwhelming. If you're balking at vegetarianism, perhaps it's because you need to make the transition gradually. For instance, begin with one vegetarian meal a week. Then, make two meals a week vegetarian, and so on. This also gives your stomach a chance to adapt to a lower-fat diet so that you won't feel hungry from going "cold turkey" from meat (no pun intended!).
For most of us, small changes work best over the long haul. A concrete plan of action, such as "avoiding red meat" or "Every Wednesday, I'll eat a plant-based dinner," is especially helpful when we're first beginning a change. Small, concrete plans help to support new routines, which serve a purpose. They help to organize us; and make us feel comfortable, safe, and warm.
So, when we embrace change at first, we can expect to feel disorganized and a little uncomfortable. Establishing a routine, which you can continue to modify throughout your life, will support you in your desire to change. Here are some steps you might take when making your transition to vegetarianism. You can perform these steps in whatever time frame seems natural and comfortable to you.
Ten Suggested Steps for Making the Switch
1. Adopt a meditation program, such as yoga, A Course in Miracles, or sitting quietly with your eyes shut. Notice your breathing, thoughts, and emotions. Be aware of how your body feels, and any messages it seems to be signaling to you. Keep a journal of any insights.
2. Become aware of how you feel when you eat. Eat one food at a time so you will clearly see how that particular food affects you. Record the feelings and reactions you get for each food in your journal.
3. Note how you feel when you eat meat, and how you feel afterward. Record these feelings -- without editing, judging, or censoring them -- in your journal.
4. See how you feel when eating or drinking dairy products.
5. Purchase or borrow some vegetarian magazines and books to get new recipes and ideas for meat substitutes as you prepare to become a vegetarian.
6. Eliminate beef and pork from your diet.
7. Eliminate dairy products.
8. Eliminate chicken and turkey.
9. Eliminate eggs.
10. Eliminate fish.
The goal is for you to achieve success while being flexible and compassionate with yourself. For instance, you may want to transpose Steps 7 and 8. Remember, the goal is a process, not a destination. As you begin to change, this change will have a rippling effect on you and those around you, with the ripples eventually reaching everyone. Your friends and family will either embrace these movements, or show resistance and rejection. Honoring people's process of change is important, especially when we want to encourage others to join in our lifestyle change.
Gradually Becoming Vegetarian
Our attitude permeates everything, including when we make changes. Attitude places a lens on how we view and embrace life. If we think something is helpful, then it will be. Is love or fear your filter in life? Energetically, love leaves us open, while fear spins us off-center and ultimately shuts us down. Are you a vegetarian because this is a loving act for your body and the environment, or is it out of fear that you may have a heart attack as a result of a fatty diet? Love always heals fear and creates more love, while fear only creates more fear.
The most common reason why people switch to vegetarianism is to gain a greater feeling of well-being. This well-being is experienced as having more energy, feeling better, thinking more clearly, and having a greater connectedness to animal and plant life. Weight loss is a side benefit of becoming a vegetarian.
Awareness, decision-making, and action (the ADA of change) may look different for each of us. Gradual change invites others to join us. When we go down the river too fast, we may leave our loved ones on the river bank, with no bridge to connect us. Honor the changeability in others, especially when it shows up in a different way from what you regard as right or appropriate. That is why changing for oneself, and not to please others, is so important. If others come along for the journey, that's great; otherwise, move on with a smile.
Having a plan and developing a routine helps to establish a foundation. From this foundation, you can build a bridge to reach your family and friends. Slowly introducing new food items to your loved ones is one way to invite them to step on to your bridge to meet you.
Your bridge can be constructed with some of the old, while incorporating the new. One practical example of this concerns making meatloaf. At first, you can make it with your usual recipe, using a meat source and adding a little tofu. Over time, you can replace a major quantity of the meat with tofu. Eventually, your meatloaf will become a tofu loaf.
When we first improve our diet, we usually reduce or eliminate junk food, caffeine, and sugared snacks from our meals. When we hear people talk about eating a plant-based diet, they usually describe how energetic they feel as a result. This makes sense, since most Americans eat two to four times the amount of animal protein that they need, which can led to fatigue. Animal-based protein has a nitrogen atom on it. This nitrogen needs to be processed with water, so it can be released from the body as urea.
Most people do not drink enough water. Water needs are increased when we eat animal products. When we don't drink enough water, fatigue is the end result. When we are even one percent dehydrated, we become fatigued. Once animal protein is decreased in the diet, the water needs reduce, and fatigue is less likely.
An inviting way to use the imagination is to remove all the rules, listen to your feelings, and follow through. The cookbook The Art of Taste, by Beatrix Rohlsen, leaves room in her recipes for you to add your own creativity. You may find it helpful to follow the recipe once or twice to be aware of one possible way the recipe can taste. Once you gain confidence, you'll feel open to adding your own creative touches. This openness to add artistic license to someone else's recipe allows for a flow to occur, which supports and inspires your creative energy.
The following excerpt is reprinted with permission from the book:
Eating in the Light: Making the Switch to Vegetarianism on Your Spiritual Path
by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., and Becky Prelitz, M.F.T., R.D.
About The Authors
Doreen Virtue, PhD. is a spiritual doctor of psychology, and a vegan who teaches about the spiritual aspects of eating. She has written several books, among them: I'd Change My Life if I Had More Time; Constant Craving; Losing Your Pounds of Pain; Eating in the Light; and The Yo-Yo Diet Syndrome. Dr. Virtue has appeared on such talk shows such as Oprah, Geraldo, and Sally Jessy Raphael. Her website is www.angeltherapy.com.
Read more articles by Doreen Virtue.
Becky Prelitz, M.F.T., R.D., is a registered dietitian and licensed Marriage Family Therapist who counsels clients on the emotional and spiritual side of eating, weight, and body image. Becky Prelitz is the owner of Beyond Food, where she supports her clients in going beyond the food and weight to the emotional and spiritual side of eating, weight and body image. She also serves as consultant to Impact Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center and New Found Life, a recovery center where emotions, intertwined with food issues, are treated.