I’ve been following a plant-based diet (think: vegan + limited refined sugar and processed foods) for a couple weeks now, and there are a few things I’ve learned. First of all, I feel a whole lot better already. My energy is up. I don’t rely on caffeine like I used to. Netflix marathons do not have to simultaneously accompany a candy binge after which I feel like total crap but for some reason still want to lie on my couch, drinking beer, and thinking sad guilty thoughts about my body/heath/exercise habits.
Second of all, friends and family have a lot of questions. That’s fair! They are concerned about my health and well-being. I’m not (yet?) a jaded vegan who thinks everyone is judging their nutritional habits. That said, I want to shed some light on the answers to some of those common questions. Maybe I can just start referring inquirers to this blog post. 😉
Why? As in, why would you do that?
Because I am young and by today’s standards healthy. That is to say, I don’t have a disease, I’m not overweight, and I have no broken bones. But I do have anxiety, allergies (to, like, every plant ever), trouble sleeping, adult acne, neck problems, fatigue, and a strong urge to binge eat candy the moment I get home from work and set eyes on my couch (why does candy taste best when you eat ten servings of it!? I have a feeling there is a vey logical scientific answer to that one…).
In other words, I don’t feel healthy.
I exercise regularly (see: Pittsburgh Marathon, Here I Come!) and don’t smoke, so I figured a factor to my feelings of crappiness probably had to do a large part to what I was eating (and also to stress, but that is hurdle to discuss at another time).
So there you have it. It’s really quite simple. I’m eating plant-based because I am trying to feel, and be, the best version of myself.
Make sure you are getting enough protein!
Very good advice. But good advice for anyone. Before I became vegetarian (about six months ago), I would eat on average three turkey sandwiches a week. I didn’t really care for red meat, and I didn’t really know how to cook meat at home either. I also wasn’t consuming plant protein like nuts or beans or using protein powder.
Today, I am more careful than ever about ensuring I eat enough protein. In fact, I am sure I eat more now than I did before I was vegetarian! My energy level has gone up, and I feel like I’m getting more from workouts.
Bottom line is: just because you aren’t a vegetarian, doesn’t mean you are getting enough protein. And just because you are, doesn’t mean you’re not!
Cookie Dough Brownies from Desertswithbenefits.com. Yes, these are vegan. And yes, they are delicious.
But what about ice cream? And cheese?!
There may be nothing better than fresh Wisconsin cheese curds. But truth be told, I stopped craving cheese after I stopped eating it for about a week. All I did was avoid it. Seriously, I just didn’t buy any cheese at the grocery store, and I didn’t order dishes with cheese in it
when I went out. What kept my self-control strong was the disappearance of that fuzzy feeling I got in my head after a cheesy pizza or the bloated stomach after a grilled panini that I scarfed down at my cubicle.
And as for ice cream, I switched to coconut ice cream. Which is as good as is sounds! Yum!
Why are refined sugars so bad for you?
First of all, sugar doesn’t contain: nutrients, protein, healthy fats, or enzymes. So, from my perspective (as in, not a scientist), sugar sounds like empty calories. Which actually doesn’t sound that bad. I mean, sugar is clearly not good for you…but does that mean it’s bad for you?
The cincher for me is that sugar is addictive. I have sugar. Then I want more sugar. And more sugar. And eventually nothing else (honey, maple syrup, fruit) tastes all that great because it’s, well, not as sweet and delicious as sugar (and now I’m going to get all fancy and give you a scientific source for what seems to be an obvious observation).
Other research suggests that refined sugar can cause also weight gain and poor sleep. Bummer.
What are you going to eat when you travel abroad?
For me, eating is a huge part of exploring another culture. I tried gelato in every major Italian city I visited. I ate margherita pizza in Naples. Tasted octopus in Southern Italy. Enjoyed cheese filled sausages in Bavaria. And fish and chips in London. Eating is part of the adventure. Since I don’t travel often, I’ve decided not to follow a strict plan-based diet while, say, visiting my expatriate twin sister in Amsterdam. I’m going to try my best (she already has some great vegetarian restaurants in mind!), but let myself experience the food of that culture. I’ll just try to stick to one stroopwafel…instead of ten.
THE BEST HOMEMADE BURRITOS EVER. Recipe from thekindlife.com
Eating out is going to suck.
Actually, no, it really hasn’t. Combining appetizers with salads or soups makes for a good option when visiting a less vegan-friendly
restaurant, but if you live in a city, my bet is you can find some pretty decent vegetarian places as well. That said, I’ve come to an understanding that compromises will be made. Non-whole wheat pasta at an Italian restaurant, for example, or a bit of cream in some tomato soup.
And the truth is, eating a vegan, plant-based diet hasn’t diminished any joy I get from eating (out, in, or otherwise). In fact, I think I enjoy food a whole lot more. Imagine discovering food that tastes wonderful and that you can eat without abandon or guilt to your heart’s content (literally!).
Because nobody ever felt shitty after binge eating homemade sweet potato fries.
Thoughts? Recommendations? I know you got ’em, and I want to hear ’em!
Forks Over Knives by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn
The Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever
T.Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Thrive Fitness by Brendan Brazier
Adventures in Plant-Based Nutrition
Running Hard, Getting Healthy, & Going (Almost) Vegan