Leaning into change

Sculpture representing my sign in the Chinese zodiac, the dog. Photo by chooyutshing via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Change is hard. Trust me, I know. A friend once framed for me a description of my Chinese horoscope sign because it was pretty darn accurate: “The Dog … Honest, trusted, loyal … Plays with no other purpose than to enjoy the moment. But there is a tendency to worry if routine order is disrupted.” So, change is worrisome to me. I feel better planning ahead than winging it, and I like predictability.

Dog that I am, more than a year passed from the time that I bought The Omnivore’s Dilemma shortly after its publication in 2006 to the time that I actually read it. It sat on our coffee table collecting dust all those months, staring at me every day. Why did it take me so long to read it, even after my interest was strong enough to not only buy it in hardback but also leave it sitting out rather than shelving it? Because based on interviews that I had heard with author Michael Pollan (like this one, on Fresh Air), I knew in my gut that reading the book would make me want to change my eating habits, and I was reluctant to change. But one day I finally “sucked it up” and read it, and so started my journey as a conscientious omnivore.

During her final season, Oprah aired an episode that prominently featured veganism. She and the whole Harpo staff went vegan for a week, and the show included guests like Pollan and Kathy Freston (“The Veganist”) as well as a report by Lisa Ling from a slaughterhouse. One of the ideas discussed on this episode is that you can “lean into” change. In other words, instead of deciding to revamp some aspect of your life (like eating habits) all at once, you can make small changes to try things out. Folks who think to themselves, “Huh, I probably eat more meat than I need to” don’t need to go cold turkey (so to speak), going to bed a carnivore and waking up vegetarian. The same applies to any other dietary change you might make, whether it’s deciding to increase your daily fruit and veggie intake, eat fewer prepackaged and processed foods, reduce sodium in your diet, or eat more local produce. All-at-once isn’t necessarily the right way or the best way. Take it from a dog, small changes can be less intimidating, less disruptive, and therefore easier to stick with.

Have you been thinking about changing any of your eating habits? Which ones? What’s holding you back from making a change you’ve been considering?


The Conscientious Omnivore is away this week. This is an encore presentation of a post that originally appeared on November 8, 2011.



  1. Anna

    I realize this is an ‘encore’ presentation, but it’s definitely one worth sharing again! There is so much conflict in the world already, and so much of it happens within spheres of people who are trying to do the right thing. One of those spheres is folks who are trying to eat more positively, both for themselves and for the environment. The viciousness that can erupt within this group can be very hateful and judgmental–vegan vs. paleo vs. traditional food vs. raw vs. whatever.

    I’m supportive of any small changes that people decide to make that helps them, their families and the environment–if someone adopts ‘meatless Mondays’, or Mark Bittman’s ‘vegan before six’ or joins a CSA, or buys a few things from the farmers market every other week–these are all small changes that add up for our present environment and economy, and will likely be amplified by the next generation.

    Thanks for all you share Todd!

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