I often get questions about how to get started eating whole foods, plant-based. Or people will ask me how I managed to be so successful when they seem to be having more difficulty with it. Or what kind of things can help motivate someone more. In reality though, all I can do is tell somebody what I did. After all, I'm not a doctor nor am I a nutritionist or a psychologist. I've read a lot, but I've also read a lot of contradictory information. In the end, all I can do is tell you what my experience has been.
So, I was thinking back to when I started eating WFPB three years ago in October 2013. And there were three pivotal events that made a big difference for me. I want to tell you what those three events were with some suggestions as to how you might duplicate those events yourself in hopes that they could help you too. Of course, psychologically, we're all different so what worked for me may not be what would work for you. But these pivotal points for me are worth considering I think.
Just a note --- This posting is written not just for those who are getting started but also for those who are struggling. We oftentimes have great enthusiasm when we start something, but we really need a kickstart (or a kick in the pants) when we get bogged down and discouraged by what we're doing.
Getting Weighed In Every Week
As most of my readers know, I lost 150 pounds by following the WFPB way of eating. While there are many reasons for eating whole plant-based foods, losing weight is one that is on the minds of many people. Even now, I would still like to lose another 10 to 15 pounds myself. But when I started, I was more interested in eating healthy in order to avoid serious diseases that would put me in the hospital. Nevertheless, I knew I was heavy and I was happy to see the weight come off as well.
What really helped there was the fact that my doctor sent me to a nutritionist for regular weekly visits, and those visits just happened to coincide with my joining the Eat Smart Live Longer Club in Sun City Hilton Head. Through that club I learned to eat a diet of whole plant-based foods. That was not what the nutritionist wanted to teach me. Every week, I would go to her and she would tell me her suggested ways of eating and I would tell her how I was eating. She never argued with how I was eating and in fact, she was very interested to hear about it (just as my dental hygienist is intrigued by and interested in what I'm doing now that has allowed my dental cleanings to go from once every 3 months to once every 6 months).
But what's really important about going to the nutritionist was the weekly weigh-in. Every time I weighed in, my weight would drop substantially and she would be absolutely flabbergasted. It became a thing for me to be impressing her with how fast I was losing weight. She declared me to be her best patient --- even though I wasn't following her program at all (but she did become a blog reader of this blog). Those weekly weigh-ins became a big motivator for me.
So, my first thought is that if you're struggling with the WFPB way of eating and losing weight, go find a public weigh-in place where you can get somebody excited by how much weight you're losing. Weight Watchers is one possibility. Eat WFPB, but get weighed-in each week and brag to others there about how much weight you're losing. That can help motivate you to stay with the plant-based way of eating and to shed weight. It did me anyway.
Of course, it doesn't need to be about weight. Maybe, it's medical checkups. Having your blood work done regularly and watching your declining cholesterol numbers or triglycerides or blood sugar levels can be motivating too. The point is, get regular readings on your numbers, whether those numbers are about weight or health markers, it doesn't matter. Whichever is most important to you is what counts.
Eating at a Steakhouse
I've written about this before, but the night that I ate at a steakhouse with my family really was a pivotal moment for me. I had never in my life eaten in a steakhouse and not ordered a big, juicy steak. In fact, the thought of not having steak at a steakhouse was totally foreign to me.
But I had been doing WFPB for a couple of weeks in late 2013 when family visits by my brother and by my mother caused me to end up eating at a steakhouse. I remember agitating over that for days before the event, and studying the menu online before going (a good thing to do even if you're eating SAD; that way you can enjoy conversation before dinner as opposed to having your nose in a menu). But then walking across the parking lot, I smelled the steaks being cooked inside and I almost broke down and said, "Just this once...."
Fortunately, I didn't. And if I had, I would have convinced myself that that exception wasn't really important. But in fact, how I ate that night was very important. It was a pivotal point for me because by ordering and eating WFPB, I showed myself that it really was not an impossible way to eat.
So, my second recommendation is to challenge yourself. For me, a steak lover, the challenge was to eat at a steakhouse and not eat any meat. You might be a pasta and cheese lover, so your challenge might be an Italian restaurant. Or a Mexican restaurant. The point is to take on the challenge and prove to yourself that even in the toughest of circumstances, you can still eat whole foods, plant-based. And you'll be proud of yourself for having risen to the challenge.
Becoming a Leader
The third thing that made a difference for me early on was the fact that I was invited to be a Board member for the Eat Smart Live Longer Club. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who took this way of eating very seriously. And I had to think about how to promote this way of eating to our club members and others in our community. As people began to recognize me as part of the club's leadership, and as writer of this blog on the subject, I became even more motivated to stay with the program.
That fame led to other people watching me, which also helped to keep me on the path. Perhaps my most interesting encounters would be in the grocery store. I've had people come up and look in my cart to see what foods I was buying. That was incentive enough to not have a gallon of ice cream tucked away in my shopping cart. One day, I even had one woman follow me around in the grocery store while I shopped. She wanted to get the same foods I was getting.
I know you believe you can live quite happily without that kind of notoriety. But it really is helpful. Knowing that people are paying attention makes it a lot harder to casually change back to the standard American diet (or worse).
So, my third suggestion is to get involved. Be a leader in the movement. There are lots of opportunities to do that. Within our Eat Smart Live Longer Club, we are always looking for volunteers to help lead activities. Around the nation, there are PlantPure nation groups starting up all over the country. They always need volunteers to lead different functions. And if there's not one in your area, you can be the first to start one. Or you can start a Meetup group within your area for eating whole foods, plant-based. Or start a group within your church. Create a blog site and write blogs. They don't have to be like this blog site. Your posts could be recipes or about local restaurants or whatever. The important thing is to become recognized for it because by being recognized for it, you'll likely stay with it. There are many opportunities to become recognized out there. You just have to do it.