I am confident that my childhood experiences of stuffing vegetables in a napkin and flushing them down the toilet isn’t unique to me. We are set up to fail by companies manufacturing addictive foods laden with salt, sugar, and other addictive substances. To my advantage I was raised in a household which provided home cooked meals every evening, what is now becoming an archaic tradition replaced by processed or semi-processed foods. I used to credit myself as a chef for heating up Stouffers and a Steamfresh bag of corn. I adopted the diet of a 9 year old for most of my twenties with regularly appearing staples: chicken nuggets, spaghetti in a can, fruit roll ups, pizza, and sour punch straws.
In my mid-twenties I felt partially motivated to take some responsibility for what I ate. I stumbled upon a limited nutrition education based on my Yahoo news feed which afforded me some basic knowledge (i.e. soda is linked to health problems). I established a couple solid healthy habits such as eliminating soda and juice from my daily intake. I categorize this period of my life as the “unhealthy healthy” period where I was under the false assumption I was eating healthy. My knowledge of food ingredients was below par and I minimized the importance of raw foods. (Stay tuned for my post documenting common mistakes while trying to eat healthy).
To my advantage I had parents who provided me with a basic foundation on healthy eating, sadly this is not the norm. They emphasized home cooked food, portion control, drinking enough water, and buying higher quality food items. Additionally, I considered myself up to speed on new findings related to healthy eating. Eating dark chocolate versus milk and whole wheat versus white weren’t foreign concepts to me. At minimum I incorporated these basic changes. I discovered after years of eating white bread and milk chocolate I developed an aversion to the taste of whole wheat and dark chocolate. I knew I could train myself to prefer dark chocolate or whole grain if I started eating them in order to retrain my taste buds. I now consider milk chocolate disgusting in relation to dark but this took months of choking down dark chocolate.
When my husband and I decided to overhaul our diet by transitioning to vegan and following a whole food plant-based diet (we cut out refined/added sugar and limit processed foods). I knew it was going to be a nightmare. I am a self-proclaimed sugar addict, I relied on processed foods to feed myself through college, and I can’t stand vegetables. I figured akin to dark chocolate, I could train myself to prefer a whole food plant-based diet. I am not the sole person who doesn’t enjoy salads but desires to be healthier. For this reason I have decided to share my experiences during the first few months of our whole food plant-based diet. I hope this gives confidence to others who want to make changes and struggle to commit.
First Month Synopsis: I felt motivated but physically awful. The first couple weeks I experienced withdrawal from sugar. I was tired and cranky. Psychologically I felt discouraged but empowered. It was discouraging to realize how many changes I had to make because of how much crap I had eaten in the past ten years. I felt empowered as I envisioned looking and feeling great because of these changes making the sacrifices worth it!
Second Month Meltdown: My preconceived notions of what I would feel like after a month of healthy eating were completely inaccurate. I envisioned I would be enjoying what I was eating and notice a plethora of positive physical changes. Total BS! I felt bipolar. One day I was telling my husband how proud and invigorated I was by our new lifestyle, the next I was swearing it off. I thrive on instant gratification and wasn’t receiving it. I didn’t look much different, still had the same skin problems (post pregnancy eczema and acne), acid reflux, and low energy. I felt totally discouraged because my fantasy of looking like a runway model and having the energy of a triathlete wasn’t coming to fruition. I also started craving the old foods I used to eat. During TV shows the plot took a backseat to what the actors were eating and I developed a unique skill-set for spotting unfinished greasy foods on the opposite side of the restaurant.
Month Three Tranquility: I calmed down. I felt less overwhelmed by all the changes and our diet was feeling more habitual. Twinges of jealousy still existed when witnessing others consume donuts though these were coupled with a lack of desire for the aftermath and a desire to avoid the long-term consequences of those foods. I started noticing positive changes both psychologically and physically. I felt accomplished, proud, motivated, energetic, happy, and even more fit.
The basic principle of this post: It’s OK if you’re not a health enthusiast who loves quinoa and broccoli. I was the antithesis of that person but evolved over time. Don’t give up while establishing healthier habits, it will get harder before it gets easier, but you will grow with the food you’re eating. Happy vegetable hunting!