When becoming a vegetarian, few things will affect your progress like the power of support. Alone things can be difficult, but with others, suddenly the worst doesn’t seem so bad. A lot of people assume that the decision to make the diet switch has to be personal, and it does, but they misinterpret that to mean that they have to be the only one involved in the change, and that’s not exactly true. Finding the right group of people and the right places to search will help you on your way. Here’s just a little bit about the value of support.

Yes, giving up meat is something that only you can decide to do. You won’t find as much success if you’re forced to change your diet, or if you’re doing it in order to fit in, or because a celebrity told you to do it. There’s just no personal reason behind it otherwise. Part of your strength will come from thinking through your reasoning for becoming a vegetarian or vegan and then deciding, definitively, that it’s something you want to continue with, be it for health, religious, ethical, or environmental reasons. No reason is bad as long as it has a personal relationship with you and how you view both the world and yourself.

But deciding is the only part that needs to be done alone. The rest can be done with a group, and in fact that’s the best way to do things. Vegetarians of all sorts are still a minority, and the only adage “strength in numbers” applies here as well, meaning that the more vegetarians come together, the easier it is to do just about anything. Having trouble thinking of a good new meatless recipe? Chances are some other vegetarians have been coming up with some great ones. Not sure of a vegetarian friendly restaurant in town? Someone else definitely has. This community will help to share information about everything veg-related, helping new members become acclimated to the lifestyle and keeping old members firm in their beliefs.

Few things can really stop you from backsliding. Everyone will experience at least the very least a small voice in their head that suggests they try meat again, even for a second or two. At worst it’s a full-blown craving at an all-you-can-eat buffet or something. No matter which, the ability to weather this storm will rely entirely on who you know and can talk to. Those in rehab have sponsors who can help them through troubled times, and giving up meat is very similar to this. Not in the same way exactly, but the two are very similar. Your body is used to meat and will crave it, resulting in your brain being convinced that you need more of it in the first place. Saying no to yourself can be tough, but having a friend there to help say no to you and keep you in line can make things much easier.

Some may call it a safety net, but it’s much more than that. As humans, we crave companionship, which goes farther than just wanting to find a significant other. We want friends and we want acceptance by those friends. A vegetarian community is no different than anything else where people gather. They encourage and enrich one another, helping them in more ways than they could ever imagine.

The tricky part is actually finding a solid vegetarian support network, at least when it comes to face-to-face ordeals. Trying to convince your friends and family to change their diets may be asking too much, and not every town has a strong vegetarian outreach program in place, but that’s where our good friend the Internet comes into play. Online you’re never alone, and the amount of vegetarians, vegans, or any variant of a meat-free diet can become staggering. There are no shortages of forums, advice groups, and general support communities on the web, so you can always find what you need if you start at a good forum and become a member of the community itself.

Support isn’t overrated. Looking for help and guidance doesn’t make you weak, it makes you stronger. As humans, we’re prone to have gaps that we just can’t cross on our own, so by seeking out someone to stand in that gap for us, we find a way around our problems. Looking for support as a vegetarian can help keep you from going back to your old diet. Don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it!