There is a tremendous body of research about the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. The numerous benefits sound almost unbelievable! A list of the diseases that eating well can prevented and/or treated include :
- allergies and autoimmune disorders (sinusitis, fibro-myalgia)
- arthritis (osteo, Rheumatoid and Gout)
- diabetes (type II)
- heart disease (high blood pressure, coronary artery disease)
- cancers (breast, prostate and colon)
- high cholesterol
- intestinal tract problems; specifically IBS and Gastro*esophageal Reflux
And that is just for starters.
Much of the documentation for these benefits can be seen in Forks Over Knives. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do! It is a powerful visual story exploring the link between diet and disease.Watching it was one of the things that made a believer out of my carnivore husband.
There is, however, a transition from being a believer to actually implementing the changes in your life. . . Changing one of the most comforting aspects of life, how we eat, is scary and difficult.
Which is why I think it is so important to ease into it.
Not that this is something I do naturally. I am by nature a person of extremes. It is why I have set myself up for failure when it comes to dieting, quitting smoking, exercising (you name it!). I know I should do (fill in the blank) ) so I jump in with both feet. I switch to a diet of quinoa and kale, quit smoking cold turkey and go to the gym and workout till I drop. It doesn’t take long to be sick of sore muscles, craving comfort and wanting real food. At this point I feel very deprived and unhappy. Guess how much longer it takes to fall back into my old ways. . .
That was a very long way of saying that I understand the temptation to QUIT all animal based products and go for a clean plant-based diet. I can’t even imagine how difficult that would be. I mean, I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian all my life. You would think that making the transition to a vegan diet would be easy! You would be wrong!
I have always depended on eggs and cottage cheese for quick protein. I love 1/2 and 1/2 in my coffee and I
never met a cheese I didn’t like! Alternatively I do not particularly like quinoa, kale, miso or seaweed. And I cannot eat soy (including tofu). I gave up prepared meat substitutes long ago; too expensive, too high in sodium and too many other additives.
As we started to transition our diet I kept drinking 1/2 and 1/2 in my morning coffee On Friday I ate cheese and David ate meat. We had eggs for breakfast on Sunday morning. Two things happened – I wasn’t really feeling deprived and when I ate cheese and/or eggs I could really feel and see the difference in my body.
Eventually we went to eating cheese, eggs or milk once every two weeks. And we are now down to about once a month. It happened one little increment at a time.
A plant-based diet is a way of embracing life. And I don’t think that embracing life should not be a painful experience. I am a believer in changing your diet in bite size pieces:
- Start eating less meat – try a “Meatless Monday” once a month and then maybe once every other week and finally every week.
- Start testing and collecting recipes for things you actually like! Things that taste good and are comforting (mac and cheese, veggie burgers, spaghetti)
- Add meatless days slowly – try two meatless days a week and then three. Go ahead and use meat substitutes, eggs and dairy products.
- Eliminate meat substitutes and start experimenting with other alternatives
- Gently let go of dairy products and look for substitutes
- Slowly eliminate the eggs
- Once you are eating a primarily plant-based diet – splurge once in a while. Have a big cheesy pizza or a piece of fish and then pay very close attention to how you feel the next day
- Remember that no one is perfect. If you “blow it” for a day or even a week, you can start back anytime. Guilt is optional and unnecessary!
- Keep a food diary that show what you eat, what you like, how you feel. It is wonderful information for you to have.
And incremental approach is only one a several ways to move towards eating more plants. Obviously, what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. Just keep experimenting till you find what works for you. I mean, really, I eventually found a way to eat vegan, stay thin, quit smoking and even exercise. David and I have embraced a new life style and are finding it a great adventure. I suspect you will too!