This is a lifestyle post about my new whole foods plant-based diet. I’m going to try and be as honest and thorough as I can here as to why I am making this lifestyle change, because I want this post to reflect all of my thoughts leading up to this decision. I want this post to come from the heart, and I want it to truly reflect how I feel. If someone is out there reading this, who is possibly struggling to make a similar lifestyle change, and what I have to say helps them then I will be really happy to have done something good for someone!
I’m going to start this epic post with a story from a few years ago. Back in my senior year of college I experimented with being a vegetarian for about 6 months. I didn’t have any strong reasons at the time for this decision, I just thought “hey, why not, it could be fun!”
At the time I was also eating a pretty typical college student diet of pizza, pop, burgers, Chinese take-out, cafeteria food, and I was doing my fare share of drinking in those days as well. My diet was FAR from healthy, and so I think a part of my reason to experiment being a vegetarian was an effort to clean up my bad diet. I think a part of me thought that if I tried being vegetarian for a while, and forced myself to try new vegetarian recipes, I would be eating more vegetables and less crap therefore I would be healthier. Well, it worked! I was in fact eating a ton more vegetables, and I was also trying a lot of new recipes that I still love today (like vegetarian chili!). As I mentioned, my reasons for trying this new vegetarian diet weren’t really that well thought-out at the time (or founded in any strong moral beliefs I had), and so I eventually went back to eating meat again. I did a fantastic job of cleaning up my diet though, and so even though I returned to eating meat I was making a lot better food choices in general. Because I walked out of the experience with a much healthier diet (lean meats, lots more veggies, less fattening/processed foods) I felt that the experiment was a success at the time.
Now let’s fast forward to the present day. A few months ago I started watching a lot of food documentaries (I love spending Saturdays curled up on my couch with a good documentary!). One documentary on Netflix lead me to another, which lead me to another, and soon I was very interested in learning more. One big question persisted in my mind over and over, which was “Where does my food come from?” I decided to find out.
I watched countless documentaries, and when I was done with those, I started reading books on the subject. One book lead me to another, which lead me to another, and the more I researched my question “Where does my food come from?” the more I realized that eating meat was becoming less and less appealing to me.
I don’t want this post to sound preachy in any way, and I certainly don’t want to sound like I am “bashing” other people’s food choices if they do eat meat. I simply want to explain what my own personal reasons are for no longer eating meat. My three biggest reasons are:
- The cruel treatment of animals in the farming industry today
- Personal health reasons, and believing that a whole foods plant-based diet is the healthiest diet for me
- The environmental impact that consuming meat and dairy has on our planet
I believe that the reason my “vegetarian experiment” didn’t stick the first time I tried it was because I didn’t really do any research, and my reasons weren’t sounded in any beliefs I had. I think I just woke up one morning and thought “I’ll try being vegetarian for awhile and see how I like it.” I feel very different this time around with my decision. I did extensive research this time around. My beliefs this time around are strong. They are founded in countless hours, days and weeks of self-educating and research. I started out simply trying to find out where my food comes from, and in my research I found the answer.
Again, at the risk of sounding preachy I’m not going to go into much depth with these three reasons. But these are the three main reasons I have decided to make a lifestyle change to a whole foods plant-based diet. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Is she talking about becoming vegan?” The answer is yes! An alternative title to this post could be “My decision to go Vegan” but I decided to avoid that word for now. Why? Well, I think that the big scary “V” word can have a tendency to elicit an emotional response from people. Some people really don’t react well to hearing that word! Some people become weirded out by you, others just silently call you a “freak” in their mind and dismiss you. I’ve decided to avoid labeling myself with the “V” word for now, because to be honest, I am afraid to face some of that social backlash. I’m not proud of that fear. Yes, a part of me feels cowardly for not wanting to come out and say it, but I have good reason for that fear.
Many years back when I experimented with a vegetarian diet I faced a lot of criticism from a few select individuals around me. I still have a lot of painful memories from that time period from things that were said to me. Though I tried to explain my reasons for the change many times (though if you’ll remember my reasons back then weren’t founded in any strong moral beliefs I had at the time (unlike now)), no progress was ever made towards us understanding each other.
I also fear potentially uncomfortable situations I may put people in. You know that joke, “How do you find the vegan at a dinner party? They’ll tell you!” – ? Well, there’s a reason that the vegan has to tell you they are vegan! Many social outings with friends and family include sharing a meal together. I admit I am worried about social situations where I’ll have to tell a host at a party “sorry, I can’t eat the food you cooked for me…” because the last thing I want to come off as is rude and ungrateful. I also don’t want to make people feel like they have to “go out of their way” for me because of my new diet.
