This post is the first in a series of how to transition to a plant-based diet. This will focus mostly on my personal decision to make the transition, the benefits of a plant-based diet, and where to start.
What is a plant-based diet?
Essentially, a plant-based diet involves cutting out all animal products including meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs. There are a few offshoots and complications, but the main goal is to eat a diet of whole foods like vegetables, grains, and legumes and limit processed foods.
My health has, for the most part, been always a bit lacking. I’ve never been in outright bad health, but never optimal. There’s always been something – bad digestion, acid reflux, hormone deficiencies, etc. Recently, I’ve felt more inspired to take my health into my own hands. I was hesitant to take on a new diet though. I’ve been gluten free for years and while I’m well-acclimated to it now, the restriction can be frankly annoying. I’ve dabbled with cutting out sugar, FODMAPs, nightshades, and the like. Every time, I found it hard to stick to a self-imposed, seemingly arbitrary restriction. I could feel the immediate relief when I had cut out gluten, but nothing else gave me that same whoosh of good health.
My mom had brought up Forks Over Knives to me a while back and for whatever reason, a few weeks back I decided to watch it. I was vegetarian-wannabe vegan for over four years so I was no stranger to the slaughterhouse torture porn that is common in the origin stories of many vegetarians and vegans. But Forks Over Knives was different and, in fact, exactly what I needed at that point in time. It allowed me to see how optimal health – what I was striving for – could be attained with a plant-based diet. After watching, I decided I wanted to make my transition to plant-based.
I call myself plant-based and not vegan because, while the diets are essentially the same and follow the same principles, plant-based is a way of eating and vegan is a way of life. While I obviously care about the horrible things that go on in the meat and animal industry and I am glad that I can be making a difference, my motivating factor for eating as I now do is not motivated by the welfare of animals. Maybe this will change in the future, but this is currently how I’m approaching my diet.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
In countries where plant-based diets prevail, there are lower rates of chronic illness. Evidence shows that a plant-based diet can lower risk for diabetes and hypertension, lower cholesterol, and improve gut and heart health. Many report weight loss, clearer skin, and an improved quality of life.
How I Started
As I mentioned, I was a vegetarian for years so I felt comfortable cutting out meat immediately and I am definitely an advocate of making your plant-based diet a transition. I find that it’s more sustainable this way and instead of immediately cutting out all animal foods and potentially hitting a wall and feeling stranded with food choices, cutting out meat and then dairy and eggs allows you to slowly replace items in your diet with more nutritious counterparts.
I made the decision to go plant-based about a week before I was due to move back to my own apartment and I didn’t want to create a rift with my family right before I left. I managed to stay vegetarian while I was still at home with little conflict and then once I was buying my own groceries again, I could more fully embrace plant-based eating. As I learned with being vegetarian, conversation and transparency is paramount when you’re dependent on others for food. I’ll tackle how to deal with skeptics in a later post more fully, though.
I hope that this introduction was helpful and I’ll be back soon with part 2! Thanks for reading!