Sept. 10, 2013
How I Stay Plant-Proud: Emotionally, Mentally, Spiritually, Physically & Socially
[Editorial correction: this post was accidentally published originally with pictures of another Lindsay (not me) due to a file error with our system. Those pictures have been removed - sorry for any confusion]
Recently, I gave a lecture on "being plant-based in a non-plant-based world." I asked my audience members what concerns they had — what worried them? I was surprised how much of it was social or internal. They weren't worried about finding a place to eat at nearly as much as they feared social situations and comments or mockery by friends. They didn't grapple with "what's for dinner?" as much as they grappled with letting go of some of their favorite (but unhealthy) foods.
One woman bravely admitted she struggled with accepting she would never eat turkey on Thanksgiving ever again, even though she never really liked turkey all that much to begin with. What bothered her was breaking her lifelong tradition.
I explained that the tradition was really that her family came together — and she still had that. She also had an array of other foods part of the "original tradition" that she could keep, with a few tiny tweaks. She wasn't losing everything because the turkey wasn't the whole shebang!
This relaxed her instantly.
After my lecture I realized that the "how to" extends in a variety of different ways. It's social, physical, internal, and so forth.
Here's how I make it work across all those playing fields!
(The fun exercise photos are from my new book, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean!)
I am an emotional eater. I have had a good grasp on my "emotional eating" since adopting a plant-based diet, but the desire to eat for comfort is still there. I'll have a bad day and think, "I want to eat dark chocolate," which is a huge (huge!) improvement from what I used to do, but still.
I have also dealt with the sad, heart-broken faces of my family, who made me something I once ate and loved, and then had to say, "sorry, I can't have it." As time has gone on, it's gotten better and my family has learned how to tweak their recipes or they don't make me anything, which is fine. I can bring something for myself (and for everyone else to try, too).
I've had employers try to make a big deal out of it — "oh we can't go to lunch there because the vegan won't find anything to eat" and I'd say, "go where you want, let me worry about me and what I'm going to eat" (and even at their beloved steakhouse, I found plenty of options!)
I always focus on me. Selfish, sure, but vital. I'm doing this for me. So I can be the healthiest I can, feel my best, have a long, happy life. I remember what my old life was like. There is no amount of convenience or comfort at the bottom of a Ben & Jerry's ice cream pint that will make me feel the way plants do. I cling to that. It helps me stay plant-proud emotionally.
I love that saying, "nothing tastes as good as healthy feels." Yesterday, I was walking around Ikea and could smell the cinnamon buns. They were my ultimate food. I loved cinnamon buns more than life itself in my pre-plant-strong days. Of course, Ikea knew I was weak. They had cinnamon buns everywhere and finally, I had to look at the ingredients. Could it be? Were the stars aligning?
The very last ingredient was milk. It was vegan except for that. Not plant-strong. Full of oil, processed flour and things I couldn't easily pronounce, but, oh, if I got one without icing, it would at least be vegan! and They smelled so good! I'd had a hard day, following by an excruciating week. I'd be forgiven, right?
Then I snapped out of it. Eating that cinnamon bun wasn't going to be nearly as delicious as I remembered it to be. (I know this because I hear my clients tell me all the time "It wasn't worth it!" "It didn't taste as good as I remembered!" "It was so greasy/sugary/etc.") I also knew I wouldn't feel my best and probably in 30 minutes I'd have to find a bathroom — stat! SO I walked right past the cinnamon bun and decided I just liked the smell.
Now, a day later, I'm so glad I didn't eat one :)
So I keep strong, even in temptation, because I remember that nothing will ever taste as good as healthy feels and there are plenty of healthy foods that send me to that happy place sugary sweets once did. (Mango! Anyone? Anyone?)
My favorite forms of exercise are the kind that don't feel like "exercise" — hiking, swimming, yoga, shopping (yes! I said shopping! you clock a lot of calories walking around a farmers' market staring at kale!). I also snowboard in the winter and occasionally take up running in the warmer months. I'm really bad about going to the gym — it just never seems to fit in my day. Still, I like to have some muscle (and I think keeping up some strength is important for my overall physical health), so I have exercises I do in my house (P.S. they're in my upcoming cookbook, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean). I usually do them when I'm watching really bad reality TV (we all have our weaknesses).
Anytime someone teases me or attacks me, I remind myself it's about them and their own inner demons, not me. If they were really comfortable and secure with their choices (as I am with mine), they wouldn't need to attack me, just as I'm not attacking them. We're mirrors. We make them reflect back on themselves and they don't like what they see. They attack to feel better and because there is a comfort in conformity. I don't give them that. I try not to argue or defend either. As my friend Sue always says, "Don't argue your lifestyle. Live your lifestyle. The changes in you will be enough and you won't have to open your mouth."
I also tell my family and friends not to worry about me. Let's go where the group wants to go. I can always find something. Everywhere has a salad and a baked potato. Not the sexiest option, I admit, but I don't go to weddings, parties, etc. for the food. I go for the experiences. I go for the company. There is more to my life than food.
Last year I worked on a post about vegan/plant-based and its connection, if any, to religion. People from all faiths wrote to me, explaining how they found a relationship between their diet/lifestyle and their spiritual life/religion. There were also a number of people who said while they weren't particularly religious, or they didn't subscribe to a particular religion, they found their vegan or plant-based lifestyle had become their new religion. I think that's true for me as well.
Being plant-based has always been about doing what is best for my health and what is best for me — and that second part, "what is best for me," has since spilled over into all areas of my life.
It's what I think about and ask myself before making decisions. Is this best for me? I suppose it's given me more awareness. A great focus on myself and being the best, healthiest person I can — in all matters of my life. Not just what I put in my mouth :)