Over our lifetimes, we develop ideas and beliefs that are influenced by several factors – our families growing up, our friends, what we are exposed to, for example, or what we read and what’s on TV.
They shape who we are, however, sometimes, these act as barriers to getting what you want most. They can be called “self-limiting” beliefs or "myths" and often are subconscious. Here, we’re calling them mindsets.
These 15 mindsets may block your transition to eating a plant-based diet, if you don't think about them.
If you bring your mindsets to the surface and look at their truth or falsehood, you will more easily be able to grasp the concepts and do the actions you’ll need to do to successfully eat a plant-based diet. Understanding the truth from knowledgeable sources will set you free to embrace becoming plant-based.
Which of these mindsets do you have about eating a plant-based diet? Let’s start shifting them now.
1. PLANT-BASED EATERS ARE UNHEALTHY AND WIMPY
If you’ve seen any plant-based/vegan athletes, you know how much a plant-based diet supports being VERY fit, strong and SUPER HEALTHY! Many bodybuilders and athletes have embraced the plant-based lifestyle and prove that eating this way can be done and even promote health over other diets. But don’t take my word for it - this is what a few of them say:
- Rich Roll, endurance athlete: “I always say that eating a plant based diet is the secret weapon of enhanced athletic performance.”
- Robert Cheeke, bodybuilder: “As a vegan body-builder I want to show others that it is possible to gain significant muscle and strength on a vegan diet and I want to inspire others to follow this lifestyle.”
- Frank Medrano, calisthenics expert & personal trainer: “I thought I was healthy and strong before, but after adopting a plant-based diet, I started to feel energetic and I was having quicker recovery after training.”
- Amanda Reister, boxer & bodybuilder: “As a cancer survivor, I appreciate that a plant-based diet is proven to be the best way to prevent cancer cells from growing. And the fact that I’m lean, strong and healthier than ever; well those are just very exciting perks!”
As some of the athletes mentioned above, eating a plant-based diet is one of the most important things you can do to live a long a healthy life, and the data backs that up:
- Eating for Longevity is Easier Than You Think
- Why Do Vegetarians Live Longer?
- The Best Diet for Longevity is Mostly Plant-Based!
- “Every 3% increase in calories from plant protein was found to reduce risk of death by 10%”
And, it should prevent or help you reverse disease.
- Reversing insulin resistance and diabetes with a plant-based diet
- Reduce cardiovascular disease risk with a plant-based diet
- How a plant-based diet healed one woman’s multiple sclerosis
- How a plant-based diet reversed lupus for this doctor
2. I WON’T GET THE PROPER NUTRITION
The worry: inadequate protein
THE TRUTH: Protein is made from amino acids. While plant-based complete proteins (proteins which contain all the essential amino acids) are rare, for a person who eats a wide variety of plant-based foods, including seeds, nuts, legumes, and soy, consuming an adequate amount of protein is not a difficult endeavor. Read more on plant-based protein here.
The worry: lack of healthy fats
THE TRUTH: seeds, nuts, and avocado are excellent sources of healthy fats. You can easily up your healthy fat intake with a touch of olive oil, and you can supplement with algae oil if you’re concerned about your Omega 3 levels.
The worry: I can’t get enough B12
THE TRUTH: Plant-based foods like non-dairy milks, cereals, & soy products are often fortified with B12. If you’re still worried about your levels, there are loads of excellent B12 supplements available at reasonable prices.
The takeaway: Adequate nutrition on a plant-based diet is simple
If you’re eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and legumes, you will be getting all the micro and macronutrients you need to thrive. For a much more in-depth look at plant-based nutrition needs, read my article on the topic.
3. I’LL BE MISSING OUT
It’s true, you won’t be eating the same as you use to, but you will have food that is just as exciting and maybe more so. It’s not uncommon for people to envy the dishes that plant-based eaters bring to parties. You’re going to learn how to make dishes you love to support yourself in this journey. Don’t look backward to what you DON’T have, but instead, look ahead! You’re opening the door to the fabulous new tastes you’ll experience.
Fortunately, not only is plant-based eating incredibly healthy, it’s also become quite trendy. This means many people are more open to the idea of meals without meat, and they may even secretly want to get healthier, as well. Take the opportunity to show your friends and family how deliciously satisfying food on a plant-based diet can be.
Keep in mind that there are many substitutions for meat and dairy to help you with the journey. I’ve got an incredibly comprehensive article on that very topic, so if this is one of your concerns, check it out here.
4. SOY IS BAD FOR ME
The biggest myths surrounding soy is that it will increase your risk of breast cancer and reduce testosterone levels. The reality is that soy isoflavones may help lower the risk for both breast cancer and prostate cancer. Further, soy is incredibly nutrient-dense and is a complete protein. For more on the myths surrounding soy, as well as further details on its nutritional benefits, check out my article The Safety of Soy.
5. EATING THIS WAY IS TOO HARD
Adjusting to something new, including a new way of eating, can present challenges. As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest key to success is meal planning. Whether it be in planning for your week ahead, or preparing for a social function, thinking ahead will keep you on track. If you’re going out to eat, check out menus online to be sure the restaurant you pick has plant-based options. If eating at someone else’s house, bring a meal with, just in case.
Use sites like mine to find new and interesting recipes. Ask your friends who are plant-based for help. If you don’t have any friends who are plant-based, find some support online. There are forums and Facebook groups dedicated to the topic where you are sure to find like-minded people.
Another thing to keep in mind is to be prepared for setbacks. No one is perfect, and if you have an off-day or even an off-week, don’t be hard on yourself. Be kind to yourself, regroup, and begin again. If you find that going plant-based all at once is overwhelming, start slow. Begin with one or two days a week, and add another day gradually over time.
