On February 10 of this year (2016), I decided to switch to a primarily whole-food, plant-based diet. My cholesterol has been high the past couple years, and since animal products are the dietary culprit of elevated cholesterol, it only made sense to eliminate those food items and see how my labs reflected the change. I had unsuccessfully transitioned a few times over the past couple months, but always found myself making exceptions. I wanted to test myself to see if a vegan diet was feasible, so I decided to give myself the period of Christian Lent to give it my all. I then would evaluate after 40 days if it was something I felt I could sustain. It was a challenging experience that taught me some very valuable lessons.
Serious diet changes are incredibly emotionally exhausting. Not only is it a lot of work to prepare fresh, unprocessed foods, but also it’s such an emotional investment. I had to completely change my mindset about nourishing my body and the best ways to do so.
Eating out is the most challenging. I don’t eat out much, and when I do but I don’t choose the place, I have to call ahead of time and either determine what I will order or make special requests if there is a set menu.
Wait a minute. Go back and read the last sentence of the previous paragraph. What’s wrong with that sentence?
It’s my vocabulary use: “I have to call ahead…” This is one aspect of my mindset that I’ve had to consciously alter. I cannot succeed in a healthy lifestyle if I use self-victimizing vocabulary like that. I get to call. I don’t have to go to the restaurant and be hungry. I can call ahead of time and almost always have my needs met.
Ok, let’s get back to eating out. It’s a challenge. I’ve found myself out with family or friends staring longingly at their burger or steak and mashed potatoes as I fiddle with my spinach salad. I’ve felt deprived, jealous, and even angry.
Then one day I thought enough is enough. No one is forcing me to follow this lifestyle. No one is tying me to a chair and shoving lettuce and beans down my throat all day long. I made this decision, and if I’m going to see it through and be successful, it’s time for a mindset change.
I took a step back to reflect on what I was missing out on versus what I was gaining.
All I was missing out on was a few moments of pleasure.
What I was gaining far outweighed that. I was setting myself on a path to lower my cholesterol. I was decreasing my risk of cancer and other health concerns. I was calming my persistent stomach issues. I was providing my unborn baby with excellent nutrition. I was taking charge of my health instead of allowing my health to rule over me.
This past weekend I attended a relative’s wedding. I hadn’t planned ahead and contacted the caterer like I normally would have. When they served the salad, I stepped out and asked if they would be able to provide one without cheese. They were happy to do so. I then inquired as to the ingredients in the buffet items. All contained animal products. I told them not to worry and that I by no means wanted to be accommodated considering my lack of preparation. The chef told me he would see if there was anything leftover from the vegetarian meals and if so, would bring that to me. Otherwise he said they would bring me more salad. I thanked them and returned to my seat.
When our table was called to head to the buffet, I went and asked the catering company if I could take them up on their offer of another salad. Boy, did they deliver! I got a HUGE salad on a big dinner plate. I was thrilled. When I was halfway through the salad, a woman brought me out a vegetarian meal. I felt like I was being treated like royalty. I was so incredibly grateful and couldn’t thank them enough.
Saturday night was a powerful experience for me. I learned several lessons that I will carry with me as I continue on my journey:
- I learned that I can follow a healthy diet and still be satisfied.
- I learned that people are happy to help if only I ask for it.
- I learned that I need not be ashamed or apologetic for taking care of myself.
- I learned that feeling sorry for myself gets me nowhere. Taking action is what brings success.
Lifestyle changes are hard. Whether you’re changing your diet, exercising more, quitting a bad habit, or taking any other positive step, it’s going to be a challenge.
If you find yourself feeling stuck, do the following:
- Take a close look at what you’re losing versus what you’re gaining.
- Ask for help. Make your goals known and get others’ support.
- Don’t feel ashamed or that you have to justify your choices.
- Refuse to wallow in self-pity. Take conscious action to counteract any negative feelings that drag you down.
- Congratulate yourself for your successes and forgive yourself for your missteps.
Keep fighting the good fight. You have every right to take care of yourself and your family. Believe in your worth and abilities. You are capable of more than you realize.
Want tips for kicking bad habits? Check out my post that discusses a 5-step framework to help you break bad habits and move in a positive direction.