Great, now I’ve got that New Kids on the Block song stuck in my head. At least it isn’t “Hangin’ Tough” (nope, now it is).
No, this post is not about how the New Kids on the Block inspired my healthy lifestyle changes (look for that post next week), but rather my journey to a plant-based diet a couple of years ago.
My story starts with Lean Green Dad himself, Cory, and his Lean Green Wife, Jenn. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease back in 1999, and joined a support group facilitated by Jenn and Cory several years ago. Watching Cory and Jenn as they set out on their journey to changing their lives through plant-based eating was inspirational, but I still didn’t see myself becoming one of those crazy vegan people.
After watching Cory and Jenn for a while (not in a weird, creepy way) I decided that it was worth trying, at least for a little while. So, over two years ago my New Year’s resolution was to eat a plant-based, whole food diet for at least two months. Prior to this endeavor, I had eliminated most processed food, but still ate meat and dairy with most meals, so that was going to be a big change.
The first step for me was education. I read as much as I could on the subject. All the Engine 2 books, videos, and online resources were a huge help. I was motivated by the success stories, encouraged by the wealth of medical support, and excited to try a lot of the recipes that I had found. My initial goal was to follow a completely plant-based, whole food diet for two months, and then add in a few things like lean meats and eggs at the end of the two months.
I was probably most apprehensive about cutting out sugar. Sugar addiction is definitely real, but it felt good to cut it out. There is no question that sugar cravings were the worst in the beginning. Even though I wasn’t eating massive amounts of sugar, it was clear that I was hooked on the stuff. Fruit definitely provided me enough delicious sweetness to carry me through.
The toughest part for me wasn’t even the diet itself; it was other people’s reaction to my choices. It took me awhile to understand that it usually had very little to do with me. When I was at a birthday party and passed on the cake, people would tell me that one piece of cake wasn’t going to kill me. Which was true (although a few of the cakes may have been borderline lethal). Equally true was the fact that not eating the cake was also not going to kill me, and so it was ok for me not to want the cake, or burger, or whatever other thing people really wanted me to eat.
For the most part, my friends and family were very supportive and helpful on my journey. My parents tried out the plant-based diet with me for a while. When I was going to friends’ houses for dinner they went out of their way to accommodate me, or ask what I needed food-wise. Typically I would just bring my own food so that no one had to put in any extra effort, but you should probably make sure that your host won’t be offended before showing up at a party with your own meal.
I also had difficulty getting myself out of the three meals a day routine. I had heard all the science about eating smaller meals and eating more often, but I was a slave to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once I broke myself out of the habit, I was so much happier. I was never hungry because I was eating regularly, and I never felt stuffed. I was never giving my body more than it could handle at once.
At the end of the two months I felt great. I had reached the point that I was going to add some stuff back into my diet, but I didn’t want to. Along the way I noticed a gradual change in the way I looked at food. Cravings changed. In the beginning, when I saw a burger pop up on TV, I would think, “that looks good.” Then after couple of weeks it would look appetizing when I saw it, but when I thought about actually eating it, the craving went away. Eventually, I really had no interest in the burger.
Without meaning to, I had become one of those crazy vegan people.
I had replaced my love for unhealthy foods, and my addiction to sugar, with a new addiction. I was addicted to how good I felt. I was addicted to the fact that my body was getting down to the weight that it was supposed to be, and not because I was counting calories, but because I was fueling my body with real food. I was addicted to the extra energy I had, and the increase in my general well-being.
In short, I had pretty much gone off the deep end.
So, over two years later (on a two-month journey) and I’m still going plant-strong. It turned out that the plant-based lifestyle had the “Right Stuff” for me. (Sorry, couldn’t resist one last New Kids reference).
Oh heck, here is a music video just because you know you are going to look it up right now.