Struggling to Ditch Meat? Here Are 5 Science-Backed Ways to Resist The Temptation
Are you a conflicted carnivore – loving meat but also hating that you love it?
Maybe you're ashamed of all the wasted water and food that goes into meat production and the deforestation and damaging emissions caused by animal agriculture.
Many of us also simply struggle to accept the justifications used to defend the killing of intelligent, emotionally sensitive animals.
You wouldn't be alone – initial findings recently presented at a conference suggests that more than 30 percent of meat eaters in the US, Germany and France are conflicted about eating animals.
Here are five ways in which psychology may be able to help.
1. Be prepared
Most of our eating is mindless, meaning it is governed by habits, rituals and what is available.
Our power to overcome temptation depends on us first identifying that there is a conflict we need to address.
One way to counteract mindless eating then is to prepare ourselves for an upcoming temptation.
One way of doing this would be to look at the restaurant menu online before you arrive and determining what to order.
2. Try mindful eating
The opposite of mindless eating might be called "mindful" eating.
This means placing greater attention on food-related thoughts and cravings as they arise.
The mindfulness training involved paying attention to various parts of the body for arising sensations, and attending to food-related thoughts and cravings – noticing them but not acting on them.
3. Broaden your outlook
Another trick from the psychology of self control is to adopt a wider mental frame.
For example, you may want to think about all the meals you will eat or all the animal lives you will save in your lifetime.
Setting aside fish and seafood, that's about 30 lives per year for the average American.
Wide mental frames help us cast our momentary choices within the larger goals we have for ourselves, such as helping the planet or helping animals.
4. Picture the animals
People currently avoiding meat tend to have a richer understanding of the cognitive and emotional capabilities of farmed animals – for example, they understand that pigs, like humans and dogs, have sophisticated emotional lives.
They also are quick to connect the meat on the plate with the once-living animal source. When they see meat – they see an animal.
We know from recent studies that connecting meat to animals or animal suffering can spoil appetites.
For example, many people find roast pork tasty, but much less tasty when the pork comes with a pig's head on the plate.
5. Find sympathetic friends
Many people who have given up being vegetarian say that they struggled to find a supportive network of like-minded eaters.
But it's likely that some of your friends may have similar levels of discomfort with meat as you.
So don't fall into the trap of assuming you're alone.
And when dining with less amenable friends, you might scout out restaurants that integrate vegetarian options into their menus.
This will avoid splintering the group into opposing pro and anti-meat factions.
In addition, some research suggests it might increase the chances of everyone ordering a meat-free meal.