6. THIS DIET IS TOO EXPENSIVE
Even if that were the case, one could argue that health-care costs associated with the diseases that come from not eating as healthy as possible is even more expensive. That said, eating plant-based does not have to break the bank. Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are great places to purchase produce, especially if you’ve got a whole family to feed. Buying things like beans, legumes, potatoes, and grains in bulk is also a great practice. Again, this is where meal planning comes into play.
Still don’t believe that a person can go plant-based and keep a tight budget? Check out this article from Forks Over Knives where a woman did it on just $5 a day!
7. VEGETABLES ARE BORING
As a veggie-lover, this seems like a pretty funny argument to me. As I prepare and enjoy my meals, I’m often left in awe of how delicious something that nature grew can be. If you need a little convincing, I suggest heading to the supermarket and picking out the veggies that you’d NEVER think to buy. Then come home and do some recipe searching online. I’m willing to bet that you can find something that will help you change your perception, even on things like Brussels sprouts and turnips.
Another great way to challenge this assumption is to examine all the many ways you can prepare one veggie. For example, I’ve got 3 pages of recipes that appear when you search for broccoli!
8. I CAN’T CHANGE. YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
Is it going to be easy? That depends. Is it impossible? Absolutely not. The trick here is discovering what truly motivates you. Is it improving a health condition? Trimming down? Feeling more energized? Whatever your goals are, find ways to motivate yourself.
Need a little help discovering your motivation? Here is an amazing TED talk that I really hope you’ll take the time to watch.
9. MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY WON’T GET ON BOARD
This can be simple or difficult, depending on your outlook. Sure, it would be incredible if all of our loved ones supported us in the goal to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. But is it necessary for success? No, it’s not.
There may be a few reasons why your friends and family may not support you. The truth is that whatever these reasons are, they have more to do with them then they do with you. And your life, your choices, are about you. Don’t live to impress or gain the approval of others. Live to make your life the happiest and healthiest it can be. And who knows? You just may end up inspiring your naysayers in the process.
If this is a concern for you, I suggest reading this article from Tiny Buddha with 7 things to remember if a lack of support gets you down.
10. THYE'RE ALL TREE HUGGERS AND FANATICAL ANIMAL LOVERS
While it’s certainly true that some people on a plant-based diet could be considered a “tree-hugger” or may be motivated to eat plant-based because of ethical reasons, this doesn’t need to have anything to do with you. It doesn’t matter your motivation, and it doesn’t matter what someone with a different motivation thinks about yours. If you’re afraid of finding better health through a means that speaks to you because of what someone else thinks of you, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Hug a tree, kiss a cow, or don’t! It’s your choice, that’s all that matters!
11. I MIGHT FAIL
What does failure look like to you? How many things have you tried that you couldn’t do on the first try? Failure is just a stop along the way to success. If you have a mindset that says, I’m too weak, “I don’t have enough discipline, I’m just this way,” you have a fixed mindset. But if you have the mindset that you just need to work hard and you can accomplish what you set out to do, then you have a “flexible” mindset. These have been studied by Carole Dweck in children and those with a flexible mindset are more likely to succeed even over their “smarter” peers who have a fixed mindset.
12. HOW DO I EAT OUT?
As I mentioned previously in this article, a great practice is to review the menu before you visit a restaurant. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of options you have.
If you’re out and about and don’t have a lot of time to research where you should eat, I suggest looking up the apps Happy Cow and Vegetarious. They both help you find places to eat near where you are, and even feature reviews of those restaurants.
13. THERE ARE TOO MANY TEMPTATIONS
This is true for any health plan! The best piece of advice I can give you is to steer yourself away from the idea of restriction. Don’t look at it as the things you can and can’t have, look at it as the things you do and don’t want. And if you truly want something you’re telling yourself you can’t have, let yourself have it. Keep it in your house and know that if you really want it, you can have it. The trick here is, before you eat that forbidden item (and anytime you eat) take a second to listen to your body and find out what it really wants. You’ll be surprised to find that once you remove the self-imposed element of restriction, you may not actually want the thing you were restricting in the first place. This is a small part of what’s known as intuitive eating, and if you’re seriously struggling with temptation, I suggest you take a deeper consider the topic.
14. I CAN’T COOK
I have two pieces of advice for you here. Number one is to take this as an opportunity to develop your cooking skills. Start with simple recipes you can find online - both written and in video form. And did you know that Forks Over Knives offers a periodic online cooking course? You may want to check out Dabble to see if there are any courses or classes in your area.
My second piece of advice is to consider a meal service. Purple Carrot and Veestro are specifically plant-based services, while Hello Fresh and Blue Apron offer vegetarian options. These services allow you to choose your meals for the week, then deliver the ingredients along with instructions for how to prepare them. These services are great for busy people as well as those who need direction in the kitchen.
15. HOW DO I PUT TOGETHER A MEAL?
Again, this is where meal-planning comes into play. You can start by planning the same kinds of meals you normally eat and simply replacing the meat with things like beans, tofu, and tempeh. You want to shoot for including veggies & fruits of all different colors, tubers, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds in your daily diet. You will also want to avoid processed foods as much as possible to get the most nutrient-dense foods. Look for foods that ARE ingredients rather than foods that HAVE ingredients.
Browse my selection of articles on meal planning, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Identify your mindsets
Do these sound familiar to you? Am I missing any? What beliefs do you have that may limit your feelings about becoming plant-based? Please comment below and let me know if any of these have affected you.
Let’s turn those into new beliefs that will empower you towards your goals, because having the right mindset is crucial.
Keep an open mind that you are capable. Keep working at something, even if it’s hard at times, and you will progress. The saying is, “progress, not perfection.”
Keep this saying in mind as you move forward. I wish you the best of luck and hope my site can be a useful resource for you on your journey.