Since I decided to go vegan in 2016, a lot has changed! My mindset around food, nutrition, and fitness has completely shifted. For me, it wasn’t a straight path to get to where I am today, and I’m still continuously learning new things and tweaking my diet and exercise habits accordingly. Deciding to eat a whole food plant-based diet is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Changing my relationship with food and changing the way I eat has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I often wish I had switched to a plant-based diet sooner, and that I had known certain things before I got started.
So without further ado, here are the top 5 things I wish I knew before going plant-based:
1. The food will taste good!
I felt strongly about my decision to go vegan, but was also unsure of exactly what I would be eating and if plant-based foods would be as delicious as the Standard Western Diet I was accustomed to eating. I was skeptical about the new foods I would be eating and whether or not they would be enjoyable. In the beginning, I had extremely low expectations for any new recipe or kitchen experiment, but the vast majority of the time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed the flavours and textures of my food. It was as good or even tastier than the omnivorous meals I previously consumed. I felt full and satisfied, but somehow lighter after eating.
2. It will get easier
Talking to people about being vegan was difficult and awkward in the beginning. I felt strongly that I was making a good decision for myself, but I also didn’t want to debate anyone about my decision to go vegan. I tend to be a people-pleaser and didn’t want to offend anyone or be pushy about my food choices. I took a “live and let live” approach to chatting with others about eating a plant-based diet and often used the Dr. Doug Lisle approach of telling others that “I’m trying it out” or “it seems to be working for me.” I still have zero desire to have a debate with anybody about my food choices, but it has gotten much easier to have conversations with people about being vegan.
As for transitioning to eating a plant-based diet, I was definitely researching and thinking about nutrition and food more than I ever had before. Over a relatively short period of time though, I found recipes and easy meals I really loved and easily got into a rhythm of planning and preparing food. Before I knew it, I didn’t have to think or plan as much and I even started to enjoy spending time in the kitchen.
3. It will be FUN! You’ll start to enjoy cooking!
At the start of my journey, I never expected going plant-based would be something fun to do. I knew I wanted to embark on the journey to try to improve my health, reduce my risk of disease, and increase my chance of living a long and healthful life. Fun was simply not a word I associated with making the change. In fact, I thought eating a plant-based diet would be a major challenge. I hated cooking, and was accustomed to eating a lot of processed convenience foods. So, I started by making meals as simply and quickly as possible. Eventually, much to my surprise, I realized that I actually enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen! I was eating a wider range of foods than I ever had before, and was having fun testing new recipes. I still like to keep it simple with quick and easy meals, but I have a new-found love of cooking that I’m not sure would ever have come about without going plant-based.
4. Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (WFPB) = greatest health for me
I have had chronic health issues since before I made any changes to my diet. When I initially made the transition to a plant-based diet, I definitely saw improvements in my health. However, eating plant-based foods while still consuming some processed vegan foods regularly was not enough for me to regain my health. This may be a great way for others to be healthy and vibrant, but it simply wasn’t going far enough for me: my health issues kept flaring up. Once I fully committed to consistently eating a WFPB oil-free diet, my health issues subsided. I haven’t needed to take medication in months, and I’m enjoying great health!
5. Consistency is key; shift your mindset in order to be consistent
I started out fairly solidly as a whole food plant-based eater. However, I eventually slipped into consuming less whole foods and upping the amount of processed and convenience foods I was eating. Over time, I realized I was not being as consistent with my diet as I thought I was. I refocused on the primary reason why I changed my diet in the first place: HEALTH. By adjusting my mindset, I was easily able to consistently eat a whole food plant-based diet. I increased the nutrient density of my meals by eating even more green leafy and cruciferous vegetables. Being consistent with my eating habits has given me consistent energy and health outcomes. Being consistent was difficult until the feeling of great health far outweighed the taste of processed food.
As much as I wish I had known these things before I went plant-based, I can honestly say that I appreciate the experiences I’ve had over the past four years. I’ve come a long way from where I started. Although it took me a long time to figure out, I have found what will work best for me to reach my health and fitness goals. I’ve learned so much and I’m looking forward to continuing the adventure!