Thursday, September 8, 2016

Switching to a Plant-Based Diet

Hi everyone!  Today I have a much-anticipated post to share...all about my journey to veganism.  It's been an amazing experience so far, and now that I'm over two months in I feel ready to talk more about it!  And let's face it- I've been talking about it so much lately that it's about time I dedicate a post to it and answer some questions!


Before we start, I want to make sure that you all know that I'm not trying to force you all to make changes or diss anyone's diet.  I just want to share my personal experience with switching to eating a plant-based diet.  I waited so long to write this post because I know this is a touchy subject, and the last thing I want to do is insult someone.  So, I hope that you'll respect my decision to switch, and I'll respect your decision as well.  Deal?

Without any further ado, here are some tips to switching to a plant-based/vegan diet, along with some reasons why I made the switch (along with some helpful infographics and some funny memes!)



Do it for the "Right" Reasons

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There are so many different reasons why people choose to change their diet.  For some people, it's for health reasons, for others it's ethical, and some people just do it because it's the current "cool" thing to do.  As long as you're being healthy and not using a new diet as a way to deprive yourself, I don't think there are any wrong reasons to make the switch.  If you are just doing it to fit in, though, it might be hard to make this a life-long change. 

The main reason why I decided to make this change originally was to support Dan.  If you follow his health journey, you know that he's been working on improving his diet and overall health, and after researching different options and talking to a friend (who has been vegan for over a year now), he decided on veganism.  He watched a few documentaries, which were too graphic for me, and did research (see below), and we both came to the conclusion that we wanted to make this major life change together.  At first, we were just planning on trying it out for a month and seeing how it went, but we haven't looked back at all since we made the switch!

This came about during a time when we were going through a lot of big life changes (getting married, buying our first home, changing jobs), so it felt like the right time to make a change in my diet as well.  We started our vegan diet at the beginning of July, and so far we've both been doing great and don't miss our old eating habits at all.  I don't feel like I'm missing out on my old favorite foods and haven't gotten any cravings to eat meat or dairy.  The hardest part for me so far is eliminating eggs, mostly because I love to bake and it's hard to bake anything without eggs!  


Get Support


It's hard to make any changes to your life if you're doing it all alone, and drastically changing a diet is no different.  When I did the Whole30, having support from Margaret and the RunningWhole facebook group helped keep me on track and give me motivation to keep going.   In the same way, I found support in different places to keep up this lifestyle and learn more about the "vegan way of life".

I reached out to a few friends who are also vegan or vegetarians with questions, and they have all been really supportive and helpful during this journey.  I also started having monthly vegan dinners, where we all get together and try out new recipes (and, let's be honest, drink wine and beer).  Everyone that I've talked to has been more than happy to give me advice or offer help along the way.  I also found a ton of help and information on Reddit as well, and there are so many online forums dedicated to veganism!


Do Research

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I mentioned above that Dan and I did research before we started our vegan journey.  Even though most people say that veganism is great, we still wanted to look into for ourselves and find out why it's so great, and if it was the right choice for us.  After researching, I found out about the environmental impacts and health benefits.  What really changed my mind is reading about animal welfare.  I'm an animal lover and always told myself that eating meat was okay for various reasons, but after reading more and seeing clips of what happens in factory farms, I can't eat animal products without those images popping up in my mind.

Now, I always take studies and research with a grain of salt.  If you try searching the benefits of drinking milk, you'll find plenty of websites that list all the wonders of dairy.  If you search for reasons not to drink milk, you'll find just as many websites condemning dairy.  This is the same for a vegan diet- plenty of research is out there listing the benefits, while other research proves that it's an unhealthy and unethical lifestyle.  Point being- no matter what type of diet you choose, you'll find good things about it along side people saying you shouldn't do it.  I think it's great to do your research, but also experiment and find out what works for you.

In addition to reasons why I should go vegan, I also researched how I could do this in a healthy way, particularly with an active lifestyle.  One big concern of this diet is the lack of Vitamin B-12 and getting enough protein.  After looking up alternative ways to get these two in my diet, I added a B-12 supplement to my diet, and make sure I'm getting enough protein from beans, chia seeds, flax seed, or plant-based protein.


Make a Pinterest Board

One of the main comments I've gotten in real life and on the blog is that someone would love to go vegan, but it's too hard or they would miss XXX food.  I definitely had this same mind set, but it has been such an easy change.  Trust me- if Dan (whose diet used to consist of hot pockets, bacon, and milk) can do it, anyone can.

