Updated: Mar 23, 2018
Like any great venture, you just have to start. Your plant-based path can begin with just one meal a week.
And that meal does not need to look like this:
Especially if, like me, you consider salads to be sides or snacks, not meals!
When I first went plant-based, I was more stringent than adopting a simple one-
meal-a-week plan or a Meatless Monday rule. I kept to a strict 100% plant-based
diet from Monday to Friday.
But then Saturday . . .
Weekday Vegetarian + Weekend Flexitarian
On weekends, I ate whatever I wanted. This plant-based life was brand new to me and it was best to ease into it if I wanted long-term success. Plus, at the time, I couldn't imagine ever parting ways with my beloved eggs and cheese.
Some Saturday mornings, I'd spend hours perusing Yelp staring at pictures of
bacon cheeseburgers, pizzas, and cheesy pastas in rich cream sauces. Those hours
would fly by in what felt like minutes. And I realized what I was really craving wasn’t meat - it was cheese.
Here’s what I learned. First, there's a highly addictive component in cheese called
casomorphin. According to the Forbes article:
"...dairy protein has opiate molecules built in. When consumed, these fragments attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to...Basically, if milk is cocaine, then cheese is crack."
I love the hyperbole, but let’s not get crazy here – milk is not cocaine and cheese is not crack. But what's interesting is that the brain’s reaction to both is real: both are highly addictive. Thinking about my own erratic behavior while quitting cheese, I was completely convinced of this.
Second, cheese poses a serious health risk because it contains a protein called casein. This protein exists in all dairy products and makes up 87% of all milk protein. Casein is, as Dr. T. Colin Campbell advises, possibly the most dangerous carcinogen known for the human body. Scientific evidence has shown casein’s propensity to “turn on” cancerous cells and to proliferate them.
Eventually, I weaned out all animal and their by-products.
As my body was cleaning itself out, it also became more sensitive. My weekend jaunts of eating meat and dairy made my body feel awful, as though I was fighting off the flu. It wasn't worth it anymore so it became an easy choice to feel great instead.
When I was consistently 100% plant-based, I had never felt better.
I started getting surprising (and wonderful) compliments from friends and family:
"The whites of your eyes are really bright and clear" - this was due to the lack of artery-clogging in my system
"Your skin looks amazing" - I've never had amazing skin; this was possibly due to the extra blood flow
"Damn, you look svelt!" - I’d lost weight, even losing that pesky lower belly area that’s normally impossible to rid
Some of the other benefits I experienced:
Better sleep and no longer needing my morning coffee to get going
Stronger mental clarity and lack of "brain fog"
Complete confidence that when I was around those who were sick with a bad cold or flu, I would not catch it - my immune system was incredibly strong
Noticeable boost in stamina during workouts - I felt like Wonder Woman
Committing to a plant-based diet was not easy for me. I wish I was one of those people I read about who found it 'so easy to stop eating cheese'. In fact, it was almost as difficult as quitting smoking. But like smoking, the results of quitting were remarkable and instead of wishing I had done it sooner, I'm grateful I actually did it.
Understanding these two ideas were key to overcoming the difficulty:
Addiction to food is real. I didn't have to feel like a fool for having such strong cravings for meat, cheese and dairy. The person who helped me understand this is Dr. Doug Lisle:
Evidence that a plant-based diet improves health is incredibly strong. I learned most of this through a course offered by the T. Colin Campbell Foundation and eCornell. This summary for going plant-based is logically convincing and filled with hope and good news.
Dr. Campbell spent over five decades on nutritional research, and a good summary of his conclusions is available in this article, summarized with his prescription for a healthy, disease-reversing lifestyle:
"A good diet, when coupled with other health promoting activities like exercise, adequate fresh air and sunlight, good water and sleep, will be more beneficial. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Chart your own path - setting out with one meal a week, all meals a week, or anything in between. It begins with the first step.