I started eating a plant-based diet after my senior year of high school. My diet isn’t perfect--I still do enjoy some of the bad stuff. But overall I’m much healthier than I used to be.
The reason I started eating this way?
I remember the day my mom and dad arrived home from their first Dr. Fuhrman retreat. I could tell they were changed and that they had a new perspective on food. They wouldn’t--couldn’t-- stop raving about phytochemicals and the health benefits of cruciferous greens, berries, and nuts. They taught my brother and me everything they had learned about a healthy lifestyle by the time they had unloaded grocery bags full of veggies from the car.
I was lucky my parents began taking plant-based eating seriously -- I just didn’t know it at the time. It made transitioning to a healthy lifestyle about 1000x easier for me.
A key for lasting, habitual change is to surround yourself with other healthy eaters--if not family or the people you live with, then like-minded individuals with the similar goals. Having people to share ideas, routines, habits, and tricks-of-the-trade with is crucial to transitioning steadily to a plant-based diet.
Because my family was very supportive of each other, it wasn’t long before we all read Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live, and my mom was bustin’ out new nutritarian recipes. The meals were lighter, cleaner, and fresher-tasting than her typical recipes since she wasn’t adding any animal products.
At first it took some getting used to--no meat, and all--but I really began to enjoy the sheer quantity of food I could eat without worrying about portion control. And after a while, freshness and quality became new and important dimensions of food for me. I look forward to every nutritarian meal now because I genuinely enjoy the food, and after I eat I feel great.
I transitioned to a plant-based diet 5 years ago. I’m not perfect (nor do I try to be) because, despite how much I appreciate being a nutritarian, I still enjoy the taste of meat and unhealthy items. When I’m traveling or seeking a new restaurant and I want to try something, I do. I wouldn’t be living fully if I supressed my culinary tendencies for adventure.
Am I a hypocrite? I don’t think so.
I’m well aware of the benefits of a nutritarian diet. And I make sure that I’m eating within those principles daily. So how do I reconcile the fact that sometimes I have a burger when I know it’s certainly not on the nutritarian menu? It’s because I know what a healthy lifestyle feels like. And when I’m off of it (which I have been before...college student here...) I know physically that I am off of it. And because I feel awful, I can’t be off of it for long. But when I’m doing it right, which is most of the time, I don’t deny myself a tasty morsel. I know die-hard nutritarians that do, but the idea is that you’re at a point where you’re living healthfully.
Until science tells me that having one burger gives me 0.04% probability of getting cancer, I’ll enjoy them every now and then.
A Few Tips for Transitioning
The first step to transitioning to a plant-based diet is to gain knowledge. Start by reading Eat To Live and check out other resources that will help give you a foundation. Secondly, find someone to do it with. As I mentioned before, having someone to help you out when you’re off track will be crucial to your success. Set yourself up to win!
After setting yourself up to win, now comes actually eating the good stuff! Some people are better off with slower transitions into new habits or lifestyles. Try the eat-one-salad-a-day rule or the smoothie-for-breakfast rule. If you start with one change you’ll easily be able to tell if you’re off (“Did I eat my salad today or not?!”).
The way others do it (like my family did) is the complete opposite. I call it: Refridgerator Reform. Complete refrigerator reconstruction. Unhealthy food out, healthy food in. It’s tougher and more brutal, but if you’re super pumped about eating this way and want to begin full force immediately, this is the quickest path.
Little Habits, Big Change
Here are some habits that have gotten me to a consistent nutritarian lifestyle.
I’ve found the single most effective habit for transitioning to this lifestyle is nailing down a healthy breakfast. If you don’t start your day off right, the rest of the day is a mess. I recommend a smoothie and/or oatmeal for breakfast. Eating both keeps me full until a late lunch, even without snacking.
Another revolutionary habit is cooking for the week. Every Sunday, I head on over to Whole Foods for ingredients and make a favorite recipe or try a new one if I’m feeling adventurous. I love making chili (last night's is pictured below!). Here is a great chili recipe from the recipes page of Healthy Food Now. Weekly cooking saves me money because I don’t eat out or splurge as much. It also keeps me excited about healthy eating and has awarded me some nice cooking chops.
Comment below with any thoughts or questions!