Maybe you’ve just heard of plant based living or maybe you’ve been following a plant-based diet for years. Wherever you’re at in the process, you’re likely trying to make the best choices for your health. The positive effects plant-based living can have on the environment may also motivate you. Whatever the reason, the first thing we have to say is: “Yay, thank you and WELCOME!”
Plant-based diets are for everyone.
What follows in this post is both our personal experience and the experiences of our friends, family, clients and Freshfam members who have taken the steps to follow a plant-based lifestyle. This journey is often very universal, shouldn’t be intimidating and, through a series of small steps, the end goal is completely accomplishable. You may spend a longer time in one stage than someone else. That’s fine! Your end stage may even be different than another’s. That’s fine! We simply applaud you for starting and remind you that even just one new, better choice is a win and benefits us all.
Read on to find out what stage you’re at in the transition to plant-based living!
Stage 1: So, I keep hearing about plant-based diets…
Man, this plant-based eating thing is everywhere. What is it exactly? Is it being a vegan? I can’t be a full on vegan. I mean, animal products are in everything, aren’t they? What on earth do you eat? Won’t I be starving? Bored out of my tree? How do you even do it? I just love bacon and steak. But, man, some cool athletes are on these plant-based diets. Smart dudes like Einstein promoted a vegetarian diet. I should learn some more. I do want to have more energy, look better, age well, perform at a high level mentally and physically. Maybe I can feel better than I do?
Stage 2: What EXACTLY is a plant-based diet?
Wow. Did some research. Looks like the health benefits of a plant-based diet are hard to ignore. And now I understand WHAT it is. Plant-based isn’t defined by what it excludes like veganism or vegetarianism, it is explained by what it INCLUDES. A plant-based diet is high in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds with reduced consumption of processed foods, added fats, meat, eggs, and dairy products. It’s maybe not as rigid as I thought. Whew. That makes it a bit easier to consider. There is also so much scientifically-backed research showing the benefits of a plant-based diet. Some of the environmental impacts that a plant-based lifestyle can have are pretty compelling too. Still, where do I get my protein? Calcium? What do I eat if I don’t eat meat? It seems hard.
Stage 3: Guess I’ll give it a try!
Okay, I can do #MeatlessMondays. One day, no meat. And now that I’m paying attention, I see there are more plant-based options out there than I realized. There are some cool vegan restaurants around town and these folks know how to throw together a tasty meal! Still I don’t know if I can cook plant-based. Preparing meals is hard enough in general without throwing a plant-based plan into the mix. I mean, who has time? But I do notice I have way more energy after a plant-based meal. I never feel heavy or bloated. That’s pretty interesting and a feeling worth pursuing.
Stage 4: Time for more education
I’ve been reading. Watching documentaries. Whoa. I just thought this plant-based stuff would help me run longer and make sure I don’t get heart disease but the impact goes further than that. The toll I see that animal agriculture takes on our environment makes me think more about what I buy and what I put in my mouth. I’m starting to recognize that there are many factors involved in managing the environmental impacts of food production, including the significant issues of climate change and food security for developing countries. I’m learning it is not straightforward and I’m committed to educate myself so I can learn to make good decisions based on reliable scientific facts.
Stage 5: Plant-based at home
Starting to eat more plant based meals at home because I know I feel better after plant-based food. I’m good but a bit stuck maybe? Making the same things over and over (though I’ll never get sick of my morning green smoothie.) When I crave a steak, I eat it. I think that probably just means my body wants it? I’m not exactly sure but I’m realistic enough to know that too much drastic change too quickly can make me miserable and I won’t stick to the plan long term, so I’m gentle with myself if I eat animal products. I’m not 100% sure I’ll end up fully committed to a plant-based lifestyle but I owe it to myself and to the planet to try!
