My transition to a plant-based diet was significantly made easier by being a flexitarian.
A flexitarian is someone who is semi-vegetarian. The aim is to have a diet rich in plant-based foods as much as possible with wiggle room for some meat intake. People may choose to become a flexitarian for a number of reasons. Being flexitarian may be a lifestyle choice for many people forever while others use it as a means of transitioning from meat to a plant-based diet.
As the name suggests, the definition of flexitarian itself is quite flexible. However, as the term became more popular, you may find that some sources may have their own set ideas of what a flexitarian diet is. Personally, I believe that being flexitarian isn’t a diet per se, rather it is a lifestyle choice that should be guided by the person’s ideals and goals.
For me, I created my own rules for being flexitarian that aligned with my values and lifestyle. I encourage my readers to do the same; to reflect on their lifestyle, where they are on their plant-based journey, their goals and then create their own set of guidelines. This way, you won’t feel restricted and feel like you are following someone else’s journey. It will also keep you committed for longer too!
So why do I think that everyone trying to transition into a plant-based diet should become a flexitarian? Here are my reasons below.
1. Helps with Cravings, Indulgences and Long-Term Commitment
Transitioning to a plant-based diet after two decades worth of eating meat was definitely a challenge for me. I had cravings for meat a lot in the first few months. Being a flexitarian helped me indulge in these temptations whilst setting boundaries. It forced me to transition slowly which helped me adapt and commit long term. Otherwise, I would have been lost in my ambition to go cold-turkey or faster than I could’ve handled which may have turned me away from the entire thing.
As a flexitarian you can choose how much and how often you eat meat and plant-based meals. The best thing about this is that it works with your lifestyle. I chose to have plant-based meals during weekdays because I’m in a work/study/routine mindset and weekends were when I relaxed a bit more. For someone else, they might choose to eat plant-based on weekends and have meat every alternative weekday.
Overtime, our minds and tastebuds gets used to the types of foods we eat. The majority of flexitarians have plant-based foods as their primary diet and meat as indulgences. So then we naturally start opting for more plant-based foods over meat products… and before we know it, we’re just about 95% of the way there!
2. Sets the Tone of the Conversation
As many of us will know, transitioning to a plant-based diet isn’t just a battle with ourselves. Eating is such a social thing that we’re likely going to have to explain our dietary choices to our friends, family, work colleagues or even strangers every once in a while. The plant-based diet is not without it’s critics and doubters. This can bring about unexpected tension, questioning and social vulnerability for both parties.
This is why I believe telling people that you’re a flexitarian is such a great way to break the ice or rid of any uneasiness during your transition. It may seem like everyone knows what a flexitarian is but you’ll be surprised by how many people outside of this community don’t.
Plus, we all secretly love how fun the word itself is (I learned that the fancy word for these kind of words is portmanteau). So you’ll most likely get responses such as, “what on earth is a flexitarian?”, “a flexi-what?” and “what does that mean?”.
From my experiences, this all brings about laughter, positive incredulousness and a bond that will form when you explain what it means. If you do encounter someone who is well-versed with what a flexitarian is, I am sure a beautiful discussion will follow.
Eventually, once you complete the transition, you’ll be confident in yourself and your diet to explain it clearly to others without any fear of judgement.
3. Gives Yourself a Break
We are all likely to make a mistake during our transition period. Whether we succumb to a craving or get tempted by a dish that we loved since we were kids, we are all vulnerable to mistakes.
Unfortunately, many of us including myself, are too harsh on ourselves when this happens. We become self-critical and unforgiving which is not only bad for our mindset but also for long-term commitment to this plant-based lifestyle.
By becoming a flexitarian, we acknowledge that mistakes can happen. Therefore, we can make room for any potential mistakes. For example, I always felt pressured to eat my Mum’s home cooked, non-vegan meals when I visited her. So I allowed myself some leeway for this potential mistake.
The benefits to this is a healthy mindset and mental health . By allowing myself room for error, I avoided any negative connotations and self-shaming. Instead, I was able to self-reflect, clearly see my misadventures and promised myself to do better next time. This led me to have a healthier relationship with my plant-based diet.
4. Some of Us Like Labels
There are some people who say that they don’t like using labels. They don’t like to use the words vegan, plant-based or vegetarian to label themselves or their diet. I fully understand why this may be the case. Amongst many reasons, they might have had a negative experience with people who have stereotypical views of such labels. Personally, I dislike the political and stringent nature that labels can bring about in discussions.
However, labels are obviously a great way to communicate our dietary choices to others. We also feel like we belong in a community which is what our human nature loves. So using the term flexitarian may actually bring about a sense of commitment and community. This is evident in the vast amount of flexitarian, vegan and vegetarian Facebook groups!
Give it a Try!
So if you’re finding it difficult to transition to a plant-based diet, try to incorporate the ideas of being a flexitarian into your lifestyle. It will give you a set of guidelines to follow that is in tune with your lifestyle, allow mistakes to happen and promote a happy and positive mindset for the long term!