how to switch to a whole food plant based lifestyle
July 17, 2018
Are you curious about going "whole food plant based?"
How do you do it?
Well, don't eat animal products or junk food.
Ah, if only it were that easy.
Lifestyle | Diet
If you are coming from an already whole / real food lifestyle, or if you're already vegan for the animals, then this should be pretty simple.
If you are starting from the typical Western diet, high in processed meat, dairy, and packaged foods, then this will be hard. But it is possible! You just have to want it.
First, I want to clarify the difference in the term "lifestyle" and the word "diet" as most of us know it.
"Diet" as a noun is simply a word used to describe the kinds of food a person habitually eats. It is not always referring to "diet" as a verb, a special course of food a person restricts oneself to for a limited amount of time in order to achieve weight loss or other health goal.
A "lifestyle" is a way of life, your diet (the foods you eat) is a part of your lifestyle. This also includes athletic habits, products you choose to buy, and a mindset you have.
What is your motivation?
Many people transition to a whole food plant based lifestyle over a certain period of time, which could be days or weeks. Others, like me and my family, do it overnight cold turkey - pun intended ;)
At first, it may be overwhelming. Especially if you eat meat, eggs, dairy, or junk / highly processed food regularly.
The idea of cutting out all of those foods may be daunting.
In order to make this change stick you need to know why you are doing it. Is it for your health? That's why my family did it.
While it may be possible to eat junk food and animal products every day and still be considered "generally healthy," these foods are not clean eating foods, even if they are organic and ethically raised.
Animal products or highly processed foods will not promote health or help you meet significant health goals.
Besides, "generally healthy" compared to who? The heart disease ridden, obese population with diabetes on multiple different prescription medications?
Extreme exercise regiments and restricting calories will most likely help you lose weight, but how healthy is your heart? What about your endocrine system? Are you at risk for developing cancer or diabetes? Are you deficient in any essential nutrients?
Your body needs food, we all know this, but just like a car that needs gasoline to run, our bodies need the right type of fuel to run properly. A whole food plant based diet is evidence based nutrition, proven to prevent and reverse diseases and other ailments.
A well planned diet revolving around whole plant foods is the perfect way to properly fuel your body.
In our culture, it is socially acceptable to eat junk food and animal products every meal.
It is also socially acceptable to be overweight, diabetic, have blood pressure or cholesterol issues, and be on any number of prescription medications. I am not saying that all medications are bad, but some medications are just being used to treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle.
It is easier to pop a pill for your heart every day than it is to eliminate dietary cholesterol, drastically reduce saturated fat intake, and increase your consumption of whole plant foods.
It is easier to follow a fad diet for a few weeks to lose weight than it is to dramatically change your lifestyle and engage in a regular workout routine.
If you want to live a life independent of drugs, free from the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, then you have to get up and do something about it.
That choice and responsibility is yours.
So once you know that switching to a whole food plant based diet is the right choice for you to make for your health, you're almost there. This is more of a mental change than a physical one.
You'll need to unlearn all of the untruths you've been taught about food since you were a child. It's shocking to see who really benefits from the ads pushing our "need" for dairy or animal protein. Anyway, that's a whole other topic right there. But go and do your research. As I do more research, I plan to share what I learn.
But let's get back to how to make the switch.
Making the Switch
If you are not confident that going cold turkey is sustainable for you, then go slow. Take it one meal at a time.
Go through the food you already have in your fridge and pantry, but don't continue to buy the foods you are working to cut out.
Try switching to vegan convenience foods while you transition. Meat and dairy alternatives like vegan hot dogs, burgers, and vegan cheeses, can help to make the transition smoother and more tolerable. The goal is to eventually cut these out too since they are highly processed and contain a number of artificial ingredients that are definitely not health promoting.
Remember, you chose to make this change for you. So go easy on yourself, and don't feel guilty for not succeeding perfectly right away.
Decide whether you are switching overnight, or transitioning slowly. To switch overnight was easy for my family because we already had a good understanding of what whole food was.
But if you want to make the switch slowly over a few days or weeks, consider the following six steps to make it an easier transition.
- Begin adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, beans, etc first, before you start eliminating the animal foods or highly processed packaged foods.
- Don't buy more animal foods, it is OK to go through what you already have first if you want. Don't be afraid of vegan milks, cheeses, and meats. This will make cutting out animal foods easier.
- Look for recipes that don't require animal foods and implement one meal a week completely void of meat, dairy, or eggs, and then work up from there.
- If you usually have a snack in between meals, only snack on fresh fruits or veggies. Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, carrots, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli, etc.
- Become a pro ingredients list reader, learn all of the sneaky names for harmful ingredients and start buying less and less packaged foods.
- Slowly decrease the amount of vegan cheeses and meats you purchase. Remember, although they are vegan they are still highly processed and not whole foods. (check out my post for more details on this difference) Over time, pick up recipes to make your own "cheeses" and "meats," for example, there are many amazing cream cheese and queso recipes using whole plant foods that are simple and delicious. There are also a bunch of ways to season and cook certain vegetables, grains, and jackfruit to mimic the flavor and texture of meat. Do a google search, there are so many recipes out there!
Do not be hard on yourself. This isn't an impossible transition.
Make progress and continue taking steps in the right direction.
You can do this!