When starting on a whole-food, plant-based journey, feeling cynical is normal. I did and I’ve heard from some of my students that sometimes they do too.
For me, one area where I expressed cynicism was in the idea of “sauteeing” in water instead of oil. I complained the food didn’t smell as good as it cooked. That using water made me boil the food not saute it. That I was losing good flavor.
Another area was hunger. I’m a slow eater so it sometimes felt like I just finished breakfast and I’d have to eat lunch. The problem came because I had to eat more quantity to be full; more quantity means lots more time. So sometimes I moved onto other things before I was full.
I also was cynical about not using dairy products like butter, cheese, ice cream, sour cream and yogurt. I mocked the idea of nutritional yeast as a cheesy alternative. I firmly believed that nothing would replace my excellent homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. Or my butter-rich chocolate chip cookies.
There is truth to my beliefs with these examples. Why would anyone give up flavor for a whole-food, plant-based diet?
I don’t know what your reasons are, but I’ll tell you mine. (By the way, I gained more flavor on a whole-food, plant-based diet than I ever had on a standard American diet.)
When I first started the diet, I did it because of a doctor I knew. He told me he was using it to turn around heart disease, diabetes and other ailments in some of his patients. He was once like me, committed to his animal-based protein but had turned his own life around as well. He finally had solutions to offer his patients besides pills. I felt it was worth trying.
So during my 3-month trial, when a bout of cynicism or complaining kicked in, I reminded myself of my goals. I wanted to see if it would help my own “aging-related” health issues. And when it did, I kept doing it in spite of how difficult making the change permanent was; I wanted to keep feeling great.
The fact is, change is hard. And changing your diet is almost like changing the color of your skin. Worst of all is your old comfort foods aren’t even there to console you. When we are in the throes of change, some of us mock. Some of us complain. Some of us cower in the corner. However, we all express our discomfort in some way, even if we claim to like change.
What keeps us going is the end point, the goal. If we have to move to a new city because we have a new job, the new job is usually exciting enough to cover over the difficulties. If we have to change churches and get to know new people, the reasons for the change generally outweigh the discomfort.
Changing a diet, that is your lifestyle, also has a mix of positives and negatives. If you have a solid reason for doing it, that will get you through.
Now, several years after our initial trial, my husband and I still eat a whole-food, plant-based diet. We do so because we feel great, both subjectively and objectively.
I am actually at the point where “sauteeing” in water is natural. I know how to fill myself without having to double the quantity.
I no longer miss butter or any high-fat foods. High-fat baked goods just make my stomach feel sick. And I have a whole new repertoire of comfort foods.
That isn’t to say I eat this way 100 percent of the time; it’s more like 95 to 98 percent. However, the times I eat from the animal kingdom are becoming more rare and less satisfying. Instead, I want a fruit at its peak of freshness and ripeness over a processed baked good.
There is nothing like the taste of fresh vegetables grilled or baked or broiled or raw, topped with fresh herbs or lemon. Now I would much rather eat Swiss chard in a cashew cream sauce than macaroni and cheese any day.
Just the sight of fresh, whole foods gets me salivating.
Am I still cynical? I do still joke sometimes about the “cheeziness” of nutritional yeast, and a few other oddities of a plant-based diet, but I mostly save my cynicism for other things. Like why would someone want to undergo open heart surgery* instead of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet (which has been shown to prevent and reverse heart disease)? Why would someone want to take pills instead of vegetables to treat hypertension or diabetes?
As for me and my husband, we’re letting our food be our medicine, wherever possible, and we hope you will as well.
*This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.