Getting Started on the Whole Foods, Plant-Based Way of Eating

Last night, our Eat Smart Live Longer Club had what I would say was our largest turnout of new members ever. It's amazing to see how over the course of a year and a half, we've gone from being a small veggie club of around 40 members to now over 550 members. People are hungry for good nutritional advice and support.  Most of us had tried every diet in the book before coming to ESLL, and they all failed us. Sure, we had some successes along the way, but in the end we always seemed to fall back to our previous ways.

But the low fat, whole foods, plant-based way of eating is different. It's different because it works and once that's realized, it becomes very hard to think about going back to what we've done before. For me, I joined the club last October during the Club Fair. Since then, I've lost just a little over one hundred pounds. I no longer take the three prescription medicines I was taking. I no longer have acid reflux. I no longer get excruciatingly painful leg cramps at night like I used to. I get fewer colds and when one does come, it lasts only from hours to maybe a day or two at most. I sleep better. Prostate issues are gone. I can walk further and faster than ever before. And I just overall feel better.

And I only take one pill now. That's a B-12 vitamin pill. B-12 is the only vitamin known not to be available through a well-rounded plant-based diet. But that's it. I don't take any pain pills because pains that I used to get, I no longer get. I don't take any prescription drugs because the issues that I used to take prescription drugs for have gone away.

It's just a fact. This way of eating works for most people.

And I think this is a great time of the year to start on the low fat, whole foods, plant-based way of eating. That's because the holidays are coming up, and if you can get through the holidays with minimal damage, you'll be that much stronger come the new year. I started at this time last year and I felt strengthened because I did for the most part stay with the program through the holidays. At Thanksgiving, I had nine family members at my house for dinner. I smoked a turkey for them and made a stuffed acorn squash for myself as the main course. The rest of the dishes I made from the McDougall newsletter, which featured holiday foods on the whole foods, plant-based diet.

I did allow myself a ribeye steak on Christmas day because I was at my daughter's house for Christmas last year. I decided at that time that my treat would be a ribeye steak every year on Christmas day. However, as I'm looking ahead to Christmas this year, I find that I don't have any desire to have a ribeye steak this year. And in fact, I would rather not. I'm thinking about taking some Portobella mushroom caps and making my own plant-based steaks with them.

I'll just need to have them with mashed sweet potatoes in order to feel full. And that brings me to another point that Karen made last night. Eating starch at every meal is extremely important. I know that probably sounds crazy to many people. It sure did to me. For the immediate fifteen years before joining the club, I made it a point to eat low carb meals most of the time (as I continued to gain weight). I was absolutely convinced that starchy foods were the cause of weight gain and ill health. But I was wrong.

Because I believe most people are like I was and are convinced of the evils of starchy carbs, I would suggest that all new members read The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall early on as you begin your venture down the road of eating the whole foods, plant-based way. It can be picked up at the library table although I personally like to own my own copy of the books we read. Dr. McDougall's book is one that I refer back to many, many times. Note: I don't loan my books out, so please don't ask. I refer back to them too much, and I never know when I'll want to refer back to something.

Speaking of books, you will find as you read the various authors on the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle (Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Ornish, Jeff Novick, Dr. Klapper, Dr. Popper and so on) that there will be slight differences in what they say or what they allow. For example, Dr. McDougall will say adding salt to food is okay; whereas, Jeff Novick will advocate no salt at all. Don't get hung up on those differences. The important thing is to adhere to the main parts of the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle and then choose what works best for you among the differences.

So, what is important? Basically, we seek to eliminate (or at least minimize) eating animal protein like meat and dairy products and all oils and processed foods. I say animal protein as opposed to animal products because, unlike vegans, there are animal products that we do eat. Honey, which comes from bees, is a good example of that. And I say oils instead of fats because there are fats that we also eat. Nuts and avocados come to mind on that. And certain processed foods, like whole grain pastas, are also okay.

But even where we have exceptions like that, I personally treat those exceptions as rare treats and not every day kind of foods (except for flaxseed, which is a fat that I put on my oatmeal every day). But that's me personally. I find that the closer I can come to getting 80% of my calories from carbohydrates and less than 10% from fats, the better I feel.

Why do we eliminate those foods? Mainly, because we believe that its animal protein, fat and processed foods that cause disease and make us unhealthy.

But we're not just about elimination. We also believe that there are certain foods that make us healthy. And those foods are plant foods. Plant foods contain phytonutrients and minerals that help us to actually fight off diseases. Some of the best plant foods are dark, green leafy vegetables, beans and fruit. But it's important to not get hung up on the idea of plant super foods that are made popular by the media. It's better to eat a large variety of plant foods every day. The foods work in concert with each other to create a healthy you.

To conclude, I want to welcome new members to our club. I want to welcome new readers of this blog site. I also have a website that talks about eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. You can Click Here to go to that website. I wish all of you many healthy days ahead on your venture into a new and satisfying way of eating.