Just about everyone at some point has or will try some kind of diet. It might be the juice only diet or the bacon only diet, but it will be a diet. Diets are temporary. Diets make you think you will get to go back to “normal” once you’ve achieved some goal. If your goal is to be healthy, your diet is one great place to look, and I don’t mean some short term diet, I mean your actual eating habits. So how can you eat what you like and get healthy? It’s so simple, change what it is you like, and you will always eat healthy food, and never feel the want for unhealthy things. Easier said than done!
You Need a Goal
The first step is establishing a goal. Do you want to lose weight? Don’t just say you want to lose weight, set a numerical goal. For me, it was to achieve my “ideal weight”. I’m 6’2”, so my ideal weight is 185 lbs according to this chart: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323446#body-mass-index (you can also calculate your BMI at this site too).
Or, say you just want to be healthier… That’s a harder thing to quantify, but maybe it’s be able to walk a mile, or five miles, or swim a certain distance. Whatever your goal is, make it something realistic and achievable. For instance, I’m a 50 year old man, for me to say I want to be in the next Olympics for say… swimming… that’s pretty unrealistic and not likely to happen. Yes, I’m aware it’s theoretically possible, but… goals should be something you can do if you put in the effort, not something that has lots of odds against it! You get my meaning.
I’ll use myself as an example here. On December 18, 2020, I got the call from my Doctor that I had Diabetes Type 2. Just a week before, she put me on Glipizide for high blood pressure. I know the date because it’s just two days before Derica’s birthday. Yeah, happy birthday babe… our lives are about to change… drastically.
At first, I didn’t know what to do. I remember sitting on the couch, where I’d been for a week (I did not adjust to meds very well, I hate taking medications, and was getting headaches, loss of appetite, vomiting, exhaustion, yeah, fun times). Anyway, I sat there, turned off the TV and just sat in the dark, thinking. I remember it distinctly as one of my darkest moments. The thought of actually dying from this crap set in. It was terrifying. It felt like that simple phone call was a death knell. My thoughts went to Derica, making sure she’d be alright, and all those things you think about if you believe you’re going to die.
To those who think I’m being overly dramatic… “Raised blood pressure (BP) is responsible for 7.6 million deaths per annum worldwide (13.5% of the total), more than any other risk factors. Around 54% of stroke and 47% of coronary heart disease are attributable to high BP. “ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22157565/#:~:text=Raised%20blood%20pressure%20(BP)%20is,middle%20income%20countries%20(LMIC).
Diabetes has it’s own problems too… “The most common causes of death of patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes are cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Risk factors of death in type 1 DM include cardiovascular disease, diabetic nephropathy and retinopathy. Patients die at a younger age due to early onset of the disease.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30296369/#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20causes%20of,early%20onset%20of%20the%20disease.
I KNEW I had abused my health. I KNEW I should have changed years ago. Yet, I had no idea it was that bad. For about a half hour, I thought it was too late, and there was nothing I could do.
At the end of that half hour, I felt silly. Here I was throwing in the towel and I hadn’t even entered the ring. I was forfeiting and I hadn’t even touched the ball. Why?
My whole life I’d been led to believe Diabetes will just slowly kill you. It’s incurable, and only gets worse. It’s a chronic, progressive disease. If you have diabetes, you might have heard this too. Interesting, I was more taken back by the Diabetes than the Hypertension, but in reality the hypertension is far more deadly in the short term. Shows just how little I knew about my situation.
Make the Choice, don’t let the Choice make you
I decided in that exact moment I was NOT going to let this thing get me. Not now, not early, no, just no. Thus, the research had begun.
Just how do you undo 50 years of eating habits? How can someone who loves cheeseburgers, ribs, steaks, sausage, hot dogs, cheese, eggs, pasta, breads, cakes, cookies, as well as wine, cider and mead… change?
As I delved into food and nutrition, I found out so many things. Disturbing things, disgusting things, and just plain lies we as a people are told by agencies we are supposed to trust. All in the name of money. Yes, our government, most every health organization, and even most of the studies out there are all funded by companies who want to sell you their products, whether it’s healthy or not, and they pay enough to sway scientific minds and grease palms so things can be touted as “healthy”, even when they are decidedly not.
