Why I Decided to Start a Plant-Based Diet

Cara Berzins
Feb 1 · 6 min read

To be exact, it’s a whole foods plant-based diet. In other words, I went vegan (although I would more accurately call it vegan-ish). As I type these sentences it does not begin to sum up what I actually did, or what this journey is about.

My family and I started adopting a whole foods plant-based diet last March. It has been fascinating, amazing, at times frustrating, liberating, restrictive, overwhelming, easy . . .

I know, right now you are saying, “whaaat“? At times I have felt confused. But I also think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and my family.

If you are interested in trying this way of eating, this article will help you. I will share our reasons for eating plant-based foods, the path we took, the mistakes we made, and resources that helped us.

It’s Not Really a Diet

Photo by Nick Bratanek on Unsplash

Let me start by saying I wouldn’t really call this a diet. What is a diet? Usually, the defining features of a diet are counting calories and restricting yourself.

I would call a whole food plant-based diet (aka, a vegan diet) a way of eating. This is a way of eating that does not include starvation or counting calories. It simply means you put plants on your plate. As many as you want. Cooked, uncooked, whole, chopped, roasted, grilled, sauteed, stir-fried. Whatever.

Unlike a typical diet, I have never felt deprived or starved. When you go on a diet you expect to feel hungry most of the time. If you’re not hungry, you must be doing something wrong.

Now, I just eat. It’s a way of eating, not a diet.

What foods do I try not to eat? Anything that comes from animals. That includes meat, dairy, and eggs.

How We Got Started Eating Plant-Based

I had decided to start eating a large salad for lunch and send one along in my husband’s lunch for work. “Even if I change just one meal we will get healthier,” I thought.

When I mentioned this to a friend who works in the health-care industry, he recommended following the Forks Over Knives newsletter for recipes and ideas.

So I did. One of those first newsletters had a link to Mastering Diabetes 2018 Online Summit*. We watched and listened. We heard doctors like Neal Barnard, Joel Furman, John McDougall, and many, many more as well the founders of Mastering Diabetes, Cyrus Khambatta, Ph.D., and Robby Barbaro.

A Plant-Based Diet is the Best Way to Prevent Disease

They explained what the over 100 years of scientific research has proven about a healthy diet. We learned that eating plants is the best way to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.

Every single one of these diseases is in my family. Every single one is caused by excess fat in the body. Every single one can successfully be treated by a plant-based diet.

I learned that good nutrition is as effective as medicine in most cases. Of course, no one is suggesting you should stop taking medicine. Nutrition has the power to heal. Why not use food to make your body healthier instead of weighing it down with empty calories?

This makes so much sense to me. Clearly, plants are the best food for the human body. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. The science backs this up.

I watched Forks Over Knives, the documentary. Then, I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. I started watching YouTube channels like Pick Up Limes and Plant Based News.

You all know how I am. I’m obsessed with digging down to the bottom of every question. I am constantly discovering more resources to help me along the way in this journey.

What On Earth Do You Call It?

I keep having this difficulty. What should I call myself?

Am I a vegan?

But when you look up the word “vegan” online there are websites of all types. Many people are vegan because they really love animals. For other people, being vegan is a way to save the planet. Those two ideas appeal to me. But they are not what motivated me to change my diet.

If I tell someone I’m vegan, they may automatically assume I would never buy a leather bag or that I want to boycott corporate farms. I feel like I am misleading them by using that term.

Do I tell everyone I eat a whole foods plant-based low-fat diet?

That’s a mouthful. Most people give you a blank stare when you rattle off that whole thing. It is accurate, but requires further explanation every single time!

Lately, the closest word I could come up with for myself was veganish. Would you believe, when I googled it I found a few bloggers who also call themselves veganish?

What we have in common is the belief that eating plant-based foods is the best thing to do for your health.

Is there such a thing as veganish?

I’m not 100% vegan. I eat plants when I’m at home and have complete control over what is on my plate. When I visit someone else, I don’t make a big deal out of it. This works for me because I mostly eat at home.

On the other hand, some vegan foods are no healthier than animal products. I also don’t choose to eat processed vegan junk food just because none of the ingredients come from animals. The point for me is to eat food in its natural package, whole and delicious.

The very best explanation I found of the difference between vegan and plant-based is by Abi Cowell at Very Veganish. She explains the ins and outs of why people generally make such a drastic change.

But my favorite part of her article is the explanation of why it’s ok to be veganish. I don’t feel I have the right to call myself a vegan unless I never eat or use a product derived from animals.

I love how she says we all have free will. We get to choose what to eat. We don’t have to be perfect with every bite. We don’t have to adopt a label to choose healthy food.

Ironically, the label finally helped set me straight.

For our family, this was kind of an important distinction. We had tried once before to “go vegan”. But we ended up replacing meat with a lot of processed meat-like soy products and bread.

We missed the “whole foods” part of “whole food plant-based” diet. And we missed out on the health benefits. We had become junk food vegans.

Since health was the reason for our change, but we weren’t seeing any improvements in our health, we eventually gave up.

Changing the label to “whole foods plant-based diet” helped a lot. When I wondered what to eat, all I had to do was grab something whole. A whole orange, a whole banana, a whole sweet potato, a whole cucumber, a bowl of whole grains. You get the idea.

Why I am Never Going Back!

The reason we started the plant-based journey was to get healthier. It has worked! We feel much better, we are leaner, we have more energy.

On top of that, cooking whole plant-based foods is easier and faster most of the time. Many of the dishes are more affordable. We feel like we are contributing to a greener planet.

Next time I will share with you some of the things I’ve learned about how to cook plant-based food that is appealing and delicious. Because, let’s face it, if you don’t like the food, you’re not going to keep eating it!

Until then, comment below if you have ever tried a vegan or plant-based diet. How did it go? Did you like it? Were you able to stick with it?

*If you are interested in viewing the Mastering Diabetes 2018 Summit, it is still available to watch or listen to for free. You can sign up and they will send you a link to 5 new interviews every day for 8 days.

Originally published at standupandlivelife.com on February 1, 2019.

Cara Berzins

Written by

Freelance writer, mom blogger at the intersection of health and parenting.

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