Personally, it was not difficult for me to drop the habit. It was, in all honesty, a rebellion move when I was 13. My mother thought it was just going to be a phase and let me not eat the meat that was cooked for dinner every night, or every other night. After nearly 10 years, you'd hope that she knows it's not a phase any longer (just kidding, Mom, I know you know it's not just a phase. ;))! Naturally, as I have grown, the reasons behind my non-meat eating habits have, as well.
Whether you do not like the taste of meat or you want to live a more "cruelty free" lifestyle, switching to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle can be difficult. Although rewarding (and after 10 years I can assure you it is rewarding) it can be difficult to cold-turkey meat. No pun intended (okay, a little pun intended.) The steps below are an aggregate of what I've seen through many other individuals transitions to and from vegetarianism and from personal experience on my longtime journey.
1. Establish a Reasoning.Whether you do not like the taste of meats (my initial reasoning along with the rebellion) or you want to live a less cruel or cruelty-free lifestyle (see http://www.gocrueltyfree.org/ for more info on the entire cruelty-free movement), establishment of a reasoning is a large factor in a lifestyle change. Having reasoning behind a goal gives a person more effort and pride in the actual goal itself.
2. Secondly, Don't Give Up.Even if those Chicken "fingers" or "nuggets" look delicious, you have to know that you're on a mission and that mission is to become (insert your reasoning/mission here.) I cannot attest for the deliciousness of meat items, but I do know that most people assume they could "never be vegan/vegetarian because meat tastes so good." It really doesn't. It's pretty disgusting, but that's just my personal opinion.
3. It Doesn't Hurt to Take It Slow.
Don't try to go cold-turkey if you've been eating meat for your entire life. Not only will it be difficult, but your body needs time to adjust to the change. Do one type of meat at a time. Chicken out one week, or start with beef, whatever type you do not eat the most. Knock that one out and move forward. Even take 2 types out at once, that's okay. If you want to go cold-turkey, that's cool, but it may be harder.
4. Test Meat-Alternative Products.There are a TON on the market. Some that are GMO-free (which I would recommend), some that are made by large brands in the market (Like Morning Star), and some I've honestly never heard of. Women need to remember the increase in estrogen can be difficult on the body or cause different diseases, but this should not detour you from attempting and succeeding at vegan/vegetarianism. Soy products are a great, great way to get protein.
5. Don't Forget About the ProteinAnd don't think that just because you're not going to be eating meat that you're not going to get enough protein. If you think that's the case, it's not. The meat-alternative products offer a LARGE amount of protein as they are typically made of soy. Beans, legumes, and some vegetables offer a large amount of proteins. Here's a list of protein sources that you could consider if you did not want to eat a lot of soy: Protein list.
6. Don't Rely on Pasta and Cheese!I did this for a very, very long time. DO NOT think that vegetarians and vegans do not gain weight. That is an absolute lie. Personally, I gained a large amount of weight during my undergraduate college years. I got up to my heaviest (155) by only eating Mac'n'Cheese and burritos. At the time, I loved it. I mean... I love Mac'N'Cheese and beans. But I gained a lot of weight. A varied diet, that actually includes vegetables and varied beans/legumes is a solid foundation. Start it from the beginning. For those going vegan, not eating cheese and pasta will be quite simple. For those who are choosing a vegetarian route, remember, wheat and cheese can make you bloat.
7. Choose Fresh Over Canned.Yeah, yeah. I know that's a little stretched, but fresh foods are much better than processed foods.
8. Don't Give In to the Dreams.Dreams, they suck sometimes. And when you're attempting to go through a lifestyle change, your subconscious is going to screw with you! You have been accustom to meat, as has your subconscious. Vegans and Vegetarians alike have dreamt, oh have the dreamt, of meat items. My personal meat-dream? Arby's Roast Beef sandwich. After 10 years, I still have the dream. Different every time, but always, always an Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich. Ignore them! They are only dreams!
9. The Vitamins.Yes, it is true. Vegetables and fruits give you an awesome amount of vitamins! But just like every other website is going to tell you, I'm going to tell you to make sure you have sufficient B12 intake. If you don't think you're getting enough of it through the vegetables you're eating (which at one point I wasn't), make sure that you're supplementing it. Pay attention to the capsules and that they aren't made of Gelatin. A lot of the bottles will tell you if the capsules are vegetarian! B12 is essential for nerves, and you don't want to gain nerve damage with your lifestyle change. Just add it in to your morning routine and you'll do fine!
10. Eating Out.Please, please don't think that you will never have an option to eat out. Even at Fast Food places, there are salads. I lived off of Burger King for a long time. They actually serve Morning Star vegetarian burgers, and you can make it a meal. :) Taco Bell is also fantastic. But also, the amount of restaurants that either are or cater to Vegans/Vegetarians are growing, even in the South. Depending on where you are, a simple search in Google will give you a long list of places to eat that will allow you to actually eat. I know this, because my boyfriend did it for our first date and found a great restaurant at which we ate. Don't think that just because you're at a restaurant that you have to eat meat.
There is no doubt that you will feel healthier in your body. Without meat sitting in your gut for up to 7 days, you'll be functioning fantastically (aka: You'll poo wonderfully.)
If you're in it for the right reasons (ANY reason is the right reason), it will eventually become simple for you to cut out the meat. With your end goal in mind of becoming and living healthier (or whatever your goal may be) to keep you on track, you'll be able to overcome any of the obstacles that present themselves. Just make sure to phase and maintain. Don't backslide!