So as to not regress into fits and spasms and cursing, spouting off against all these companies, I will say this. The information is out there. Try a site like https://nutritionfacts.org/ or https://www.forksoverknives.com/ or https://www.masteringdiabetes.org/ and the list goes on and on. Yes, I know, for every study saying eggs are bad, there’s another saying how great they are… watch this video and you will learn more about the marketing behind our food than you may really want to know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G-P9zWgSt4&ab_channel=NutritionFacts.org Then there’s milk, fish, chicken, pork, beef… yeah… it’s pretty bad. Don’t even get me started on refined sugars like white table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and processed foods, amazing some of this is legal to be honest with you.
We started giving away and throwing away products left and right. To be frank, I felt horrible giving away food I knew to be unhealthy, but… I felt even worse throwing it away, so we donated dozens of cans, dry goods, and things like that. We gave to friends and family hundreds of pounds of frozen meats and fish from our three freezers!
Ok, Now What?
Then came the next realization. What are we going to eat? I didn’t know a darn thing about vegetarian cooking. I mean, I could try making fake meats like seitan, we can eat tofu, there’s those Impossible Burger things…. Frustration was setting in, and along with that a mild case of depression. I became very upset at the prospect of not enjoying food anymore since… I’m a cook! It’s what I do! I love cooking and I love making amazing food that Derica and myself want to eat. Could I no longer do that? Would we have to suffer forever with boring food?
So I experimented, and we had our mock meats, and tried various methods of the lifestyle change, going through a ketogenic phase (yes, a phase, as it’s the “common” way to manage diabetes, but that doesn’t make it the best way, or even a good or healthy way!). We settled on the Whole Food Plant Based Lifestyle. I hate to say diet because that infers it’s temporary, like I said earlier. This is not going to be temporary, it’s for life.
Why is it for life? Well… diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, dementia, alzheimer’s, fatty liver, obesity, stroke, and a veritable cornucopia of other ailments and diseases come from one common thing in many, many cases. That thing is our modern diet. The very food we eat is killing us, and not only killing us, poisoning us. So, if you want to be healthy, you need to change how you eat.
This was a hard pill to swallow. I quit smoking about twelve years ago, and even the day I quit, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Ehh, I’ll smoke again someday.”. That’s the little things we tell ourselves. But I knew this was literally life… or death. If I didn’t make this change forever, I would certainly die sooner.
“Results from the National Institute of Health-sponsored study revealed those who ate the most plant-based food had a 16% lower risk of having cardiovascular disease(CVD), 32% lower risk of dying from CVD, and 25% lower risk of all-cause mortality. “ -https://www.hcplive.com/view/plant-based-diet-lower-cardiovascular-disease
Now on to the fun part.
As we dove headlong into the plant based lifestyle, we learned about a lot of foods we’d simply overlooked. Today’s grocery stores are LOADED with a huge variety, yet they say the average person buys mostly the same things over and over again, hardly straying from what they buy. We have this image that we are so varied in our eating, but in reality, most of us eat the same 15-30 recipes over and over again, and couple that with sandwiches and packaged foods, our true variety is actually fairly limited.
People say, “But eating plant based is very limiting.”. To that I say… “Phshaw!”.. Yeah, I really said it out loud once. But… we go to local food stands, asian markets, and even Publix and Aldi, and constantly find something new we never tried, and WE TRY IT. Have we loved everything? No of course not. But the point is, we never tried it before. We now eat FAR more variety than ever before. Pasta used to mean white flour and eggs. Now? It’s whole wheat flour, lentil pasta, chickpea pasta, shirataki noodles, millet noodles, udon, and even spaghetti squash and zucchinni noodles sometimes! I mean, why eat all that variety when you can just make amazing white flour and egg pasta, right?
Well… it’s because we learned just how awful that white flour is, and the eggs… seriously, the eggs, just don’t eat them. Once you open your mind to options, everything becomes unique. I have made a few recipes several times, but in general, we eat various combinations or alterations of these dishes, so I’ve probably made 250 unique dishes in the first half of 2021, as opposed to probably 60, maybe even 80 or 100 in the last half of 2020. VARIETY! It’s awesome.
Something really amazing starts to happen when you go whole food plant based. We also cut down on sodium and sugars. We ELIMINATED artificial sweeteners, as they aren’t good either, and they’re not whole foods, so… yeah. The amazing thing that happens is your taste buds wake up. It’s kind of like after I quit smoking, I tasted food again. Things taste sweeter, you taste the flavors of the food, not the oils, sugars and salts. This alone makes the food you eat so much better than ever before.
What About the Impossible Burger?