Sometimes I find it hard when I visit my family or friends that have meat as a central part of their diet. I don’t want to be ‘difficult’ or make other people uncomfortable by not eating the food they’ve prepared. And if I’m making a meal for others that I know eat meat, I’ll prepare meat for them, even if it’s not really what I want to eat. If they’re not used to plant-based meals, I never want them to feel like I’m forcing my choices on them!
Stage 6: Finding variety
I eat more plant-based than not these days. Mostly I feel quite good but sometimes my energy seems a bit erratic. Maybe I need more diversity in my diet? More variety of vegetables, fruits, grains and protein sources. I’ve started to try new recipes. Yeah, it’s a bit of effort in planning, but I know it’s an investment in my health. I’ve learned that we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 50% by switching to plant-based eating! I love the outdoors, I love our planet and if I can make a difference by changing my diet and supporting companies who are committed to the same goals, well, heck yeah! And now that I’m eating less animal products, I can afford to choose better quality, pasture-raised, sustainable meat.
Stage 7: Starting to enjoy a plant-based diet!
I have been finding tons of plant-based resources that are incredible. There are amazing cookbooks, expert recommendations and lots of advice from others who’ve been following a plant-based lifestyle for decades. There is tons of reliable information and answers to all my questions. I’m aware of supplements I should take to fill the nutrient gaps that can occur with any diet. It’s becoming fun experimenting with new recipes and new foods; I’m starting to enjoy the discovery process. I’m feeling great as I continue to refine my plant-based diet. I feel mentally sharper and perform better physically. I sleep better and experience less negative emotions. Anytime I eat meat or animal products, I don’t feel great so I avoid them whenever possible.
Stage 8: Supported by family and friends
More people know I’m trying a plant-based lifestyle, however, no one seems bothered. At times they’ll reference my choices and say things like ‘I like my meat too much for that’ or ‘I can’t live without cheese.’ At dinners with my friends or family there are more plant-based options available; people are making an effort to support me! And I’ve noticed that they’re eating more vegetables too. I don’t talk about plant-based eating too much (unless someone asks) and I think that’s okay. It can be a sensitive issue for many and I’d rather let my actions and healthy results do the talking. More of my friends are trying plant-based meals and it’s cool to share some of my favourites with them.
I’m starting to eat more intuitively now as well. I tend to have a sense of what my body needs, if I’m missing something or need more of something. It’s exciting to feel in tune with my physical self. My energy is much more consistent and my mind feels focused. Meanwhile, what I read and see as I continue to educate myself strengthens my desire to pursue plant-based living. For instance, I find myself motivated not just by health reasons, but by all of the environmental and social positives that can develop out of plant-based living.
Stage 9: Inspired and in love with a plant-based diet!
I’m committed! Plant-based eating now feels like plant-based LIVING to me. I feel proud that my health and environmental values consistently align with my actions. My athletic performance is unreal and I’m passionate about the health I’ve found. I recover faster, I have more muscle, I feel younger. Seriously. However, it’s not to say I’ll never touch an animal product again but the results continue to motivate me. I’m confident in the plant-based meals that I prepare and love to share them! They are tasty, varied, nutritionally-complete and even the staunchest meat eater enjoys my dishes.
My friends and family are inspired by my choices. They ask more questions about my lifestyle and they’re starting to make their own changes. I love sharing what I’ve learned because I believe everyone deserves to find optimal health and one person’s move to a plant-based lifestyle is a win for us all. I recognize that we’re all connected and I’m inspired to do my part to improve our health and the health of our planet.
You can do it!
We’re more willing to undertake a journey when we know what to expect and when you understand the process that many people undergo when transitioning to plant-based living, it’ll be easier for you to do the same. Allow yourself time in each stage to adjust to the changes and don’t rush the process. A journey is rarely simple or fast or even straightforward but let us remind you that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And to sum up, it’s never too late to tackle change and you’re never too far gone to try.
May you be inspired and encouraged to keep moving forward in your plant-based health and wellness journey!