I don’t believe that most people become plant-based over night. It’s a big decision. Its changing your entire lifestyle and finding new ways to cook and eat. It can be hard work sometimes and depending where you are, your options can be limited. For me it was a journey and a process. I started off at 16 making small changes to my diet and over time those changes started to build. I think if you asked anyone why they were plant-based they would be able to rattle off their list of reasons. Some common, others personal. Here’s mine:
Ever since I was young I have struggled to eat in a balanced way. I have always been one extreme or the other. Either eating so ‘healthy’ that I wouldn’t even be in the same room as junk food or eating everything in sight. Neither made me feel good. When eating ‘healthy’ I would be so restrictive with myself. Only eating foods with ‘clean’ ingredients, making myself feel guilty for the smallest amount of ‘bad’ food and letting myself go to bed hungry. Most of all, I stopped myself from actually enjoying food. At the other extreme, I would binge eat any food I could find with no limits as to quantity nor quality. At times I would solely eat junk food for every meal and everything in between. I would have zero energy, feel guilty and just feel plain awful. Neither was healthy and both were completely unsustainable.
Since becoming plant-based I have found that I have been able to balance my diet much better. I’m not perfect. I still pig out the odd time and I still feel guilty from time to time. However, it is nothing like it used to be. I have learned to create delicious yet nourishing and fulfilling meals while also treating myself at times. I eat more fruits and vegetables than I ever have. I also find that I can still enjoy pizza, chocolate, burgers and a lot more but I now choose to have healthier, less processed versions. I enjoy my food while still making it nourishing. I also eat plenty of it. I have a balanced diet and it is something that I can sustain moving forward.
2. The Environment
Environmental issues are something that I have become very passionate about over the past few years. I am nowhere near perfect but I have tried to make small changes over the past few years. I have spent time researching and reading ways in which I can be more eco-friendly and sustainable. This includes avoiding fast-fashion companies as much as possible and trying not to use single-use plastics. As I said, it’s a working progress. I had read and researched the meat industry and its effect on the environment. In a UN special report, it found that as the world population grows so does the demand for meat. This leads to rainforests and other green areas being destroyed in order to create more space for animal farming. By just reducing our meat intake (not abstaining from it), we could reduce deforestation and reduce carbon emissions.
3. Interest in nutrition
Over the past few years I have grown a strong interest in the area of nutrition. Its funny because when I was in school it was not a line of study that I would have even considered. However, since then it is something that I spend a lot of time researching and reading about. My interest was originally peaked when I was a teenager and I started watching ‘Youtubers’. One of those creators in particular, Niomi Smart was fully plant-based. I found her so interesting to watch and she introduced me to a range of foods that I had never even heard of including quinoa, sweet potato and chia seeds. It sparked something in me and I started buying and trying all of these foods. I’m pretty sure I ate sweet potato fries for dinner everyday for months. I really enjoyed learning about the benefits of all of the foods.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time researching different foods and elements of good nutrition. I listen to podcasts, read blogs and books and follow nutritionists and plant-based trailblazers on social media. I constantly want to learn more and educate myself further. I’ve learned over time that we get our most valuable nutrition from whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and pulses. Not from meat, dairy or eggs. While they do have benefits such as fats and protein, I have found that I can get those nutrients from more nutrient-dense plant-based foods. For example, foods such as lentils, chickpeas and avocados have healthy fats and protein but they also have fibre and vitamins which are important too. For me, going plant based meant focusing on more nutrient dense foods that give me a range of different nutrients, vitamins and minerals than just one.
4. Overall Wellness
Up until recently, if someone were to mention the work wellness to me the first thing that would have entered my head would have been weight. Since a teenager, mostly due to bad education and toxic social norms, I believe that to be healthy, you had to lose weight. Being healthy meant having a flat stomach, no cellulite and fitting into the smallest clothes size possible. My wellness goal was always to lose weight and by any means possible. When considering food, I would only look at the calories rather than the actual nutrients in the food. I would eat fruit and vegetables because they were low calorie not because they were nutrient dense. I wouldn’t eat nuts because they were high in fat and calorie dense, even thought why have vitamins and protein. Thankfully, in the last year I have educated myself better and I now understand that there is a lot more to wellness than weight. Today I focus on eating nutrient dense food that contributes to overall wellness and I never look at calories. As I said above, for me eating plant-based allows me to focus better on nutrient dense foods.
Of course there are other reasons why I believe being plant-based is a good choice for me but these are the main ones that started my journey and have kept me on it. As I said at the beginning, everyones reasons are different. My reasons may not motivate you or you may even disagree with them but that is why the choice is so personal and why it has to be your own.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it and more posts to come.