Do I still do the mock meat thing? Occasionally. I do like seitan (it’s a meat like protein made from wheat gluten. Been done for centuries in India and Asia), and I enjoy tofu too. We tried the Impossible Burger and their sausage, and though they were good, I actually prefer Boca Burgers! Sausage though… still working on that.
One thing I had to accept was lack of cheese. All those “vegan cheeses” are just oils and fat and processed foods. Still not good to eat. This brings up the point that just because something says “Vegan”, “Oil Free”, “Fat Free”, “Sugar Free”, “Gluten Free”, or what-have-you free doesn’t meant it’s healthy. 90% of our food doesn’t have labels… if you get my meaning. LOTS of fresh vegetables and fruits. Sure, frozen is good too, we try to not get too much in cans though due to sodium. If most of your food is in a package with an ingredients label more than 3-5 items long? You’re probably eating things you shouldn’t be.
Right, so… what do you do now?
Fast forward to August 2021. I’m eating about ten times more fruit than I ever did in my life. I always liked it, but… chips were easier. So I ate chips, and we bought chips. Not anymore. Now my snacks are fruits, nuts or sometimes… popcorn (no oils or butter thankyouverymuch). I eat lots of bananas, peaches, plums, grapes, apples, oranges, and even kiwis, lychees, and mangos too.
We eat lots and lots of vegetables. Zucchini, squashes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, and asparagus!
Then, the greens… cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, collards, mustards, spinach, cauliflower (love that raw!), and anything that looks good at the store that day!
I can hear you already… “How do you get enough protein?”. I need about 50-75 grams of protein a day. Really. More than that is actually BAD for you. We have this idea we NEED tons of protein. We don’t. Even athletes don’t need so much. Protein is MOSTLY fuel. So are carbs, but your body works off of carbs much more efficiently. A tiny amount of protein is used to repair the body, so you don’t need hundreds of grams per day.
“To determine your daily protein intake, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. For a 50-year-old woman who weighs 140 pounds that translates into 53 grams of protein a day.” – https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
Plan for Where you’re Going, not Where you Are
Something I learned about the macronutrient values is this… for fat and protein, base it off your ideal weight, not your current. For instance, myself, I would base if off 185 lbs, not my old weight of 235, since… that was not the right weight for me, so the nutrients I need are NOT based on that weight! It works if you are over or underweight, getting your body to adjust to the right weight.
But anyway, protein… simple. A cup of black beans has 15.2g of protein. Even a banana has 1.5g! One cup of chopped broccoli has 2.6! It adds up. Getting to the 60’s for me is pretty simple. Protein is NOT a worry.
Interesting fact about protein! ALL PROTEIN IS PLANT PROTEIN! Yep, if you get protein from an animal product, you’re getting it via a middleman. Think about that! All protein originates in plants, animals consume them and it is used in their bodies.
The real trick for me was cutting out the oils. That includes cheese, like I said earlier. Gods did I love cheese! Olive oil too. I know you’re thinking Olive Oil is healthy. Well… one blueberry has the same antioxidant property as 1 CUP of olive oil. Don’t fall for the hype! The Mediterranean Diet is healthy DESPITE the use of (small amounts) of olive oil not BECAUSE of it. Oil is just the refined sugar of the fat world, and fat is the thing that causes diabetes, cholesterol problems, and all the other things that go with it!
So, you’re wondering… how do I eat what I like and stay healthy?
Think like Sherlock Holmes. He said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…”. Well, not exactly like that but, when you eliminate foods that will kill you sooner (meats, fish, dairy, eggs, refined and processed foods, oils), since you have good reason to no longer like them, and look at the plethora of new options that will prolong your life, you begin to appreciate them.
It took me some time, and don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy every time, but you take one day at a time, and make changes when you learn something new. That’s science. Science is not truth, science is finding the truth. When science changes it’s opinion, it didn’t lie to you, it just learned more.
That’s what we’ve done. We simply learned more and realized that what we thought we liked, we don’t much like anymore. The reasons we like them changed, and with that change, came a distaste for them.
At the same time, things we never tried, or didn’t bother trying we learned were healthful, life promoting and even… curing. This is something we like, and as we learned more, our reasons for liking these foods changed, yet, we liked them now nonetheless.
So, we essentially, through research, and lots of experimentation found out that we don’t like the things we don’t eat, and we do like the things we do eat, and we’re getting healthier every day eating all the things we like!
We have a video on what I eat in a typical day, check it out. And, tell me in the comments what changes you’re going to make for your own health. We love to hear from you.