We're about a third of the way through December, and I don't know about you, but for me that means thinking about the upcoming New Year and all of the big things that 2019 has in store.
For many of us, that includes intentions of health/wellness/weightloss transformations. Looking at all of the changes that have to be made and habits that have to be built can be overwhelming. Starting some of those changes now can help get the ball rolling and ease you into your healthy start to 2019!
Remember this, though. Some people like to cannon ball into big changes like this. They decide one day to do it, and walk away from animal products cold tofurkey (haha see what I did there?). But, others need to ease into it and make small changes as they go. Either way is totally fine! There is no expiration date on your health, so every step you take forward in your journey will add up to get you to your goals.
Along my journey with my vegan diet, I have had some experience with both methods. What worked for me was a more gentle transition. Here are some tips to help if you are working on that yourself!
1) Focus on what you can ADD IN instead of what you have to take out.
The beauty of a plant-based diet is the abundant, nourishing meals that you get to eat as part of this health-promoting way of eating! Keep your attention focused on adding in more plant sources: vegetables, whole grains, legumes, plant proteins, healthy fats (read more in this IG post). There is so much to try and to enjoy! You will crowd out the other stuff on your plate until eventually there’s no space at all for unhealthy foods. Check out this blog post for more about the “crowd out” method of dieting.
2) Make sure you are eating ENOUGH high-QUALITY food.
Whenever anyone talks about a negative experience with plant-based eating, “I felt so sick”, “I couldn’t get full”, “I had no energy”, it is nearly always because they weren’t eating ENOUGH calories. Most plants are naturally less calorically dense than other foods but higher in volume and fiber making you feel more satisfied. This is awesome for fat loss because it helps to put you in a caloric deficit (the only way for your body to lose fat).
However, eating too few calories can be detrimental to your progress because it makes you feel sluggish, low energy, and overall shitty. You body is struggling to get enough calories to fuel your day and enough nutrients to give your cells the stuff they really need. So, you need to make sure you are eating enough!
How do you do that? Track your food using a flexible dieting technique. Set yourself a healthy calorie range each day, and track your food to make sure that you are hitting that target everyday. Be careful, though! Make sure that most of those calories (at least 80%) are coming from minimally-processed plant sources so that they also bring into the mix those super important vitamins, minerals, fiber and hydration that your body needs to thrive! Focus on lots of different plants in lots of different colors each day to ensure that you’re getting all ‘da nutrients!
Feel like you need more personalized help with plant-based flexible dieting? Let’s chat; that’s my specialty!
3) Tell yourself that the animal products in your kitchen now are the last ones you are going to buy for yourself. Finish them off, but when you go to the store to buy new stuff, replace them with a plant-based option. When you finish that gallon of milk, buy almond or soy milk. Finish off your last morning yogurt, and then get a coconut version to satisfy a similar kind of breakfast without the dairy.
If you have someone in your house who isn’t ready to make the transition and wants to continue with those old products, they can get them for themselves. Then you can mentally, or literally, label them as their food, not yours. No temptation because it’s not yours and you have other options to go for instead.
4) Make the transition gradual by eliminating some things first.
This may be a little surprising, but I don't think it's the best idea health-wise to go vegetarian first. There are many other environmental and ethical reasons I support a vegetarian diet, but if you are looking to get the most progress in your health and weightloss, I suggest first phasing out red meat, pork, dairy and other products that come from mammals.
Because we are also mammals, these foods tend to have more of an effect on our health than other products, so getting rid of them will help you see faster health changes. Fast changes mean you will pick up some momentum and can get over the hump of a full transition faster and more easily. It will also help you to practice reading food labels and asking for modifications at restaurants without feeling like your options are super limited. Keep this way of eating for 30-60 days to settle in to the new habits and feel their positive effects. Then, start planning a full transition.
*I, personally, do not suggest going vegetarian (still eating dairy and eggs) first because often these diets rely too heavily on dairy products which are really detrimental to our health, especially cheese. If anything, get rid of the dairy first!
At the end of the day, there is no wrong way to make the transition to a plant-based diet. Any steps you take in that direction are good steps, and I am cheering you on the whole way. Just keep making changes, and you’ll get there! Your body will thank you!
Always here to support you,