The main thing that helps me is making a Pinterest board.  There are so many vegan substitution that I actually prefer (coconut milk, chia "egg", meatless crumbles), and creative recipes that I love trying out!  It's been so fun to experiment with new foods, that going vegan has been so easy.  If you're looking for some lunch inspiration, check out yesterday's post!


Make Small Changes


Going full-on vegan can be very intimidating.  Meatless Monday was invented for a reason- starting small with going meat-free once a week is a lot easier than saying you'll never eat meat again!  There also also so many different versions of going plant-based, from pescatarian (eating fish) to vegetarian (eating eggs and dairy) and everything in between.  If you're in some other category, that's fine as well!  No one needs a label to describe them.  For example, Dan eats completely vegan at home, but if we go out to a restaurant, he'll order whatever he wants.  Would that make him a restaurantarian?  Who cares!


...Or Go All In

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For me, on the other hand, it's much easier for me to go completely cold turkey (pardon the pun!).  I learned from Gretchen Rubin that I'm an abstainer, which means that I deal in absolutes.  Either I do something 100%, or I don't.  This is why it was so easy for me to do the Whole30, but after it was over I went back to my old ways.  I deal better with having strict rules and guidelines, instead of telling myself that I can occasionally "cheat".  This way doesn't work for everyone, but if you're like me, it's easier to completely switch over one day instead of easing in! 


Don't be Afraid to Fail


My final piece of advice can be applied to any major life change you're going through.  If you fail- that doesn't make you a failure.  You can keep trying!  For example, if I accidentally eat something with dairy or eggs in it, I'm not going to consider myself a failure and go back to my old eating ways.  Instead, I'll just say that I made a mistake and keep going.  Don't let the fear of failing or not being "vegan enough" keep you from trying!  Trust me, there are no prizes handed out for the most vegan person out there.  It's not a competitions!  Or- if you try it out and decide it really isn't for you, that's fine as well.  You'll never know until you try :)


What made you choose your current diet?
Do you have any follow-up questions for me?  
Are you an abstainer or moderator?
linking up with Amanda

27 comments:

  1. I don't eat a lot of red meat, but I eat a lot of poultry, fish, and dairy (in the form of yogurt, etc). ANd of course my beloved egg whites. I likely wouldn't be able to to go full vegan because my body just isn't great with beans and such, regardless of how high fiber I am able to keep the rest of my diet.
    "Good" veganism (where you actually eat the healthy stuff, not oreos) has been scientifically proven to have a MARKED positive impact on your health and wellness. In fact, it is one of the few diets that doctors actually prescribe for its health benefits. That said, there are also "french fry" vegans, who eat CRAP.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you..some people go vegan but eat things like oreos or vegan fast food every day. NOT HEALTHY PEOPLE!! I try to eat more plant-based because it's cheaper, more delicious, and way healthier!

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  2. Great info here! I have been eating vegan except for eggs, honey, and some random fish at restaurants! Sometimes the only GF option is a fish dish!
    I agree with Susie--there are a lot of vegans promoting the lifestyle who eat junk food...just vegan junk food. However, they may be doing simply for ethical reasons and not health!
    Cant wait to hear how your journey goes! Isnt it amazing what we dont miss that we thought we couldnt live without?! I know my taste buds have changed!

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    1. They really have changed! I've always liked veggies but Dan used to hate them..now he eats them all the time!

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  3. Gosh, I have watched a bunch of your meal prep on Snapchat and not even realized that you went Vegan!! I feel dumb now, LOL! But that is an admirable choice and that's so great that you and Dan are doing this together! Looking forward to more healthy meal ideas from you!

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    1. That's good to know that I'm not forcing it down your throat! I don't like it when people preach all the time about life changes or make you feel bad if you don't have the same opinions.

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  4. I tried very hard to go vegan a few years ago because I saw so many benefits. But after about 60 days, I just wasn't feeling good at all. I learned a ton about incorporating new foods, but found a little meat actually just made me feel better.

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    1. Whatever works for you! I'm glad you found a lifestyle that made you feel best :)

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  5. Oh, I think everyone knows me enough by now to know that I'm an all-or-nothing person. This post is so informative, and I especially loved the colourful chart that illustrates the different food and how much protein, iron etc is in each one. Too many people make judgements based on ignorance. I remember when I found out that spinach has protein in it. It blew my mind!

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    1. Yes seriously! People hear some stat from one area and take it as fact even if it's not true. I see this a lot in the paleo community where they try to condemn veganism and say it's the devil diet (their words not mine). It's so interesting what you find when you do a little digging!

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  6. I've also learned that I'm an abstainer too. Give me a bag of candy and there's no such thing to me as "just a little bit" haha. I love how you and Dan made this change together, that's awesome!

