In my weight loss journey, I have found that the healthiest and most successful life plan for me is eating a plant-based diet; also known as a vegan diet. It is the plan that helped me lose 30 pounds. Best of all, it is a plan that is one of the healthiest in the terms of health benefits to help avoid many chronic diseases such as; heart disease, high levels of bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, digestive problems, circulation problems, and cancer.
My entire lifestyle change, including my eating plan, is helping me keep the weight off. I am never hungry, and I eat a variety of tasty, healthy, simple foods. It is a plan that has become a lifestyle change that I know I will be able to continue with for the rest of my life. After all, losing weight doesn’t do any good if you go back to old eating and activity habits and gain it all back … or worse … gain more weight!
Today I was visiting with a friend who admires that I’ve lost weight. A friend who has more than once said I inspire her by what I have accomplished and that she too wants to lose weight — but can’t see herself “going vegan.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard this from her and from other friends and acquaintances as well. And when I hear this, I believe what I am truly hearing them say is: I can’t eat a plant-based diet because it would be too hard….” — “Too hard to give up… processed foods.” “To hard to give up… soda.” “Too hard to give up… meat.” “To hard to give up … sugar.” “Too hard to give up… cheese.” In fact, probably the number one reason I hear is: “I could NEVER give up cheese.” (See past post on “I Was Addicted to Cheese.”). When I hear my friends say these kinds of comments, what it all boils down to is this: “CHANGE IS HARD.” Yes, it is! And that’s when I like to share that it’s ok to move into a plant-based diet gradually. It’s what I did. It’s what many others have found to work well.
So, tonight, when I ran across an interview about helping people get started with healthy plant-based eating habits on the Vegan Website, Yummy Plants, with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, of the book Eat To Live, I was pretty excited.
In fact, here are his answers to a couple of relevant questions about moving toward a plant-based eating plan.
“YP: What are some of the best ways to transition into a plant-based way of life?
Dr. Fuhrman: Some people prefer to dive head first into their new eating style, whereas for others, change can be very intimidating, and a gradual approach is appropriate… For some,the idea of never eating a favorite (but disease-causing) food again can be enough to make them give up before they start.
A first step could be to add a large salad at the beginning of lunch and dinner daily, without giving up anything. Next, make a big pot of veggie-bean soup on the weekend that you can use all week. Then the important thing is to keep making further improvements. Eventually, eating more high-nutrient foods (vegetables and fruits) will blunt the desire for low-nutrient foods, and soon the person will lose interest in the low-nutrient foods they initially thought they couldn’t live without….. Making the healthiest foods taste great is fun and the only way to live a long, pleasurable life.
YP: Are there any specific foods we should begin rotating into our diets right away?
Dr. Fuhrman: If you are brand new to high-nutrient eating, the most important foods to remember are G-BOMBS: greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds. These are high-nutrient foods with an abundance of scientific studies to back up their powerful health benefits. Incorporate these foods daily, and make them a significant proportion of your diet – these foods are extremely effective at preventing chronic disease and cancers and promoting health and longevity.”
Another suggestion Dr. Fuhrman makes in his book is to use the 90% rule. “For longevity and weight loss, the Life Plan diet should aim to be made up of at least 90 percent unrefined plant foods. People who find the most success in losing and keeping their weight off for life do so my treating processed foods and animal foods as condiments, constituting no more than 10 percent of their caloric intake.” He shares that if you want to “follow a diet style to achieve dramatic health and longevity benefits, you must not have significant amounts of animal foods, dairy, or processed foods in your diet. If you desire these foods, use them occasionally or in very small amounts to flavor a vegetable dish.”
For my self personally, I probably follow a 95% to 97% rule. Although for the month of October I went completely unprocessed, I find it hard to commit to 100% unprocessed long-term. There are just some things that are hard to avoid. And, I do like a bit of chocolate once in a while … preferably DARK chocolate! And that’s OK!
Here are just a few other tips I feel you might find useful:
- Only use meat products as a garnish to your bowl of chili
or your bowl of soup. Add only 1 or 2 oz of meat to your meal vs 3 oz or more
- Use cheese as a garnish. If you grate your cheese, and only use 1/2 ounce it will go further and seem like a larger portion.
- Try a more fancy cheese vs. a big block of boring cheddar. Make it a special experience vs. using cheese on everything you eat.
- Try using Nutritional Yeast for that cheesy flavor. It blends well and can be even sprinkled onto your favorite homemade pizza.
- Move away from any type of processed meats. Only eat lean, grass-fed, free-range types of meat — and working toward the garnish rule.
- As you wean off meat, replace the missed protein with vegetarian protein such as tofu, tempeh, TVP, nuts and nut butters, and don’t forget your beans and hummus and grains high in protein such as quinoa. There are other sources as well.
- Start exploring new recipes that are packed with flavor but have moved away from meat at the main ingredient of the dish.
- Eat fewer eggs by only using them in your baking vs. every morning for breakfast. Instead start to explore hearty choices of oatmeal with berries, or chunks of apples with walnuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds or peanut butter. And don’t forget some of those wonderful smoothies you can blend up.
I highly recommend reading the book, Eat to Live. Dr. Fuhrman explains the science behind the eating plan which is highly beneficial.