Fit Plant-Based Eating Into Your Lifestyle

I've heard both locally and from other groups on the internet, that we who have adopted a whole foods, plant-based way of eating are seen to be much like a religious cult. And when I step back and look at it objectively, I get that. We who have become converted to this way of eating can be very passionate about it. We want to both be around others like us while at the same time we want to convert everybody else who hasn't yet seen the light.

We can also become very strict in our thinking. Because we know what foods are healthy for us and what foods aren't, we want others to always eat the healthy foods. So, we'll tell people to only eat at home or to only shop the produce department at the grocery store or to never eat oil or to never eat meat or dairy. We'll go to a restaurant and order what appears to be a totally vegan dish but then change our order because the waiter says there's some anchovy in the sauce (and our non-vegan friends who are with us at the restaurant obviously think we've now gotten too extreme).

Unfortunately, this strict attitude is, I believe, what keeps a lot of people from learning more about the whole foods, plant-based way of eating. I think back to when I started eating this way, and I realize that had I thought I would have to eat under such strictness all the time, then I never would have started doing this. Therefore, I would never have seen any of the benefits of eating WFPB. I would still weigh over 300 pounds and I would still be on my three prescription medications. Or I might even be dead now. It's staggering to think that, but I think that's a real possibility.

For me to start eating whole plant-based foods, I needed to know that I could fit it into my lifestyle. And the fact that I could is why I was so successful. If I had to fit my lifestyle into this way of eating instead, I never would have started. So, for at least the first year after beginning to eat this way, I still ate salmon twice a week and I still put olive oil on my salads. I also did not go completely whole foods during that first year. I used cans of Amy's vegan chili and slices of Amy's cheeseless pizza as staples during that first year. And there was a vegan gravy I bought at Whole Foods that I loved to put over a baked potato and make that a lunch.

But during that first year, I still lost a hundred pounds and came off of all my medications. That's because the rest of the time, I was very strong about eating whole plant-based foods. And my new way of eating was a whole lot better than how I was eating before. And that's the point. Any movement toward a plant-based, whole foods way of eating is a good move. It's an improvement over what was done before.

Eventually, after reading and learning more and thinking about it, I went pretty much totally whole foods, plant-based. There are occasions when I make other choices, but they are rare now. But for me to get there, I had to study and learn not just from the plant-based doctors but also from others as well. I read Denise Minger for example, who is a strong, vocal critic of the China Study. But if I was going to accept the China Study and its results, then I had to understand what the objections to it were as well. For some people that doesn't matter, but for me it was important.

And that's why I don't want to discourage people from doing things like that. If you're new to this and I tell you not to read what Denise Minger says, you might think that I'm trying to control your thinking. And that of course is very cult-like. Or if you like to put Worcestershire sauce on everything you eat, and I tell you not to because it has anchovies in it, then you could be likely to just give up entirely on the whole foods, plant-based way of eating. And that will do nothing toward improving your health, the environment or the lot of animals. Instead it will continue to make those situations worse. But if I say, yes have your Worcestershire sauce but eat WFPB the rest of the time, then we've both just helped to improve your health, the environment and the lot of animals.

I believe there's support for this way of thinking from our WFPB doctors as well. Dr. T. Colin Campbell wrote in The China Study to not "sweat the small stuff." He says not to worry about it if you have a delicious vegetable soup that you like, but it's made in a chicken broth. In fact, Dr. Campbell says that there's no scientific evidence that shows being 100% WFPB is any better than being 95% WFPB. And Dr. Greger makes the same point in his book How Not to Die. He says if someone says they can't give up their grandmother's chicken soup or their pepperoni pizza, then he says "Don't!" Dr. Greger says it's what you're eating the rest of the time that's important. And maybe you can cut back on how often you eat those foods.

So, this is a call for a little reason in talking to people about how we eat. If we can move people more toward a whole foods, plant-based way of eating and away from an animal and processed foods way of eating, then we are making significant progress. And over time, just as I did, as people learn more and eat this way more, I think they will adapt a stronger WFPB lifestyle. And isn't that what we want to happen? Or would we rather be more exclusive and cult-like? I opt for the former.