I’ve always thought of myself as a healthy eater and a lover of food. I’ve always eaten lots of fruit and vegetables, I love my grains and I do have the occasional dessert now and again but I limit my intake of sugar. I’ve been a runner for over 35 years with some time taken off now and again due to injuries and I’ve also kept active through cycling, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing and other various outdoor activities.
Being overweight has never been an issue for me as my active and healthy eating lifestyle has kept my weight in check. However, after turning 40, foot injuries found me and my body changed. My eating habits didn’t change as my love of food never went away and I thought to myself, I can get the weight off again once I start running again. The foot injuries never went away and the weight stayed with me. Since I don’t weigh myself (numbers are not that important to me) I noticed that something was off since my clothes started to get a little tighter and the once flat stomach started to get larger. I thought by incorporating non-bearing weight activities along with some weight training, I could keep the weight off while nursing my foot injuries. This would allow me to keep my weight in check off while still enjoying my favourite foods.
As I went from a very healthy eater to a pescatarian (no meat or poultry) with limiting my intake of processed food, some of my health issues started to go away. I started to eat a lot more grains, try new vegetables and fruits and limit my sugar intake. I started learning more about food and how it heals our bodies and realized that there is more to be learned about what we put into our bodies. I thought I knew a lot about food but it was only the beginning of a lifestyle that was about to take over my life and change me for the better.
Obsession with Animal Protein
We are taught from an early age that we need protein and lots of it to survive. The best way for us to get our protein was from animal products; meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. Our world has never been more unhealthy as we constantly use quick fixes such as pharmaceuticals to treat ailments that can be prevented in the first place by omitting certain food products. If we truly want to be healthy and free of many common ailments such as diabetes, CHD, and some common cancers, why not just eliminate the culprit that has been the cause all along; animal protein.
I’ve never heard of anyone suffering from protein deficiency, in fact the standard North American diet consumes way too much protein which is making our society unhealthy and obese which in turn is taxing our health care system. If we are consuming too much protein (our daily intake of calories from protein is 10%) and our bodies don’t require it, it simply goes to waste. Don’t waste your calories on nutrient deficient protein found in animal products, instead replace these calories with whole foods such as grain, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables which can satisfy your protein needs as well as providing you with the nutrients your body deserves.
The Skinny on Carbs
There are two kinds of carbohydrates; simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates consist of sugars that naturally occur or are artificially found in foods such as pop, jam, honey, and candy. Complex carbohydrates or dietary starch are often high in fiber and are commonly found in whole plant foods and, therefore, are also often high in vitamins and minerals. Foods such as whole grains, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole-grain breads, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, and various green vegetables are all examples of complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates get a bad wrap when it comes to eating them because most people are not aware of the benefits they can bring to your health. Everywhere we go, all we hear and see is high protein/low carb food options. Protein, protein, protein, is a word that is brainwashed into us from an early age. However, what most people don’t realize is that high protein diets, especially those of animal protein, is making us sick and low in energy. On the other end of the spectrum, complex carbohydrates and fruit is giving us more energy, providing us with essential nutrients and vitamins and making us healthier individuals.
My daily intake of food consists of 80% carbohydrates and I’m in the best shape of my life and only getting faster with my running, stronger with my weight training, carrying less body fat, and having so much enery on a daily basis that I don’t know what to do with it all.
Re-Training Our Taste Buds
If you’ve ever started working out after being off for several years, you know how difficult it is to get started and stick with an exercise routine. We have to re-train our bodies from a sedentary lifestyle of being on the couch to working out using weights and machines to keep us cardiovascular fit. After a while, your body adapts to the exercise and it’s not as hard as you once had thought. You start to feel better, look better, and you get into a daily routine of making your body move. Eating and changing our food habits is no different than exercising.
For me, converting to a whole foods/plant base lifestyle took many steps. Some people can go full speed ahead and convert from eating processed food and animal protein to a whole foods vegan lifestyle overnight. I was not one of them. I started by eliminating meat out of my diet, then I gave up processed food, then I took out the milk and yogurt, the eggs and fish came next, then the sugar, and then I finished off with eliminating oil from my diet. I am very honest when I say this, I haven’t had any cravings at all for animal protein and or sugar (which I thought would be tough). I think if you don’t want to experience any cravings for familiar foods, it’s best to eliminate them slowly or one by one and replace them with healthier foods.
Keep it Simple with Whole/Plant Base Foods
We all love to eat and eating should be simple when it comes to preparing and cooking. Many people have the mindset that eating healthy is expensive and it takes too much time to prepare the food and cook it. The key to eating healthy is to keep it simple with your recipes and to plan ahead.
Many of the recipes that I use contain less than 10 ingredients so when I have days (most days) where I have very little time to cook, I use these simple yet tasty recipes. Having food on hand is essential when you eat a whole foods/plant base lifestyle. Since I use very little processed food, many of the sauces and dressings I use on food, I prepare ahead of time. I use a menu planner, ‘Plant to Eat’, which not only keeps my recipes organized, but I can plan ahead of time which recipes I’m eating for the following week or month. It also helps me with my grocery list so I know which foods I need to buy for the upcoming week. I can’t begin to tell you how much time this tool has helped me time from making countless trips to the grocery store and has allowed me more time to prepare and cook food.
I spend a few hours a week preparing food to store in the fridge so if I need some snacks to take with me on a moments notice, it’s there to grab. Also, this time allows me to prepare food for the upcoming meals of the week. I slice up fruit for my smoothies, cut up vegetables to snack on, I prepare some dips such as hummus so I can use them as a snack with vegetables or vegan crackers. Find a tool that works for you to help you save time in your day so you can spend more time on cooking that delicious meal for you and your family.
Since I switched to a whole foods/plant base lifestyle, my energy level has increased significantly. When you take out the animal products, processed food, and refined sugar, you are left with nothing but nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to constantly replenish your body’s active needs. I have more energy to exercise and train and I accomplish more in a day than I use to in a week.