2019 may go down in history as the year when the plant-based movement really went mainstream: thanks to many powerful celebrity endorsements and some game-changing documentaries (pun intended!), more people than ever are considering making this shift whether fully or partially. And for good reasons! In my own experience shifting, however, and in my work facilitating this transition for hundreds of professionals, I’m all too familiar with the most common mistakes people make which often get in their way and make it feel harder than it really needs to be. Changing your way of eating habits may just be one of the most confronting and intimidating things to do for most because we humans don’t just eat to survive: our food choices are influenced by so many powerful and often subtle factors that make it a particularly delicate transition. This is especially true if you’re chasing to move on from food items that you’ve eaten for most of your life since your childhood. There are, however, a number of things you can so and be mindful of to make this transition as fun, smooth and (almost) effortless as possible. Before I delve deep into these effective tips that I’ve developed following from my extensive personal and professional experience, allow me to tell you a bit more about why I decided to #maketheshift.
2014 was the year of BIG wins for me. On the 20th of June 2014, I married my soulmate, which was beyond surprising, given that just over a year prior I didn’t even know him nor did I believe in soulmates. Then, on the 15th of August 2014, I stopped eating all animal products and haven’t looked back since, which was another a huge surprise not only because It came “out of nowhere” but also because I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to work for me.
The reason behind my decision to “try the plant-based thing” actually has nothing to do with food so I will leave it alone for now and may tackle it in my next book.
What I will say is that before I made the shift, I honestly felt I had achieved the greatest level of success and balance I could with my eating and I thought there was no way to improve things further. I thought that the only way I could continue to improve my level of physical and mental fitness was through exercise and meditation. So when the thought first arose to stop eating animal products, I pushed back. For weeks. Why would I mess around with habits that I was generally very happy with and that took me years to accomplish? Plus, going vegan means having to eat carbs and there was no way I was going to go down that road because for sure, that would have meant gaining weight. I may not have been looking to lose more weight but I also sure wasn’t looking to put weight back on!
The thought, however, continued to come up with a vengeance so at some point my husband said: “Let’s just try it and If it doesn’t work, we can always go back. There’s no harm in trying it for a while so you can get it out of your system. I’ll do it with you”. And try we did. We went all in actually, cleared the house of anything we decided to stop eating for a while and delved deep into plant-based eating “for a month”. Then something magical and completely unexpected happened that I genuinely never saw coming. At age 31 and after years of trials, tribulations, trying every diet under the sun, trying no diet at all and anything in between, I started unlocking the absolute greatest level of health, fitness, wellbeing and mind-body confidence I have ever been able to achieve in my entire life. I got in better shape than I was in my teens and twenties, no joke!
I resolved chronic issues I had been dealing with which I had gotten so used to, I didn’t even perceive them as problems any longer (digestive difficulties, constipation, seasonal infections, horrible PMS, mood swings, cravings, energy dips, bloating, the list goes on). The weight started dropping off me without me even trying in fact, I was eating more food than before and still losing weight. My skin got clearer than ever before. My hair got shinier than ever before. Most importantly, my Soul got lighter than ever before. I can truly say, I’ve never looked back since and, together with yoga and meditation, plant-based eating is one of the greatest sources of health, vitality, and joy in my entire life. Hands down.
Now if you think that I’m saying all this because I want everyone to go fully plant-based right now, you’re wrong! One very important thing I learned from our own transition is that going all out, cold turkey the way we did can be counter-productive. It can be so hard, in fact, that it often leads to demotivation and overwhelm, which will in turn eventually lead to you giving up altogether, thinking it’s not for you.
You don’t have to go fully plant-based to start experiencing amazing results and profound transformation. All you’ve got to do is: Eat.More.Plants! One of our shifters lost 6 kgs in 6 months by introducing some intermittent fasting into his weekly routine and eating WAY more plants than ever before. We educated him into realizing that he didn’t need to “top-up” all his meals with animal protein in order to be healthy (adding a can of tuna on the quinoa salad, having eggs for breakfast at every possible occasion, having meat or chicken at every meal) so he started enjoying many fully plant-based meals and snacks every week in full knowledge that he wasn’t “missing out” on anything necessary to his body. The weight fell off and his confidence and vitality soared, which was so inspiring to witness.
I won’t go into technical details around nutritional science as that would take an entire book on its own.
This is not because I don’t know a lot more about nutrition than many GPs and doctors out there. Unfortunately, most doctors are not taught anything about nutrition over their many years of studying human physiology (they will confirm this themselves). Getting nutrition tips from your GP sadly may be just as valuable as asking the owner of your local corner store what he recommends you eat for breakfast.
If you want to learn technical information from some of the most prominent authorities on the topic, I highly recommend three incredible books that have profoundly impacted my life for the better in ways that were unimaginable and have transformed the views and wellbeing of all our shifters:
- The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
2. Proteinaholic, by Dr. Garth Davis
The other reason why I’m not going to delve too deep into technicalities is that I can assure you, hands down, that you don’t need to know all the finer details in order to #maketheshift. I often find, in fact, that excessive focus on small details and technical information can be highly counterproductive. Sure, it makes us professionals sound quite clever to talk about Macros and Micros, essential amino- acids, water-soluble or fat-soluble vitamins, etc. but trust me when I say that the reasons why you’re overweight and unfit have very little to do with a lack of such knowledge. You don’t need a degree to know that eating a ton of cholesterol-laden products and unhealthy saturated fats (both only found in animal products and processed foods) l may not be the way to your healthiest self yet.
By starting to address the lowest-hanging fruits, the very obvious stuff, the habits that you already know are not conducive to your goals, you will achieve greater results than you can ever imagine and that has very little to do with acquiring more knowledge on nutrition and very much to do with shifting your Focus (see my book “Make The Shift” for more on the Focus pillar). But we are so overwhelmed and confused by the myriad of information out there, most of which are actually conflicting, that we end up not knowing where to start from and never making any changes at all.
For now, all I want to emphasize on the subject are the following points:
1. Although you do need protein to live, you don’t need as much as they would have you think.
2. Plants have protein. Plenty of it. You actually don’t need to eat animal products in order to consume enough protein.
3. Eating more protein doesn’t help weight loss (it often does the opposite, as thoroughly explained by Dr. Davis in his book Proteinaholic).
4. The key to transforming your eating is to stop viewing food as their individual nutrient component (protein, carbs, fat) and start viewing it at a whole food item. This will help you make healthier choices right away. For example, the reason why doughnuts and cakes are not an ideal snack and should not be eaten daily is NOT that they are (or have) Carbs. Bananas also have carbs but it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that bananas are a healthier daily snack than cakes and doughnuts.
5.80-90% of what you perceive to be “Food” problems in your life, is actually “Focus” problems. You won’t solve your FOCUS problems by acquiring more nutrition knowledge. You’ll solve them by working with someone that can spot them when they’re in your blind-spot and keep you accountable when you face the inevitable ups and downs you’ll encounter along the way to success.
So now, stay tuned for part 2, where I will share 6 easy and effective steps to #eatmoreplants without feeling deprived. #maketheshift