I remember standing in my kitchen, almost crying, hungry and completely bored with what I was eating. It was the first week I went plant based, and I really thought that meant that I would be eating this bland, horrible, and anything but satisfying menu. I would eat beans and oatmeal, and I would *try* to get down a salad. But I did it, because, well my life was in danger, and I didn’t have much of a choice.
The food industry has done a marvelous job in teaching our society that there is only one way to be satisfied with food, and only one way to enjoy it. We don’t see things like tofu or even fruits and veggies and grains made to look sexy and satisfying anywhere we look. In fact, when is the last time you saw a commercial for tofu? A typical American family sitting down to a delicious breakfast of tofu scramble burritos with pancakes and fresh squeezed OJ? Go ahead, I’ll give you a few minutes to think about that….
Nothing, right? I mean we’re constantly told that the only way we’re going to enjoy food is if it’s from an animal, if it’s processed, and if it has things in it we can not pronounce. We’re never told that eating a plant based diet is so amazingly tasty and satisfying or that with a few simple changes you can be cooking things that no one would even guess were plant based to begin with.
And sadly, all of this leads to people believing that going plant based, and becoming vegan is “hard” or that they don’t have enough will power, or that I’ve done something really amazing and difficult.
I’ve been on a million diets, seriously. I’ve been on “hard” diets. And they were hard! They were not satisfying at all. They all meant counting something and eating things I generally did not like. And they didn’t work, I mean they would work for a week or maybe more, but in the end they didn’t work. Because they ended, because it wasn’t a way to live for life, it was just a way to lose some weight.
Now, I don’t count anything, I eat. I absolutely love food, making food, going out (when we can), and I don’t worry. Now granted, I’m still not eating large tubs of vegan ice cream or stacks of pancakes, but I found that soon after going plant based, my appetite started changing, and my addictions to certain foods started going away, and so the desire to binge also went away. Not that I don’t have the occasional vegan cookie (thanks Sweet Pea Baking!), but I don’t need 15 of them to feel happy.
The reason why diets fail is because they are not satisfying, and they don’t really make sense for our bodies. We eliminate, add in, take away, subtract, add up, weigh things, time things all to be miserable. I know, because I went through this for years and years before I went plant based.
Going plant based meant that I gave up 3 foods completely. Meat, Dairy, Eggs. That’s it. Now at first, I cried, seriously, I didn’t know what to do or what to eat with out my “staples”. I was programmed, like many of us to think that there were only slight variations of the standard American Diet in order to get healthy. I told people that I really hated tofu, that I was not much for salads, and there was only so much oatmeal I could eat.
Looking back on it, I almost get angry with myself for not doing a little more research up front, so that it wasn’t all so daunting. When I started to find out about alternatives, and vegan cookbooks, I was completely shocked. I remember reading “Vegan with a Vengeance” and thinking that this woman must be nuts, how could a BLT taste good as something called a TLT , and what the HECK is Tempeh anyway?!
It wasn’t until I started trying the recipes out that things started to change. I found myself in an entire new underground world of food. I felt like I had come upon a secret that was just lurking in the recipe section of the book store. I went to the grocery store and found foods that were labeled vegan, substitutes to things, even frozen meals that were actually healthy and delicious. Granted, these things were always there, but I would pass them by snubbing my nose at them because I thought they were going to be nasty. And of course, there was the produce section. Who knew that veggies and fruits could work together to make completely satisfying meals? I felt like Sherlock Holmes, and like many of those cases, the answers were right under my nose! Right in the grocery store. The recipes? Right in the book aisle, or the other place I spent A LOT of time – the internet. Soon, I was looking up recipes online, I would pick my favorite meal and type in “Vegan Lasagna” and go figure , up pops a recipe for Vegan Lasagna!
As the months have gone on, I’ve become like a mad scientists of sorts in the kitchen, and even going out to eat. From time to time I catch myself still feeling like I’ve unlocked some secret door to a huge other world.
I wish I could have told all of this to my former self, the one who thought that she was completely with out self control or any will power to eat right. I tell people often that the way I eat now is the most satisfying way I have ever eaten. I’m not just saying that because my diabetes is better or that I’m losing a lot of weight, I’m saying that as a person who really does enjoy food. I’m Italian AND Sicilian, it’s kind of how we’re made.
And yes, it feels even more satisfying knowing that I am not killing myself anymore, that I’m avoiding a lot of other nasty diseases, that I am putting things in my body that are healthy for it. And there is something to eating living food. Foods that give life to you with out taking a life away. There is something that runs deeper in all of it, something that I wish I could explain eloquently enough. Consuming foods that our bodies were actually meant to digest, opposed to consuming foods that we were never supposed to digest does more than heal your body and help lose weight, it just starts to change you.
I get a lot of feedback from people who tell me that they are just not strong enough, or they don’t have the will power, or they could never give up something, or they don’t like some kind of food they more than likely don’t know much about. I’m here to tell you that, in the end, it’s not only easier, it’s more satisfying and more enjoyable, and more rewarding. That’s the secret.