As with many stories these days, mine started with Lockdown 2020.
No one had an easy lockdown. There were many challenges that come with suddenly being put into a house with your whole family and forced to only see their faces. I am not a social person but the first time I saw a non-family member I wanted to cry.
And like so many others, I put on a bit of weight during this time. I had a rather unhealthy and unhappy relationship with myself so the extra weight sent me spiraling. In attempts to lose it I tried eating super healthy, but it would last a week at most before I was back to (vegan) junk food. I tried exercising, even buying an exercise bike, but I was bored within a week.
I started so many times, over and over, always finding myself back to feeling hopeless that I would ever get the weight to move, and almost gave up completely, resigning myself to the fact I was just a bigger person.
After failing so many times, I finally stopped and tried to figure out why I just kept slipping back.
Healing and Self-love
Healing and self-love are not usually spoken about in articles about healthy eating, but I have found during my many starts and many failures that these were the missing key to me being able to stay consistent and motivated.
Love is a far better motivation than hate. As long as my motivation was the dislike of myself I was never going to stay consistent or motivated. In fact, one slight inconvenience, and the whole thing went out the window. But coming from a place of love meant that I felt good every time I ate something healthy or did a workout. I wanted to choose those better options because I no longer wanted to punish myself.
It might sound very corny but I have found when you come from a place of love and appreciation for yourself and your body, you can do anything if you just believe in yourself.
Diet and Nutrition
As vegans, no one is more familiar with questions about diet and nutrition being hurled at us. It is vital to understand your diet so that you can make sure your body is getting everything it needs. My first step was to educate myself. Books, like Michael Greger’s How Not to Die and The China Study, are a wonderful place to start. I used apps like Cronometer to help me keep track of my nutrient intake at the beginning.
A healthy plant-based diet offers all the nutrition you need. In fact, a WFPB (whole food plant-based) diet is known to help with reducing the risk of heart diseases and diabetes and even in some cases reversing these chronic illnesses.
Making sure you are eating in a balanced way means that you are eating fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes on a daily basis. Eating clean also means that exercise will become a lot more enjoyable as you start feeling yourself become energized.
Diet is the most important thing when it comes to being healthy but exercise plays a massive role. Exercising releases stress, improves mood and gives you more energy.
One of the mistakes I made was exercising way too hard for my fitness level. I did this before I learned to have a bit of compassion for myself as well as patience. I wanted to go hard and get results, which ended up with many aches and pains, that then stopped me from continuing altogether.
I had to learn to start slowly, where I was comfortable and build on it, trying to not put unreasonable expectations of what I could physically do.
Finding a form of exercise that you enjoy is key for consistency. If you hate running, don’t run. I found that I loved walking and strength training, so that is where I started. If you love it and it makes you feel good you will be back everyday.
My Strategies for Success
Meal prepping – meal prepping is a great time saver and it helps you stay on track with your meal plans. Making large batches of food on a day, then storing the meals in the fridge or freezer in containers, means you just grab and go.
Don’t force yourself to eat things you don’t like – one of the biggest things I can say is if you really don’t like something, don’t eat it. If you really can’t stand kale, don’t eat it. There are other ways to get those nutrients.
Variety – change up your meal plan often, because eating the same thing over and over means that the temptations of junk food get a bit stronger. So keep it diverse, and keep it interesting. Adding variety will also give you a chance to broaden your cooking horizons.
Give yourself a break – have a pizza, get that burger, take a week off from exercising. Its important to make sure you give yourself a break so that you can come back stronger. Don’t demonize junk food, just eat less of it. It will be far more sustainable if you give yourself these little breaks to eat your favorite food or to just rest your body. As you go on, you will find yourself naturally not wanting the junk food or wanting to get up and go for a walk but if you aren’t there yet, then its 100% okay to just take a break.
Take it one day, one meal at a time – last but very much not least is take it one week, one day or one meal at a time. There will be days when it’s overwhelming and easy to go back to junk food. Remember why you are on this journey and love yourself.
In the End
The most important lessons I have learnt from beginning my journey to healthy plant based living is that your journey is your own and it won’t look like everyone else’s. Don’t give up, stay consistent and do what feels right. And if you fail, keeping getting back up.
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Photo: Derick McKinney via Unsplash