The first three weeks were the hardest. Besides giving up meat and dairy, I quit all my vices: sugar, coffee, chocolate, alcohol and the occasional diet coke. I had to figure out what to eat. Dr. Fuhrman's Eat To Live set out a simple plan which I tried to follow.
I admit, I got started, but was quietly having a little pity party for myself. Why can't I eat like everyone else? I ate in moderation and even counted calories. I buy organic, rarely eat out, never fast food, no junk, reduced sugar, whole grains, etc. Now I have to give up dairy and meat? I didn't feel fair, but I was willing to do what ever it took at the moment and really, there was really nothing left to do.
But, then I realized I had a lot of habits to change. My morning coffee, my late morning coffee, a diet coke at the grocery store, afternoon sweet snacks, a few chocolate chips here and there. I had to muscle through those first few weeks, but I wanted to change, so it didn't feel too hard. However, giving up caffeine is not easy on your body. I felt tired every afternoon and had a mild and constant headache for the first 2 weeks. Most afternoons, I would lay down and rest, but not fall asleep for about a half an hour and then go on with my day. I was losing weight, and that kept me going.
I also felt like I was letting go of part of my identity. I am good cook, I can bake anything, and I know how to put out a delicious spread. I had a hard time wrapping my head around not being those things anymore. But I thought, where had that gotten me?
I continued to read and finish Fuhrman's book quickly and the pity party also ended quickly. The book is full of information, motivating research, personal stories, and menu and recipe ideas. There is one page that gets right to the point and I often go back to it:
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Breakfast: fresh fruit
Lunch: salad, beans on top, and more fruit
I started each morning, and still do, with a delicious chocolate smoothie made with spinach, unsweetened almond milk, flax seed, unsweetened cocoa powder, banana, and frozen blueberries. Delicious and chocolately without any added sugar. By the way, I did not have a Vitamix for the first 4 months, and I got by just fine, but I do love my Vitamix now. Lunch is a large salad, such as one the pictured below. I like a spicy salad, so my beans always have a chili/cumin, spice mix on them and fresh garlic, I also include onions and herbs on my salad and top it with balsamic vinegar. Lots and lots of flavors. If I need a snack, I eat fruit or veggies, which admittedly was easier in the summer when a variety of fresh local veggies were available. For dinner, I usually eat another smaller salad, cooked veggies, a stir fry, curry dish, bean burger, or veggie chili. I make everything from scratch.
For those first few weeks, I focused on my own needs and for dinner, Dan and the kids ate a lot of easy meals, including plenty of sandwiches. After a while we started changing the kids diet too and we all gave up meat and dairy (Dan had given up dairy 6 months prior). Making dinner for everyone has been the biggest challenge and we are still trying new recipes all the time, but we have quite a few favorites now. In those first few weeks, I also bought 2 excellent and now favorite cookbooks: Let Them Eat Vegan and Everyday Happy Herbivore. We have found many favorite dinners, muffins and cookies for the kids in those books.
After those 3 weeks, I felt better and it wasn't just willpower propelling me. My back stopped hurting, my carpal tunnel and other aches and pains disappeared and little things changed, like my ankle stopped popping while walking down the stairs. Also, my period got shorter, less crampy and lighter. Later my skin cleared up completely. My BP was reading 95/65, last September, my total cholesterol was 105 (down from 185), my resting heartrate is 55, blood glucose down to 85. So, I knew it was working for me. The most surprising part is still that you don't have to be hungry and exercise like crazy to lose weight. Given the nutrients your body needs, it will heal itself, which includes stabilizing your weight.
I have been on a long slow walk in this direction for a some time. I finally feel like I have figured it out for myself and real change has happened. I can not imagine going back to the way I was eating before. It is hard to explain, but I no longer feel controlled by food. I don't need caffeine, sugar, alcohol, or decadence. I don't treat myself with food. The real treat is the joy I feel everyday. I am less grumpy and more active and I feel like I am a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.
I don't think of my diet as restrictive. Instead it has open up a new and delicious world of food. My taste buds have truly changed. I eat super nutritious food because I want to and that leaves very little room for other foods. I love what I eat and my body loves it too. I am thriving again, not just surviving.
The best part, is there are so many excellent plant-based cookbooks out there, that I can still put out a good spread and I promise, you won't think you are missing out on anything and you won't feel a bit of guilt about it eating any of it.