This article is for people who know from within that they must transform. They have been struggling with health issues, maybe trying many different diets and ending up with more confusion than results. That’s where I was myself – though I tried many different diets, and was hovering pretty close to vegetarian and vegan, I needed that final push, which I was given through my coursework and what I have experienced as a result of the decision I made to commit to a whole food vegan diet. My work now is simply to pay that forward.
Maybe you have just been eating culturally – eating whatever everyone else is eating, and you aren’t particularly attached to what the food actually is – it’s just food to you. Or maybe you’ve been stress-eating, turning to comfort foods, or you’ve been eating what’s convenient, and junk food is just what’s on the menu. And most likely, you were never really educated about what foods actually are healthy, nor was healthy eating really a value in your home or school while you were growing up, and you are just continuing that pattern today. Maybe you have felt weird about meat and dairy, and are okay with giving them up, but you just don’t know what to replace them with.
I can work with all of that.
Where we are now is a precipice of a major culture shift; in 100 years or so, everyone will be eating a whole food vegan diet. It will be the new normal, what you grow up eating – there won’t be masses of people with health issues stemming from poor eating patterns that they must change as adults. The work we are doing now is paving the way for this great cultural transformation.
Start with your Why
Though I have given the big-picture reason for the whole food vegan diet above, you may also want to get clear with yourself on why you personally are making this decision. What are you trying to accomplish in your own life? What are your health goals? Your career and relationship goals? You will find that they are all tied together, even though it may not seem obvious right now. Good health is the foundation for a good life. So dream up the life you know you can have, and let that be your homing signal, guiding your steps each day to get closer to it. It will also help you during times when you might struggle with staying on your path. Even if you do slip and eat something unhealthy, whatever you do, don’t feel bad about it. Just sit with it and learn from it, and then keep going.
Too much too fast is overwhelming and will result in you getting exactly nowhere. So, set a realistic pace of changing one meal per week. Pick a day, say Monday, and start with breakfast. Instead of whatever you were eating before, eat oatmeal with ground flax seeds and fresh fruit, such as chopped bananas, apples or berries. Notice how you feel afterward; journal it, even. You should feel full and warm for a good while.
Next week Monday, eat the same breakfast as above, and add a whole food vegan lunch. Try a whole wheat tortilla (or two) with spanish rice, black beans, bell peppers, and avocado. Again, notice how you feel.
The third Monday, eat the same breakfast and lunch as the previous Monday, and add a whole food vegan dinner – maybe a vegetable stir fry with rice noodles, or whatever looks good to you. For recipes and many more vegan meal ideas, search “vegan recipes” in YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest, and you will be presented with all the tantalizing proof you ever need that eating healthy can definitely be delicious and easy.
There! You’ve done a whole day of vegan at this point – and that’s awesome. That is a solid foundation to build on and you can definitely sustain that pattern. So now move on to Tuesday’s breakfast. You can carry over the same vegan breakfast as Monday, or again, search for yummy ideas online. And the next week, add in Tuesday lunch, and so on… of course, if you ever feel inspired to eat a vegan meal in the meantime, have at it!
At the end of month 2, you are now eating fully vegan on Monday and Tuesday, and you can see where this is going – after just 7 months, you will be eating vegan all day, every day of the week. You have had time to fully integrate your decision, and you probably have also noticed at some point how much better you feel and look on whole food vegan days, which gives you more momentum. Yet since you have tapered off your old diet slowly, you haven’t had to really “miss” your old foods. Nor have you had to overload your brain and body with an entirely new set of foods and lifestyle all at once.
Yes, this is a cooking-heavy lifestyle. But here are a few tips to make it easier:
- Download the HappyCow app to get a list of restaurants and grocery stores that have vegan options near you.
- Many supermarkets now carry vegan “cheese” and “meats”, and even though they aren’t exactly healthy, they are less destructive than real meat and dairy. They can definitely help you during the transition when you are missing your previous foods, however at some point they should fall away too as you become more acclimated to whole foods only.
- Thinking ahead and planning ahead are going to be your best friends. Make sure you always have healthy food in the house and preferably, meals and snacks already prepared in the fridge (and stashed at work too). That way, you will be less likely to choose a convenient but unhealthy option just because you are hungry and only junk is immediately available.
Fast to Go Faster
If you are dealing with junk food addiction, the fastest way to reset your tastebuds is a three day fast. If that is unthinkable to you, then start with one day a week. You can fast for up to three consecutive days safely at home, consuming nothing but pure water. Fasting is a really nice time to withdraw from the world and listen to your inner voice. You might notice this quiet time does wonders to restore your spirit. Fasting is also the best way to treat a cold – whenever you notice you are coming down with something, stop eating immediately. You can usually prevent a cold from fully manifesting this way; your immune system gets a major powerup from fasting.
A fast should always be broken with fresh fruit – at the time of this writing, apples are just coming into season. It’s the perfect time to visit an orchard and experience a real apple, especially if you have never done so before. Unwaxed, unsprayed, and fully fragrant, ripe and juicy. Especially after a fast, this will be such a savory experience to enjoy, and is a great way to set a new healthy pattern for your body going forward.
Discover Clean Protein, Fat, and Carbs
Yes! Plants contain protein too. Beans such as chickpeas (my favorite), lentils, and even oatmeal contain protein – and since they are whole foods, they also contain a lot of other good nutrients too that all work together. Hemp seeds contain all essential amino acids (proteins), and they are very light and mild, so easy to add to any meal or smoothie to make sure your protein needs are met.
Plants also contain what are called “good fats” – essential fatty acids – and “good carbs”. Yes, these fats and carbs are your friends! In fact, carbs will probably make up the most of your diet – so don’t freak out. I’m not talking about chips and donuts. I’m talking about whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and most importantly, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds.
To find out the actual nutritional value of your daily diet, use the website or app Cronometer.com. It will give you a full breakdown of not only calories, proteins, carbs, and fats, but vitamins and minerals too. You will be able to see exactly what you’re getting and what you’re missing and need more of.
Something to especially be aware of is the calorie counter – one of the biggest pitfalls of a whole food vegan diet is that it can be difficult to get enough calories. This is great if you are trying to lose weight! But sometimes people feel hungry all the time and then decide the diet is just not for them, when really they just need to eat more. Vegan does not mean being hungry or low energy – it’s okay to eat 3-4 meals a day, or add in a few snacks to make sure you are getting enough calories and not feeling hungry all the time. Just as well, you should be eating til you’re full at each meal, and that’s precisely why when done right, a whole food vegan diet is successful for weight loss – because the foods you’re filling up on are low in calories.
Remember too to supplement a couple important things – please see my article about that here.
Surround yourself with people who are stronger than you
Especially if you are alone among your family, friends and coworkers, it’s important to remember your heroes, as they are going to give you strength to go on during moments of weakness. For me, I always find that watching my favorite vegan YouTubers or Instagram artists gives me fresh inspiration to keep charging ahead. The course I am in now is a revelation every week. And if you are interested in meeting other vegans, consider joining a local vegan Meetup group or supper club.
And equally, reduce or eliminate time you spend with junk food addicts. Treat it as seriously as any other addiction; for example, alcoholics know to avoid bars and their good time friends. Since junk food is culturally acceptable, most people don’t see it as an addiction, but they should respect your choices and boundaries once you make them clear. And while there does yet seem to be fear around the vegan diet among those who are uneducated or fearful, more people are still switching to vegan every day. You can count yourself among the best and the brightest, and by being a shining example yourself, you will light the way for many more.
The best years of your life are ahead of you. Believe it, it’s true. 🙂