A couple months ago I was feeling foggy, sluggish, and depressed and couldn’t figure out why or what to do about it. I blamed it on winter and waited for it to pass. Then, one day I was reading my workout journal, and I realized how much our diet had changed over the previous months. I realized I had fallen into the habit of focusing on avoiding unhealthy food and controlling portions instead of focusing on what food I was eating. It may not sound like a big difference, but it is EVERYTHING!
About 6 years ago, as I was attempting to discover some food/gut issues, I went through a pretty rigorous elimination diet. I was able to discover an unusual food sensitivity to yeast had been causing symptoms for years. As I was eating the most basic foods allowed on an elimination diet, I wondered why we ever add anything else! These foods are allowed on an elimination diet because they never make anybody sick. We began eating a plant-based diet. I was very strict in the beginning, but I hate the food conversation. It can be very awkward, especially if other people are serving us food, so we tend to slack off when we’re around others. It’s also very limiting for kids, and I don’t like doing anything 100%, so we continued to slack until we were eating normal, unhealthy meals again.
Eating mostly plant-based has always helped me physically and mentally, though. It is a lifestyle diet, not a temporary way to lose weight.
It’s not about counting calories or even trying to lose weight (because you can easily find plant-based foods to overeat.) It’s about feeling better. When we’re eating plant-based, we simply plan meals around plants instead of treating fruits and vegetables as side dishes. Fruits and vegetables become the main courses. For instance, instead of sprinkling a few blueberries on top of oatmeal for breakfast, I will sprinkle a few raw oats on top of frozen blueberries with coconut milk. Or spaghetti squash instead of pasta noodles and substituting plant-based proteins for meat at least a few dinners each week. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy! I think the only way for us to make eating plant-based sustainable is to be okay with eating animal products on occasion, especially when we’re with friends and family. This is especially true with the kids; when they’re at home they eat what we eat and don’t know any different, but we can’t control everything they eat when we’re away from home, and it’s never worth the struggle!
When the focus is on what good we can/should be eating, we’re suddenly packing ourselves full of vitamins and nutrients that make the cells in our bodies thrive and feel alive! If we follow a “healthy” diet but don’t replace the things we’ve removed from our diets with fresh, raw alternatives, we still won’t feel better. We really are what we eat! This shift in focus also keeps us from feeling deprived. A huge part of our relationship with food is in our heads. When it’s a mental battle of wills, our stomachs almost always win. We have to give ourselves better options and good reasons why we’re not eating (delicious) unhealthy foods, otherwise it just becomes a failed diet.
The good news for me was that it didn’t take long to feel better. Within a week of eating a more plant-based diet I had more energy, and within 2-3 weeks I felt better mentally and emotionally. These are my results, not necessarily the results everybody will see. I’d love to hear your results if you do eat a plant-based diet or if you ever choose to try it out!