I had my last piece of meat in November 2013 and haven't looked back since. I'm not going to pretend the transition was easy; the November 2013 transition was actually my second and more thought out attempt. There might be a quicker, cold turkey approach to stop eating meat, and if you have the will power to successfully go through with that, you might want to stop reading now. If however, change doesn't come easy for you, this slower, more gradual approach is for you.
My First Attempt at Becoming a Vegetarian
My first attempt at becoming a vegetarian ended pretty quickly. My plan back then was to quit meat all together, overnight. The experiment lasted a few weeks and it wasn't very fun; it also wasn't serious. Since I quit overnight, I gave myself an escape: I could still eat meat, but only on my [fast food] cheat days. The further away I got from my "last piece of meat" the more I found myself making extra trips to McDonald's or Burger King for yet another cheat day. I was definately eating less meat, but I wasn't enjoying my diet very much.
The reason my first attempt failed was because I didn't give myself enough time to adjust to the drastic change of removing a major ingredient from my diet. Before giving up meat, I ate fish, ground turkey and grilled chicken on a regular basis. I even threw steaks in occasionally. I ate meat daily. Going from a daily serving of meat to none (even with the cheat day exception) was a huge change.
Whether you're cutting calories, reducing junk food or exercising more, big change doesn't come quick or easy. Typically, making small changes over a longer period of time works much better than making changes overnight. This held true for becoming a vegetarian.
How I Became a Vegetarian (Timeline)
My second attempt has so far worked much better than my first because I planned it out in stages. My second attempt at becoming a vegetarian didn't even start off with the goal of giving up meat. I simply wanted to eat less meat and other animal products (milk, cheese, eggs).
Spring 2012 - Milk
The first item I ditched was milk; it was easy to replace. Soy milk tastes pretty good and can be used in place of the real stuff pretty much anywhere (foods, shakes, stand-alone). Soy milk has similar amounts of protein and calories without any of the saturated fat contained in the real stuff.
August 2012 - Beef
After milk, I started getting rid of beef. Beef was also pretty easy to avoid. I did eat steaks occasionally, but even with beef gone, I could still eat chicken/turkey breast, tuna/salmon steaks and ground poultry. I still had plenty of meat options.
Summer 2013 - Poultry
Poultry was the next step. This was the hardest one to give up because I relied on it quite a bit in my post-beef world. Still, with seafood still an option, it ended up being easier than I thought.
November 2013 - Seafood
Seafood was the last stop on my quest to become a vegetarian. Honestly, I never really intended to take this final step. It was my roommate who suggested it. At first, I was hesitant, but the more I thought about, the more it sounded like something I could do. Sometime towards the end of November 2013 (right before the best meat-eating holiday), I had my last piece of seafood (a Fish-O-Filet from McDonald's) and haven't looked back since.
Eggs and Dairy - Ongoing
My ultimate goal is to completly get rid of animal products. Ditching eggs and dairy has been much harder than getting rid of meat. This is partly because they remain my last two options and also because the industry heavily relies on them for food processing. Going out to eat and avoiding meat is mostly simple (unless you're going to a steak house). Avoiding eggs and dairy is much more difficult.
The Bottom Line
Giving up meat was a bit "scary." We rely on it as a staple in our diets. If meat is no longer an option, what are we supposed to eat? More than two years after making the decision to stop eating meat, I can tell you there are plenty of options. More companies are beginning to pay attention to the growing vegetarian/vegan market. This brings some much needed [tasty] competition to the marketplace.
Like all major change, becoming a vegetarian does not have to be black and white. If the goal is to decrease consumption of animal products, start slowly and move in that direction. Making posistve change isn't always about reaching goals overnight. Change is about moving towards a goal. Perfect is the enemy of good.