Why I chose to Switch to a Plant-Based Diet in January 2020
I wish I could say that I chose to switch to a plant-based diet for a noble reason like saving the planet or the animals. I decided to switch up my diet because I had hip pain.
My husband Mark had been encouraging me to watch a documentary called “The Game Changers” on Netflix. I’m sure many of you have watched it. It is a well-produced documentary backed by some celebrity names touting veganism and its’ many benefits for health.
Right after the doc was released, critics and experts in functional health came out with their own opinions debunking this type of diet. Here is a Joe Rogan podcast debunking the documentary’s claims. It has worked for me, but each person reacts differently.
After much insistence from my husband, I decided to watch it. The first part of the doc starts with the host James Wilks recovering from knee injuries that he sustained during his career as an MMA fighter. He is an intense guy and very persuasive. I watched the rest of the film and felt pumped about trying a plant-based diet. The part about the NYC Firehouse experiment had the biggest impact on me.
As a rule follower, I opted to go full force into being a plant-based eater. Mark decided to join me, but took more of a flexitarian approach. My main goal was to help reduce inflammation in my hip and body as touted in the doc. The added perks of weight loss, lower cholesterol, and general overall health have been welcome benefits.
How I Transitioned to a Plant-Based Diet
The process of transitioning to a plant-based diet can have some challenges, but after 2-3 weeks I felt like I had been doing it forever.
- Your digestive system getting acclimated to this new type of eating. Yes it is true..well for me at least. Gas X and Beano were consumed daily:)
- You have to monitor your daily protein intake. I recorded it for the first 6 months. I tried to get at least 50-60 grams of protein daily. After 6 months I was familiar with the protein contents of the plant-based food and can now guesstimate well. Plant-based protein in a smoothie each day can help you attain your protein goal quickly.
- Food prep is super important, as it makes it easy to reach for something healthy. I immediately washed and chopped vegetables after bringing them home from the market. I also cooked 2 different one pot meals and froze them each week. My go to’s were vegetarian chili and curries.
- Learning to cook creative plant-based meals with lots of flavor. This was a real challenge in the beginning as I tended to repeat meals that I knew were tasty. I then discovered the Forks over Knives magazine and many other plant-based cooking blogs.
- Travel can be more complicated. I find that I do not eat as well on the road as I do at home. Here is a blog post I wrote offering you some tips to help while traveling.
- I was a big offender of being annoyed by people with dietary restrictions. I am now the person who annoys my entire family. My Mother still asks me when I will be finished this diet. It is a lesson for me in being less judgmental and more understanding of people’s eating habits.
- Most difficult for me was giving up half and half in my coffee each morning. It was a ritual each morning to pour my half and half and then add some coffee. I found the best replacement for me is part Original Silk Dairy Free Soy Creamer and part unsweetened almond milk. The soy creamer adds that creaminess, but adding almond milk balances out the flavor for me.
Things that I have Experienced as a Possible Benefit from Eating a Plant-Based Diet (no scientific proof)
I was not 100% sold on the health benefits discussed in the documentary, but I am happy to say I have experienced these additional benefits
- My hip pain has pretty much gone away except when I overdo it
- My hot flashes and sleeping patterns have improved. This could be that I am less stressed and have gotten through most of my menopausal symptoms.
- I’ve lost about 12 pounds (10% of my original body weight which I had maintained most of my adult life). I still watch my calories as you can still gain weight as a plant-based eater. I usually eat 1500 gross calories a day and expend 200-300 calories daily in my workouts. I am 5’2”. I still have a couple of beers on the weekend, although they are still counted in my total calories. Tip: get an apple watch or fit bit..as I thought I was burning almost 30%-40% more calories than I was on the stationary bike & cardio workouts.
- I have had some hair loss in the past few years, and it has decreased. The hair loss could have been due to stress and hormones.
- My skin seems to have improved.
- I have become much leaner and stronger. I can run longer, play pickle ball longer, and my overall body appears more muscular. I did not increase my workouts significantly during the past year.
- My cooking creativity has improved A LOT. I enjoy adding spices, changing consistencies, and trying new foods and flavors.
- An overall feeling of well-being and more confidence due to fitness levels and body positivity. A great thing to have as I enter my 50s, empty nest and rejuvenate my real estate career.
- A sense of helping with climate change. Did you know (According to an Oxford University Study) that if every UK family ate a plant-based meal instead of a red meat meal just once a week, it would be like taking 16,000,000 cars off the roads in the UK annually.
Gadgets and other Things that Have Made Going Plant-Based Easier
These are some of the tips, gadgets and other things that I have found to make a plant-based diet more enjoyable and easy. Let me know in the comments your suggestions.
- Immersion blender for blending creamy soups
- Food processor for ease of blending and chopping large dishes
- The Zyliss Hand Pull Chopper. I love this thing for small chopping jobs like garlic and making fresh vinegarette salad dressings. Easy clean up and light.
- NutriBullet Blender for smoothies. I suppose a Vita Mix or high end blender would do all of the jobs above, but I never invested in one.
- Beano & Gas X for the first few months
- @Ambitiouskitchen, @thecuriouschicpea, and Forks over Knives are a couple of my favorite sites for recipes.
- Sistema Storage Containers I use these to place my prepared fresh veggies in after the Farmer’s Market or the market.
- Alyssa’s Healthy Vegan Bites are my favorite treat. They are expensive but I have not discovered a recipe to make vegan cookies in bulk and freeze that I like as much. Please let me know if you have!
- An Apple Watch for workout stats and not having to carry phone for music
- Bio Schwartz Over 50 Women’s Multi Vitamin no iron..which works for me
- A B12 Supplement . This one works for me, but make sure you look up how much you should be taking. B12 deficiencies are common in plant-based eaters.
- Freezing halved avocados. As soon as they get close to not being able to use cut in half. Wrap in saran and put in a zip lock. Throw in the microwave for 15 seconds, peel and throw in the bullet for your next smoothie.
- My favorite fast food for plant-based eaters
- Chic Filet Vegetarian Wrap and their Waffle Fries! Ask for the veggie wrap with honey mustard and no cheese. They might be confused..but ask them to check. It’s basically the cool wrap vegetarian with beans added.
- Publix Veggie Wrap For all of you Southeners out there Publix has a delicious sandwich. It comes with tofu crumbles and vegan ranch. They may look at you cross-eyed after you order it. It is on the menu..but they might have not ever had anyone order it in these parts.
- Subway Veggie Veggie Delight I might lose credibility with this recommendation, but when you are desperate this is really very good. Ask for the sweet onion dressing and toast the entire sandwich.
- Wawa for all of you Mid-Atlantic peeps and now Floridians …Wawa has a great Veggie “Hoagie” as they call it..but it will always be a Sub to me.
- When in doubt salads without cheese, cream dressing are a good go-to and never forget the fries!!
Will I Continue Eating Plant-Based?
As you can tell, I have had a positive experience with eating plant-based in the past year. For all of the above reasons, I plan to keep this way of eating for the rest of my life. I will get a blood test soon to check in on my vitamin levels.
There are so many reasons to incorporate eating plant-based at least 1 or 2 times a week. Give it a try and feel free to ask me any questions, or share your experiences!