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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Braces for Blowback Over Becoming a Vegetarian

DEAR ABBY: I am a 15-year-old girl who wants to become a vegetarian. I don't exactly know why. I only know I want to stop eating meat and choose a healthier alternative lifestyle. I also want to lose weight, which may happen after becoming vegetarian.

There's been a lot going on in my life lately, so I've been stress-eating. I don't hate my body, but I sure don't love it. Every picture I take, I suck in my gut because I'm insecure.

The problem is, I'm not sure how to present this to my family. I'm sure I'll get the annoying, "How could you give up steak/bacon/chicken?" from my dad and sister. Mom will probably be supportive, as she has always encouraged us to eat healthier in general, and she'll most likely help me come up with somewhat of a meal plan.

I realized I wanted to stop eating meat when I was eating bacon and suddenly felt like I wanted to throw up because I was eating something that used to be alive. Basically, I was weirded out.

How do I explain this to my family? Additionally, how can I then get my extended family to understand that I won't be able to eat meat at events such as parties and gatherings? -- FUTURE VEGETARIAN IN NEW YORK

DEAR VEGETARIAN: There is nothing wrong with being a vegetarian, but it is not a guaranteed way to lose weight. Whether or not you realize it, half your letter discusses your lack of confidence about your body. You should definitely discuss it with someone. A counselor at school could be helpful.

Before changing your diet, discuss it with your doctor or a registered dietitian so you can manage it in a healthy way. Also, go online and start researching vegetarianism.

As to your extended family, people can have full social lives without consuming meat or causing inconvenience or discomfort to others. One simple solution would be to ask what will be served and bring something with you to eat if necessary.

Read more in: Teens | Family & Parenting | Health & Safety