We know that some people have triggers with food, maybe due to a history of eating disorders or weight related abuse. We also that as a society, we can't sustain current levels of meat eating and expect to still have a livable planet.
So. How can we help people with food triggers to eat less meat or go vegetarian?
I will tell you how I did it, because I have really bad food triggers based on past abuse. Any feelings of being denied food play into that abuse and the restricting/purging ED issues I developed.
I really struggled with going vegetarian at first, but the best advice I got was from my Twitter friend, Camille. She said that when you crave meat, what you are craving is not actually the meat. It's the texture and the sauce and other seasonings.
This was really great advice. What I was able to do was substitute non-meat recipes for the things I wanted. And the results are close enough that it doesn't trigger any feelings of being deprived or denied food.
We also decided to fade out eating meat, which we did over the course of a year. We would have less meals with meat, and then over time, we didn't use meat to cook with at the house any more, but we would eat meat for take out and restaurants.
I think this is key for two reasons-- first, if you've had issues with eating disordered behavior, it's really important to not make any eating changes too fast. For me, any sharp & abrupt changes feel too much like the start of a new 'diet'. It is too close to those old, bad feelings, and it activates them.
Second is, the way you cook vegetarian/vegan meals is a new skill set, and it can take time to acquire those skills. You may have to get access to supplies that aren't in every grocery store and using the major vegetarian proteins- tempeh, seitan, & tofu- it takes some time to get used to.
Give yourself the time to learn. If you just grab the fake cold cuts and bean burgers and think you're going to make it as a vegetarian long term, you probably won't.
Even eating less meat is really important so if you're trying and not quite getting there yet- don't feel guilty! It's important to do what you can and not push yourself past what you are comfortable with too soon.
Do NOT expect to lose weight on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I didn't lose any weight when I stopped eating meat. This kind of talk is super prevalent among vegan groups, and I wish they would stop. (I'm going to write more about that another time.)
If you find that trying to cut out meat is triggering you- back off and give yourself space to breathe. The environment and animals are important, but your mental health is important too.
Give yourself time and space to build a foundation where you can feel safe with there being a type of food that you don't eat.
If you have questions about going vegetarian while dealing with food triggers- please feel free to reach out to me.