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    1. Same for me! I can never get jumbo sizes or those big bags at Costco because I will just eat it all in one sitting.

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  7. I was vegetarian, like truly vegetarian, for about two years. It was great and I loved it. But then my son started getting a little picky with eating. We never nixed the dairy. And we recently started adding fish back into our diet. As much as I would love to be 100% vegan, I don't think it's for us. I have a really hard time keeping my family satiated on vegetables only and they're all so scrawny, it's hard to find enough calories to keep them full and growing. I go back and forth on it so much, though.

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    1. I completely understand that! Do what's best and most sustainable for you and your family :)

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  8. I loved the way you approached this subject, Gretchen. Veganism has been a 'touchy' topic, mostly because so many people have jumped on the 'vegan bandwagon' for the wrong reasons (IMHO).

    I know from a friend of a friend that she went vegan (to lose weight), got crazy when she was eating outside her home, because God forbid she ate anything non-vegan accidentally, only to return to the Atkins diet after she didn't lose the weight she had hoped to lose. I mean, COME ON! Those type of vegans give other vegans a bad name!

    It sounds like you did a good amount of research and switched your diet for the right reasons.
    I am a moderator and would have a hard time cutting certain things (esp. dairy) completely out of my life, but I definitely pay attention where my meat/dairy/veggies comes from.

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    1. This is the nicest comment ever Sandra! I was so worried about this post and saying the wrong thing, so you just made my day. Thanks for stopping by :)

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  9. I have been trying to eat less meat for many of the health benefits as I age and also for some of the moral reasons. However I don't have the support at home that you do.....it's a challenge for sure, but I think everyone should eat in a manner that suits their best and happiest life.

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    1. I'm definitely really lucky to have a husband that is completely supportive. I hope you can find something that works for you and get some support from others!

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  10. I have been vegan for 3 years for ethical reasons. It is honestly the best thing I have ever done and changed my life in so many ways. Do not hesitate to reach out to other vegans. We all love each other! I was able to connect with running groups and am now on a vegan racing team. It is brilliant and you all have at least one thing in common!
    Vegan baking is definitely different than "regular" but once you get used to it, it's no harder than using eggs and butter. You had to learn to use that stuff right? I recommend pinterest-ing chickpea brownies. They are AMAZING!

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    1. You're absolutely right..vegans do love eachother! It was great to get connected to that community and have all of my questions answered. I'll definitely try chickpea brownies..sounds very interesting!

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  11. Thanks for sharing your journey. It's obvious that you and Dan did this for your own reasons, and that makes all the difference. You have to want to eat this way and feel it's right for you, and when it's right for you it's so easy to stick with! I researched all the stuff for years and felt the same--there are always two sides to a story. My big a-ha moment was reading Temple Grandin's book Creating the Best Life for Animals. You probably know of her, but if not Grandin is an autistic animal researcher but NOT a vegetarian or animal rights activist. Her matter-of-fact account of factory farms she saw in her 30 years of work was eye-opening. I also did best by going "cold tofurky, ha ha" and was very strict for the 1st 5 years. This year was the first time that I've loosened a little. But whatever works! Also, definitely buy all the cookbooks from Post Punk Kitchen authors. They build dessert recipes from the ground up instead of trying to find substitutes for things in traditional recipes--and they're the most delicious!

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    1. I'll have to look for that book and those cook books. That sounds amazing!

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  12. This was so so awesome to read, Gretchen! I'm so happy that you and Dan found something that you're both happy with! <3

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  13. Those infographics are so good!

    I love that you guys really looked into this decision before committing to it - it just shows you're making a lifestyle change and not following a trend. I'm a moderator but Jesse has an all or nothing personality so I'd say he probably fits into the abstainer category :P

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    1. Dan is a moderator as well so it's sometimes a struggle to make a big change like this! I'm glad you liked the infographics..they helped me a ton too :)

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  14. i'm not a vegan, or even vegetarian, but i am not the biggest fan of meat. i always roll my eyes when people say but what about protein? lol. don't worry, i get plenty!
    those infographics are super neat! the cholesterol levels are crazy scary.
    lol @ being a restaurantarian. it's true though.. it doesn't have to be all or nothing! although, like you i am an abstainer with some things, but a moderator in others.
    i know there are plenty of vegetarian/vegan gluten free-ers out there in the world, but for the most part a lot of vegetarian/vegan recipes i see have gluten in them. i don't like meat, it makes me feel crap, but gluten makes me actually sick.. so it's like, which evil? you know? and then sometimes i do like meat, so i am a hypocrite.
    i really enjoyed this post gretch! very informative and i love that y'all did your research and made this choice on your own for your own reasons.

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