A plant-based diet is one based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.
Yesterday marked the end of a 30-Day Challenge. I committed to eating a *mostly* plant-based diet for 30 days. No meat. No dairy. Yes, that includes cheese.
I was very deliberate about the *mostly* part. Because the reality is, I was not sure if I could do it.
The week after my 50th birthday, I started cleaning up. No, not the house, I started cleaning up my diet. It had been a few weeks of celebratory eating and drinking and I was feeling it.
So I did what I usually do; planned and shopped. You know, fruits and veggies, lean protein, etc. Having good food in the house because it helps to have the right tools for the trade, so to speak. And then I read that Bob Harper had a heart attack. You know, the Biggest Loser trainer, Bob Harper. Super healthy. Super fit. WTF??
That threw me because he seems to be really healthy. Eating right, exercising. But sometimes that’s not enough. Genetics can be a bitch. It reminded me again that I rolled craps on the Genetic health dice.
But after the Bob Harper thing I watched a few more documentaries, listened to some podcasts, followed some athletes who are plant-based and one evening decided that was it, I was going to try it for a month. It was one of those times where I went to bed, then got up out of my bed, came down the hall to where Brad was watching Sports Center and asked him if he’d be on board trying it for a month. I had to promise to shop, cook and make sure he didn’t starve to death but he agreed. Then I wandered to Alexa’s room asking her the same thing. So I got down to business.
Doing some more research and reading I came away with two schools of thought.
- Go all in.
- Start slow. Eliminate meat first, get used to that for a while. Then remove dairy, etc.
One pod-caster said it took him a year. I don’t do well with long drawn out plans so I figured option 1 was the ticket. The only thing that would put a wrench in my plans was if I was not able to sustain my level of activity. I still had to have enough energy to run 5 days a week, teach boot-camp 4 days, work and be a mom and a wife. If not, I’d have to re-adjust.
I mean, it was just for a month. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Vitamin B12 deficiency, beriberi, starvation?
I started on March 4th. The first thing I had to do was pull some recipes together. Soups were made, a pot of beans simmered, rice prepared, salads made, menus put together. Like any healthy eating plan the devil is in the details and you have got to have a plan. What would you eat, when would you eat it, how would you fuel your body.
I kept a journal for a few days because I knew that I wanted to revisit the early stages honestly.
I woke up hungry. And at 3:00 am. Tuesdays are run days and I knew that I couldn’t run on an empty stomach. Because it wasn’t just empty, it was hollow. So I made a bowl of instant plain oatmeal with some raisins tossed in and cinnamon sprinkled on top. It’s a usual pre-long run breakfast so it did the trick, even for a 6 miler. The run was fine. It took me a long mile to get warmed up but I felt fine at the end.
Overall, I’m still not feeling great. Not what I expected. I expected to feel really good, but I’m kind of headachy and have that hollow feeling again. So I did some reading (yes, Virginia, there’s a lot to learn) and figured out that I’m leaning too much on veggies, fruits and grains. I have to add more starchy veggies and fats. This is good to know. Grabbing some peanut butter on my apple and a whole grain tortilla right now.
Tried an almond-milk latte from Starbucks. Rethinking this whole goddamn thing.
It’s a run day and I wake up hungry. I have a 6 mile run so I fuel up on oatmeal before I head out. I’m not fast but not slow and I don’t feel like I’m starving. Good news.
But I’m dragging, and I’ve been dragging since the start. So I hit the Internet and Google “I started a plant-based diet and feel horrible”. Apparently it’s common to feel like crap. Some of the things I can expect are feeling tired, flu-ish, foggy and not quite myself. Good to know I’m not alone.
Because I’ve cut out a lot of the processed foods, meat and dairy I imagine I’m detoxing. It does not feel good. At all.
Today was a 9 mile run so I made pasta and veggies for dinner the night before. Carbo loading and all that. I let the family add their own cheese, mine was cheese-free. The meal was delicious and it adequately topped off the tank for my long run. I felt strong. After the run I had leftover curry and greens for breakfast.
I am lucky that I enjoy cooking. If I didn’t this would be very hard to do. The downside is that I’m doing a lot of dishes and I have to constantly sweep my floor and clean my countertops. I’m a messy little cook.
That was my last journal entry because by that time I didn’t feel like crap anymore. I wasn’t starving and I had figured out what I could make that most of my family would eat. In fact, I started to feel good. Lighter, if that makes sense.
It became easier to eat because if you’re not eating meat or dairy, you’re taking a lot of variables out of play. At a restaurant, for example, I will have the beans and rice with corn tortillas, no cheese. See, easy decision making.
Now, I’m no saint, I still enjoy wine and beer, found a cashew milk ice cream that I have to hide from my daughter, and like to grab a handful of tortilla chips or BBQ lays. Well, maybe two handfuls or a small bowl. See, this is where the *mostly* plant-based part of the challenge comes into play.
I successfully ate out at a few restaurants, survived a lovely buffet at a Bat Mitzvah and was able to maintain my running and boot-camp classes. In fact, there was no impact on my running at all.
One major benefit is that my family eats better. I will send Alexa to school with rice and beans or a curry dish for lunch. She’ll eat the pasta shells made with tofu “ricotta” and the creamy red chard linguine. I figure if I make healthy plant-based meals at home and they eat what they like when they go out or we order in, that’s a good compromise. For example, Brad “meats” on me at his weekly business lunches and I still make the foods that they like. If it’s scrambled eggs or a turkey and cheese Panini, I’m ok with that.
So now that my 30 days are up what’s next? I decided that I’d extend it for another 30 days. Primarily because I don’t have desire to eat another way. That may change and I’m not vowing to never eat animal products ever again. But for now, I’m good.
I’m going to add a tab to the blog page for plant-based stuff. Recipes, resources, FAQs, etc. That way if anyone is interested they can check it out.
Now go run!