So those are a few of my reasons for avoiding labeling myself with the “V” word for now, though I have already tried countless vegan recipes that I love! There is another reason I’m calling my new lifestyle change a “whole foods plant-based diet” because simply calling myself a “vegan” doesn’t really encompass everything I believe in when it comes to my nutrition. What I mean, is that there are plenty of unhealthy things you can fill your diet with while still being “vegan” and that is not what I’m about. Oreos are vegan, as are potato chips, energy drinks, and countless other processed foods that are terrible for you. That is not a diet I embrace. For almost an entire year now I have eaten almost no processed foods, and only cook recipes with whole food ingredients. My body feels GREAT when I eat this way, so in no way do I plan on being a “junk food vegan.” If you read my blog you know that I am all about health and fitness, so I plan on continuing to eat only whole foods that are good for me! If I want something sweet I’ll eat fresh fruit, not fruit juice out of a carton from the grocery store that’s been processed and had a ton of sugar added to it!
This decision is still new for me, but I feel very good about it. I’ve done my homework this time, which is why I feel very different about my decision this time around, as opposed to my experiment when I was young and in college. I’ve researched extensively on how to meet all my protein needs on my new diet, as well as calcium, iron, vitamin B12, etc. I have real answers for people this time when they ask me “How do you get your protein?” I have real answers this time when people ask me “why are you making this change?” and “so what do you eat?”
I’m still learning as I go when it comes to telling people about my new lifestyle change. My boyfriend has been extremely supportive of my decision, and understands all of my reasons for wanting to make this change. He has even embraced this lifestyle a bit as well, and definitely eats less meat than he used to! I will never try to “convert” him though, or anyone else around me for that matter. Everyone is free to make their own choices when it comes to their diet, myself included. I will never try to force my beliefs on anyone when it comes to my new whole foods plant-based (vegan?) diet. I know that in the near future I will need to tell my family about this decision. The holidays are coming up and I know that Christmas dinner will include copious amounts of meat and other animal products. I can’t avoid this conversation forever. Yes, a part of me is scared of the initial negative social backlash I may face, but I feel very strongly about this decision so I need to start telling more people eventually.
I know that I’m not completely alone though. I have started to tell a few people, and so far I have only received positive comments. I feel lighter, I feel like I am finally eating in a way that is aligned with my compassion, and I continue to meet fitness goals in the gym which I’m pumped about! As I mentioned, I have also discovered some AMAZING plant-based recipes that I love. I’ve been eating a whole foods plant-based diet for about 2 and a half months now, and in NO way do I feel like I am depriving myself! I am such a foodie at heart, so finding delicious new vegan recipes to try has been incredibly fun and rewarding. I have also discovered some AMAZING vegan baking recipes! True to my take on nutrition and health, all of my sweet treats are made without refined sugar, with minimal ingredients, made only with whole ingredients, nothing processed, and are healthy for you. It can be hard sometimes to find new dessert recipes when all of your search queries on Pinterest now look like “vegan sugar-free 3 ingredient baking” (lol) but there are totally some delicious and healthy recipes out there to try! I’ll just say that it is astounding what you can do with bananas and peanut butter!
Below (in no particular order) I’ve listed a few of the documentaries I watched and books I read which helped influence my decision. You can read them, not read them, or do whatever you would like to with this list. I simply want this to be a record of some of the things that influenced me:
- Food Inc. (Documentary available on Netflix)
- Get Veducated (Documentary available on Netflix)
- Forks over Knives (Documentary available on Netflix)
- Food Matters (Documentary available on Netflix)
- Fed Up (Documentary available on Netflix)
- Cowspiracy (Documentary available on Netflix)
- Fat Sick and Nearly Dead (Documentary available on Netflix)
- The Food Revolution (book by John Robbins)
- The China Study (book by T. Collin Campbell)
- Mad Cowboy (book by Howard Lyman)
Anyway, that just about sums this post up! If you read the whole thing, thank you! It can be nerve-wracking making a big life change like this one. I appreciate from the bottom of my heart all the support I’ve received so far from those I have told, and if anyone has any questions for me feel free to ask. I think one day I will be ready to call myself a full-blown Vegan, but for now, saying that I embrace a whole foods plant-based diet works for me. 🙂