Why It's Important To Create A Plant-Based Lifestyle
(and Not Just A Diet)
When a lot of people think of plant-based, they think of a diet absent (or mostly absent) of meat and dairy. Though this is a key element and arguably the most important of plant-based, the aspect of a lifestyle is not often associated with this word, but it’s the secondary core element that has allowed me to be plant-based for over 2 years now - and absolutely love it.
Personally, I think there are such a variety of reasons why people go plant-based and the scale to which they implement it into their lives, that there really is no one lifestyle. In contrast, veganism has very clear cut rules on not eating, wearing, using items with animal products in it. Though it may seem a little more “extreme” to some, it can be attractive for people who are looking for guidelines to follow.
While it can be a little daunting for newcomers, creating a plant-based lifestyle has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Even though it may seem like a challenge to change your diet and create a lifestyle from scratch, melding the two together is the reason I’ve been able to stay plant-based for so long.
In this article, I wanted to share some key element in creating the plant-based lifestyle that you’ll absolutely fall in love with.
Switching To A Plant-Based or Vegan Diet
When someone decides to change their diet around, there’s generally a reason driving that decision, especially when it comes to a plant-based or vegan diet. This can range from health concerns to animal cruelty to the environment or even just adding some variety into your meals. Depending on your reasons for wanting to switch, your meals can look completely different, even though they’re all free from animal products - or in some cases mostly.
For a lot of people, the idea of changing around their diet creates a lot of hesitation because it’s so dramatically different than what they were eating before. Before I switched, I had a diet focused around lean protein- which translated into lots and lots of turkey and chicken with the occasional piece of fish. Since I was weightlifting and meal prepping 8 meals per week day for myself, the idea of completely turning my diet on its head created a lot of fear that I was not going to be meeting my protein goals or that my entire eating schedule was going to get thrown off if a meal went bad or just wasn’t filling enough.
If you’re having fears and hesitations about switching to a plant-based diet, that’s 100% normal no matter your reason. The fear that you don’t even know where to start or that you’re going to be giving up your favorite foods or that it’s not going to be sustainable long-term - I’ve had all of those running through my mind. By transitioning at my own pace and focusing on foods I love, I was able to make the switch very easily and enjoyably. If you’re looking for more on transitioning your diet, check out How To Start A Plant-Based Lifestyle For Beginners.
Breaking Through The Fears and Hesitations
Changing your diet in most cases involves tackling a lot of fear and hesitation. Most often times with plant-based or vegan diets a lot of people will not start because they’re afraid it’s going to be too difficult or that they can’t give up certain foods. For me, it was cheese. Since cheese was my feel good, make anything into a cheat meal food, it was really difficult for me to break away from the idea that I’d need to give that up. And of course, there was the feat that I’m not going to be getting enough protein in my meals.
The best way to tackle these fears is to get resourceful. A lot of hesitation like feeling it’s going to be too difficult just comes from the fact that we’re uncertain about what’s going to happen when we transition to a plant-based or vegan diet. And, that’s perfectly normal.
But, no matter what you’re afraid of, provide yourself with answers such as protein sources and plant-based alternatives. Another technique that I recommend especially for the people who think it will be too difficult would be to just try the diet for two weeks. By giving yourself a trial period, you take the pressure off of doing everything all at once and take it more as a learning experience. And if you honestly hate it and stop after 3 days, you know it’s not for you.
Another fear I hear a lot is that people are afraid they’re going to make so many mistakes that it prevents them from starting. Well, you probably will. That’s called being human! For the first two months of being plant-based, I was still eating honey because it just didn’t register with me that it was an animal product. Finally, one day it just hit me and I felt so stupid.
After 2 years of being 100% plant-based, I still make the occasional mistake. There’s a big difference between a mistake and actively choosing animal products. So, give yourself some room to learn and grow!
Interweave Your Diet with Your Goals
Another technique that has been crucial to my success is interweaving my diet and goals. So, what exactly does this mean? If you’ve ever tried to lose/gain weight, one way to do that is to monitor what you’re eating and adjust appropriately. You can apply that same technique to switching to a plant-based or vegan diet.
If you have any type of goal - weight, health, personal, anything - you can link that goal to your diet. Remember that most people have a reason to change their diet so dramatically? What is that for you? What do you need to eat to get there? What do you need to stop eating to get there?
If you can answer these questions, then it becomes a lot easier to create a plant-based lifestyle around your goals. When I first switched, I did it for preventative health reasons, but I also wanted to reduce my body fat percentage. When I was hesitating giving up cheese, I had to level with myself and admit that eating cheese was counterproductive to my goals so giving it up was actually a good thing! And, it worked!
Do I still eat cheese today? Yes, vegan cheese. I switched before the explosion of new plant-based products on the market. Now, I found a product that I love and allows me to have that same sense of “feel-good” as cheese from dairy used to - in moderation of course.
By interweaving my fitness and health goals with my diet, I was able to create a lifestyle that I’m really proud of now.
Setting Yourself Up For Success
I’ve seen so many people not attempt going plant-based or vegan because they set themselves up for failure. They’re so focused on what they’re going to miss, what they can’t give up and what they can’t do.
I say flip that on its head and focus on success! If you can get a plan to transition your diet at your own pace and get real about what your hesitations for switching are, then it’s so much easier to tackle them. Give yourself the resources and time to learn, and you’ll be there in no time!
If you can craft your diet around your goals and the lifestyle lead or want to lead, then that’ll go a long way in helping you stay plant-based or vegan for a long time. But most importantly, have fun and don’t be afraid to fail!