Dear Jeannine...

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I'm thinking about going vegan. Did you quit eating animal products cold turkey, or did you ease yourself into it?  Any tips?

- Maria

Going vegan was one of the best decisions I've made for my body, but it wasn't easy in the beginning.  I did stop eating meat and fish cold turkey a little over nine years ago, but made a big mistake.  I didn't know how to eat properly as a vegan and got pretty sick.  My iron levels were low, I was always exhausted and started to become well, pretty frail.  After seeking guidance from a nutritionist, I learned how to eat as a vegan, where to get my protein from and discovered delicious foods that I didn't even know existed (ever hear of seitan?).  After learning how to eat properly, I felt alive again.  Two years ago I decided to give up dairy, but I still eat dark chocolate and things like butter at restaurants.  I'm not a strict vegan, but a strict vegetarian.

My best advice to you would be to listen to your body.  Don't go cold turkey.  Start slowly by eliminating red meats first, then chicken and then fish over the course of a few months.  This way, you'll be able to listen to your body and see how each is affecting you.  Consult a nutritionist or read about the direction you want to go to make sure you stay healthy.  What I've learned is that we don't need to be so strict as to labeling our lifestyle "vegetarian," "vegan," or "pescatarian."  What's important is that you find out what works for your body.