A couple years ago we started trying to eat better, mostly for health reasons. I blogged about the journey we took with food mostly as it happened, but those posts are long and scattered, so I’ve summarized the info into a timeline to help anyone considering starting this long process, maybe you can learn from my mistakes :)
2012 – Summer
We were eating completely SAD (Standard American Diet), pizza, burgers, donuts… basically meat/wheat/dairy with every meal. We started researching different ways to eat, realizing that most of the health issues we were dealing with were food related… but terrified to try eating differently we delayed changing for six months…
2013 – Spring
Starting fresh with the new year we tried to go cold turkey for all of two days. By the end of the second day only eating raw fruits and veggies, we RAN to the nearest pizza place and binged till we were full. Next we took it slower, cutting out one food at a time. When we cut out meat, we went through a couple bad weeks before the cravings faded. The same happened with milk. Cheese was next, and it was so hard, three solid days of shaking like a drug addict. What I could not manage to give up was the bread, finally I buckled down and went through my four worst days of withdrawal, including flu-like symptoms, cold sweats, and withdrawal shaking, I even had to call in sick to work one of the days. On the fifth day we allowed ourselves some sandwich bread, but since then have eaten MUCH less wheat. As we discovered with meat, once you stop eating the foods your body can’t process, your body feels better, and does not have any interest in those foods. You just have to break the craving cycle. Even a few months ago I could never imagine a future that I would not need bread as a comfort food. Now I’m looking at trying to create that future, and it’s both scary and exhilarating.
2013 – Summer
We tried a completely wheat free experiment that lasted three weeks. The first couple of weeks I was not interested in losing weight, so I used small amounts of chocolate, and fries, to get through the cravings. The third week we all felt really really good, but could not maintain the no wheat at all. I may try again, or I may just stop trying to force the issue, and let wheat fade away over the course of a year like I did for meat. Only time will tell. What we learned: changing the way you eat is not about deprivation, it’s about change. Saying “I’m not going to eat cheese today” gets you nowhere. All you can think about is cheese. Instead, if all day you are thinking about the wonderful juicy peach you bought for an afternoon snack, and how tasty that will be, you have positive thoughts.
2013 – Autumn
It’s hard to stay hyper focused on something long term. It’s stressful and tiring to stay focused on one life topic, day after day, meal by meal. Sometimes I think we did it the hard way, and other times I know this was how we needed to do it, for our family, to slowly change habits, try out different diets and ways of eating a plant based menu. I feel that with this choice to be simply a whole food plant based vegan, that we are finally on the right track for now, on the path of something healthy that we can maintain long term.
2014 – Summer
I remember feeling so wonderfully healthy when we started eating vegan about a year and half ago, so what has gone wrong? How did we get so unhealthy, and how did we not notice? I imagine what made the biggest difference at the beginning, was merely removing all the processed foods from our diet, and starting to eat vegetables that caused us to feel so well, but slowly we became deficit in the foods we were restricting ourselves from, and the last couple of months we’ve just been feeling awful. So, after reviewing everything I had learned, we decided to stop being vegan. I started looking at how people eat, and why, and success they have with their chosen diet, and as I researched I put all the ‘diets’ into a simple chart. What I discovered was that the people eating ALL these different diets… were ALL healthy! But how could that be? Some don’t eat meat, some eat meat but no dairy, some eat grains, others don’t, and it became very confusing. Finally I started looking at the linking factors, which seem to be vegetables. A LOT of vegetables. Everything else had its place in the food habits of these people, but veggies at every meal seem to be at the core of success for them all. As we’ve been muddling through new recipes, new flavors, new styles of cooking, we have not been totally successful, falling back on our old patterns of eating when all this newness becomes overwhelming. As a family we agree that when we eat plant based we all feel strong, more energetic, and generally happier.
A look at all the plant based diets (most of which we’ve tried), with a comparison chart….
2015 – Summer
The way I currently eat has worked for me for over a year now. This is the path I think that works best for my health, and is somewhat easy for me to follow. It looks like this…
Vegetables & Fruits
Rice & Oats
Eggs & Honey
Sprouted Wheat Bread (about once a week)
Dairy (about three times a week, usually in the form of probiotic yogurt)
Meat (only chicken that I cook myself, about twice a month)
Beans (about twice a month)
-One cheat meal a week
-All diets suspended for vacations and holidays
-I only eat two meals a day, no snacks or desserts
When I eat this way, I feel fantastic, have tons of energy, and lose weight. Does this work perfectly all the time? No. Life happens. When I stray off of this plan all my old issues come back to make me feel ill, and you’ll find me moaning on the couch. After experiencing health I don’t want to feel sick though, so for the most part I WANT to eat this way. The main thing I have learned is to not stress over eating “perfectly”. I still want to enjoy life, a hot chocolate in winter, or cold jello cake in summer is part of life, and I won’t give that up completely, I’ve learned to balance it with eating healthy on the other days of the week to stay physically and mentally well.
I hope reading about my long tour through diet after diet helps you skip strait to what will work for you. I wish you happiness and health for life!
I’ve been reading and researching for three solid years, health books, recipe books, blogs, and more. This is my combined learning, condensed into the recipe cards that I use every day in my own kitchen. These are based on my diet plan, and my tastes. Keep in mind they still include some of the unhealthy recipes that I grew up with, because occasionally I still make these recipes for my planned weekly mental-health-cheat-meals.
Click here to download: Basic Cooking Cards