Over this past year, I have been testing out different types of diets to refrain from eating processed foods and meats as much as I could. From December 2017 until about February 2018, I was refraining from eating any types of red meat and poultry, and only ate fish or seafood. After February, I grew sort of tired of this diet and decided to open myself up to poultry. That was a big mistake, because eventually, I began eating red meat again. But, I am back now. 

As of late September, I decided that I would fully commit to being vegetarian: so no meats at all! I still eat dairy and eggs, however, only for the sole purpose of my university's cafeteria not having the best vegetarian options. This transition from loving a good Five Guys burger to enjoying an even better Five Guys veggie sandwich is tough, but it's worth it and very rewarding. Did I mention I'm from Louisiana? This makes it 10 times harder because southern food is full of meats and it is great. But, I am fully committed now! If you're like me, you may not know how to stay on track, so here are a few tips to help you with the transition.

1. Research

I can not stress enough how important it is to research the nutritional values of foods. This is important in order to make sure you are maintaining a balanced diet and getting the right amount of nutrients. There is an app called "LifeSum" that will help you track your daily meals, water intake and exercise. It is extremely helpful to have something that tells you how much more protein you need and the kinds of foods will help you reach that protein goal.

2. Budget

Going vegetarian for me meant that I would be spending more money on healthier foods. Let's face it, junk is more accessible and cheaper, which is why I encourage you to budget. If not, you'll be like me and go into Walmart only to pile up your basket with lots of healthy foods and then realize that Boom Chicka Pop is more expensive than two bags of chips.

3. Think Positive

If you want to adjust to a new lifestyle or diet, you can't think of the negatives the transition may present. You have to be optimistic and open minded. Don't think about what you can't have. Instead, think of the many things you can have and how this new lifestyle will be rewarding. 

4. Block Out Negativity

When I decided to go vegetarian, so many people asked me why would I do such a thing especially since I am in the south (where the food is immaculate). I understand their concerns with making sure I have a balanced diet and what not, but sometimes you just have to commit to what you want to do. People are always going to question your lifestyle, but that's okay. Know the reason why you're doing what you're doing and stick to it. Still, I also encourage you not to force one's lifestyle on others. If you choose not to eat meat for your own particular reasons, great! But please, don't condemn those who choose to continue to eat meat or dairy. Blocking out negativity doesn't mean condemning, but instead focusing on your goal and ignoring things that don't bring you closer to it.

5. Have Fun

This may sound a little silly when you first read it but seriously, have fun!  If you can't find the fun in what you're doing, should you even be doing it? Be creative with your food choices. Try new combinations. Put your chemistry skills into action. Challenge yourself to eat more leafy vegetables or to triple your water intake in a day. Have fun with finding creative ways to prepare foods. It will help you greatly when you really want to eat that fish.

6. Follow Vegetarian/Vegan Influencers

It feels good to know that you're not alone. By following people who either just started their journey or have been on their journey for a while, you are able to commit more to your lifestyle. They also help you when you need to know some really good snack and meal options. My personal favorite is "The Chic Natural" on YouTube.

7. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Adapting to a new lifestyle won't happen quickly or overnight. It's okay if you mess up, as long as you get back up. If you need to have a set cheat day to help you adapt, set one. When I first went pescatarian, Fridays were my cheat days where I only ate chicken or turkey. Reward yourself! You deserve it. Also, rewarding yourself doesn't have to be just eating meat. Now that I am fully vegetarian, I reward myself with juice! I try to stick to water, so after a long day or week I'll buy myself a nice Gatorade or coffee. 

Adjusting to a completely new lifestyle is not an easy road at all. I just want to encourage you to continue to fight through the hard times, whether it's with transitioning to a new diet or bouncing back from a loss. Fight and persevere, because your desired end results are always worth it.

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