I would like to dedicate the January article to my niece, Sylvia, who at 50 years old decided to do a lifestyle make over. She is pushing back against a lifetime and a family heritage full of SAD life choices. I support and encourage her glorious success.
We have our New Year’s resolutions, right? What are they this year? Read a book a month? Travel to a long imagined destination? Get more rest? Start a new hobby? How about get healthy, join a gym, and lose some weight?
According to a quick internet search, eating healthier and losing weight are among the top 3 most common New Year’s resolutions in the U.S. Sadly, that same search shows that even with the best of intentions, only an estimated 9% of people actually keep and succeed with their New Year’s Eve promises to do better. That means for 90% of us, the juicy and joyous plans we committed to in January are fizzled and forgotten by the end of February.
“But wait,” you say. “I really want to eat healthier, totally give up animal products, eliminate added oils, decrease my blood pressure, back down that A1c, and/or lose weight! What can I do to improve my odds of succeeding ?”
Ah! Great question! And we have some great answers.
We begin right where you are. Get 2 pieces of paper. Make notes.
Step 1. On Page 1 make notes for “Now and the Predictable Future”
- Take full stock of yourself right now. Describe your current health picture. What is your energy level? Pain level? Are there physical things you used to be able to do but can’t any longer? What are your usual blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels? Do you have any chronic illnesses? If so, what medications are you taking?
- Look ahead 5, 10, 20 years. Imagine, if you left things to develop in the direction they are going, what would be your almost certain, predictable future? Do you know someone who has taken that path? As far as you know, what is their current health picture? Is that the future you want for yourself?
Step 2. On Page 2 make notes for “The Future You are Creating Right Now.
- Make Notes. If you could shape your future (which you can, by the way), what would you want it to look like? Is there something you would like to do, see, be around for? What is it? Maybe you would like to be pain-free, or see your grandchildren get married, or hike a mountain trail, or walk across the Golden Gate bridge. Imagine how you would like to look and feel. Imagine what you would tell people about how you transformed your life. What will your healthy blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels be? What medications have you stopped taking because of your transformation? Fill out this picture of your future self and life as fully as possible. Make it gorgeous. Make it compelling. Add as much detail as you can. Include pictures, colors, sparkles, whatever you find uplifting. Put it someplace you will see it everyday.
Learn more about the benefits of whole food plant-based eating. Do your homework. Watch a few movies. Read or listen to some well-vetted books. Check out some reliable websites to start building on what you know.
There is no “right” way to start eating healthier foods. Some people start with small changes. Others jump in and change their eating habits all at once. Either way, there are a few steps you can take to make the transition smoother.
- Don’t tempt yourself. Remove the foods you want to eliminate from your kitchen.
- Have the right tools for the job. My number one favorite tool for plant-based cooking is a well-sharpened chef’s knife. There are other important tools too, but, in my opinion, it starts with a good sharp knife. After a knife, a good cutting board, a set of stainless steel pots and pans, and then a high powered blender. Of course, there are plenty of other kitchen gadgets you can invest in, but if you have the knife, a solid cutting surface, sturdy pots and pans, and a reliable blender, plant-based cooking will be a breeze.
- There is strength in numbers. Join a community of people who are committed to the same change. Look for WFPB clubs, meetups, and gatherings that you can attend.
- Find a great recipe source. “Great ” is in the eye/tastebuds of the beholder. Ask for suggestions from others. I love The Minimalist Baker https://minimalistbaker.com and Vegan Richa https://www.veganricha.com. They have great recipes.
- Expand your horizons. There is no reason to settle for bland, boring food. Cooks in many parts of the world create lovely flavor profiles without using meat at all. Try looking into recipes from Mexico, Thailand, India, Africa. Some of them are magnificent, and you can apply the same spice combinations to other dishes.
- Veganize your old favorites. Research plant-based swaps for key animal products like eggs, butter, and cheese. Try the alternative ingredients in your traditional Standard American Diet (SAD) recipe. Experiment with them in small batches so you can taste test without risking a lot of expensive ingredients. A good example is the SAD standard, mac and cheese. There are some excellent plant-based, dairy-free recipes available online. If you search “vegan mac and cheese” in your favorite web browser, you’ll get more than 1million hits. Test a few out. Try this one from Minimalist Baker https://minimalistbaker.com/vegan-green-chili-mac-n-cheese. See what you think.
Most importantly: Be gentle with yourself. Do your best to stick to your plan. If you get off track, get back to it at the next meal. The only thing that fixes falling off the wagon is getting back on and remembering there is no one “right way” to do this journey.
Wishing You All the Best.
Write us with questions! We are happy to respond!
Meryl A. Fury, MS, RN
Plant Based Nutrition Movement