Pause: A Year as a Plant Eater (part 2)
Note: Go here for part 1. It'll tell you why we're pausing and what a pause might do for you.
I started eating a whole-foods plant-based diet after years and years of high-fat binge eating juxtaposed with periods of extreme dieting. One thing I know for sure: my former way of eating is not the answer to anything!
Boiling it down: the RULES
I came to plant-based eating for answers to health issues and have found many, but I have also found that sometimes it feels like there are too many answers.
...And too many rules...there are lots of rules, thousands of articles, books, and videos to clarify the rules, and they don't always agree.
The message in them conveys diverse strategies. I assumed that as a vegan I would instantly be healthy and lose weight. The healthy part is progressing nicely, but I'm coming to realize that there are ways to overeat with even the best style of eating.
The part of all this that I found the most overwhelming in the beginning was keeping all the rules straight— and following them without completely sacrificing flavor in the process.
I think the idea of wanting to eat perfectly added to the feeling overwhelmed... In reading so many books about nutrition (based on scientific evidence), I started out thinking I had to do it all perfectly without a slip or it wouldn't work. On any given day, the least little step away from the rules would throw me off my game, and I would give up for that day and vow to start again the next day. That wasn't working.
I soon realized I had to relax my grip on perfection. This pause has been needed to process an approach that has been forming in my mind for some time.
So, the pause has given me a framework for moving forward. The one thing that I will be keeping uppermost in my mind is that there is no such thing as perfect eating. I not strive for that.
Another thing I realized in my analysis is that, because meat -- the usual centerpiece of every meal -- wasn't involved, I had ceased bothering to cook very often. I guess I just found it easier to mix vegetables, seeds, and legumes into an all-encompassing salad. That's okay, but, we all need to feel we are eating a meal more often than not.
So, I'm stepping up my cooking, creating a pantry I can go to when pulling a meal together, and great ingredients to draw on. I'm working into it slowly but am sure I'll find this part doable.
Despite the level of difficulty, I was determined to follow many of the strict rules of what not to eat that the books offered. For example, the no salt, no oil, and no sugar rule is particularly difficult to follow. I think it's a great idea to eliminate these items and I will applaud you if you do. For me, I need a bit of each -- not much, but a bit. Abstinence seems to be a step too far for me and throws me off my game. And, if including a pinch of salt or sugar is what it takes for me to move forward, that's okay with me. Your pause will lead you to the right answers for you.
Eating out has been particularly difficult as I described in part 1. I have found that I am avoiding social situations due to my food regime, and that's not good. And I have resorted to eating a plate of lettuce because all the other items on the restaurant menu broke the rules. Also, not a good thing emotionally or otherwise.
I don't eat out very often, but in the future when I eat out, I will choose the healthiest thing on the menu and not worry about the perfection. We'll see how that goes. (I do love to frustrate myself with perfection.)
Making it a lifestyle
I have come to the conclusion that in order to keep with this whole-food plant-based eating plan I need to make it a lifestyle and give myself a break. I need to lean into it with enjoyment of the now and enjoyment of the results I'll reap in the future. So, no more cracking the perfection whip with every eating and lifestyle decision I face.
Daily, we must make multiple decisions. One of the authors I read said something about there being no one answer and no perfect decision to a dilemma. The perfect eater routine is a trap I'll try to avoid in the future. How? For now, I'll be making the best eating and lifestyle decisions I can by evaluating what's available in any given situation and choosing health.
This doesn't mean I'll choose what is theoretically best. Rather, I'll choose what is practical. -- I will try to make the best practical choice for each specific situation.
For example, when going out for my morning walk, I may do only two laps around my route on a day that is too hot to breathe. Although that's not the ideal distance, it's what I'm able to do that day. We must set ourselves up for success
Another example: if I am out and need to eat, I'll choose the healthiest food that will keep me going and is tasty too. No more eating just lettuce for lunch and paying 8 to 10 dollars for it.
I hope you'll find something within this two-part series that relates to your decision-making and makes it easier, and I hope you will find this exercise and this topic will help you in developing the healthiest version of yourself possible. And…. I’ll never leave home without an apple in my purse, just in case.