Five Things That Happen When You Become Vegetarian Aged 26 1/2

06/11/2014 17:39 GMT | Updated 06/01/2015 10:59 GMT

There's nothing I like more than a big old slab of pork belly or a beef and horseradish sandwich. And don't even get me started on burgers.

But, after 26 years blissfully chomping on meat, I decided to give it up - for good.

After one month (because any earlier would be too soon), I thought I'd highlight the trials and tribulations of turning veggie in your mid-20s.

You become the centre of attention

Not that there's anything wrong with it, in fact, I quite like being in the spotlight.

But suddenly everyone wants to probe at my new lifestyle choice. I'm being treating me like a piece of, ahem, meat.

Sometimes the interest boils down to curiosity, but quite often it borders on interrogation.

Why did you make your decision? How long are you doing it for? Why now, and why so late? Have you had any meat cravings? Are you eating fish?

While I'm happy to answer questions, I've often felt under pressure for 'not being veggie enough' or for wearing leather boots. Just because I've decided to stop eating meat doesn't mean I instantly become more responsible for everything that is unjust in the world. We all share equal responsibility - I've simply taken the first step.

Meat eaters will do their best to sabotage you

It's not everyday your younger brother threatens to shove a steak down your throat. But such is the level of intensity our relationship reached within minutes of him hearing the immortal words: "Brogan is a vegetarian."

Understandably, his main concerns were what will I eat at Christmas. And frankly, I'm not entirely sure myself. There's something remarkably unappetising about the word 'nutloaf'.

Most people (my brother included) think it won't be long before I fall off the meat-free bandwagon. Some are even willing participants in ensuring my failure. Apparently I "won't be able to cope" without chorizo. But so far, so good.

In all honestly, I don't know whether I'll be a vegetarian for life. I certainly hope so. But if I go back to eating meat or slip up, it's on my own conscience. Not theirs.

Veggies become your new BFFs

But for every threat or doubt I've received from angry or confused omnivores, there have been a handful of veggies eager to guide me down the enlightened path.

When I first decided to turn veggie I tweeted about it, natch. Within minutes more seasoned vegetarians were tweeting recipes, restaurant recommendations and inviting me to lunch with them.

So far I've found Ottolenghi's Plenty More, the McCartney's Meat Free Monday and Deliciously Ella invaluable to my transition. But while I'm a keen student, nothing beats having a support network showing you that ditching meat isn't as difficult as you first thought.

You go protein crazy

I used to think, like most people, that my main source of protein was meat and that by cutting it out I would whither and die. But how wrong I was.

I soon learned that are lots of sources of meat-free protein. And this doesn't mean living off tofu, nuts and those gym-bunny protein shakes.

Plants are a great source of protein, they contain fewer calories and a lower fat percentage than animal protein. All things leafy - think kale, spinach, chard - and other tasty veggies like mushrooms, peas, broccoli will do.

Lentils and other beans and pulses are also a veggie's best friend. Especially so you don't start carb-loading to fill yourself up - which is always a risk.

Then there are trendy superfoods such as chia seeds and spirulina, a pungent algae, that will help keep protein levels up.

All it takes is a bit of research and before long you know your alternative protein sources like the back of your hand.

You stockpile food

Anyone looking in my freezer would think that the end of the world was nigh.

From frozen dahl or soup, to frozen fruit for smoothies, I've jam-packed my freezer with goods to see me through to Christmas (almost).

The reason? Money, mostly - we all know it's cheaper to buy/cook in bulk. But when there is only one veggie mouth to feed, the freezer soon becomes a girl's best friend.

Another reason is temptation. Despite my best intentions, I can't help but worry that one hungover, rainy day I'll have a lapse and reach for the nearest food available. By planning ahead, buying weekly shops, creating diverse and delicious meals - I should be able to resist that temptation.

At least, I hope so.