MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Although new adventures can be exciting, changing habits you’re used to can play tricks on your mind. In its attempt to keep you safe, your mind might encourage you to be careful or to be wary. These are things to consider when eating a plant-based diet.
Changes can cause stress, and when you’re stressed, you’re less likely to resist temptation. Learning what to expect when eating a plant-based diet prepares you for success and reduces stress.
“Neuroscientists sometimes say that we have one brain, but two minds: a mind that makes conscious choices, based on self-reflection and awareness, and a mind that makes automatic responses based on instinct and habit,”
Being mindful of what's to come when you're eating a plant-based diet will help give you resolve.
Read on to discover what to expect when eating a plant-based diet, both the things that are challenging and things that are beneficial.
You may have already experienced some of these plant-based eating challenges yourself. If so, I'd love to hear how you’re doing in the comments below.
What surprised you when you started eating a plant-based diet?
Let’s look at what you have in store so you won’t be surprised or overwhelmed when you start a plant-based diet. And remember, the first thing you should expect is IT WILL GET EASIER!
You’ll want to be especially good to yourself while learning how to start a plant-based diet. You are learning a new skill. Once those neural pathways in your brain get more robust, it will be like riding a bike… it'll happen instinctively.
You’ll know where all of your grocery items are in the store, you’ll know how to set up a plant-based meal plan, you’ll factor in getting the right nutrition, and you won’t let other people steer you off track.
What to Expect When Eating a Plant-Based Diet
I know you aspire to be your best self, but first, we'll start with the challenges.
Don't let this discourage you. I know you can do it, and, of course, depending on where you are in the plant-based journey, you most likely won't experience all of these.
The BENEFITS ARE COMING; if you want to see those first, jump to the bottom of the article.
1. NEW FOODS:
Many foods will help you make the transition. Some might be familiar to you, and others may be completely new. Some of these new and uncommon ingredients in plant-based recipes are for flavor or your health.
Others are meat and dairy substitutes that will help you get enough protein and things like tofu, seitan, or tempeh.
To help you with these new ingredients, be sure to check out this article, “Uncommon Ingredients,” which has a downloadable PDF of ingredients that can be found on Amazon (if you can’t find them in your local store).
Takeaway: Take time in the market to find these new foods.
2. NEW WAYS OF COOKING:
Along with new foods come new ways of cooking. If you’re not familiar with tofu or tempeh, it may take a few times of making a recipe until you feel you’ve got it. To help you with some of these, check out my articles “Cooking with Tofu” and “Cooking with Tempeh.”
Takeaway: Read the articles mentioned above and try a new recipe new each week.
3. CHANGING YOUR PALETTE:
Since some of the foods will be new to you, or you might find yourself craving steak or cheese again. It’s best not to compare your new plant-based recipes to your old favorites or to think of what you’re missing.
Instead, think about the plethora of new foods! Like eating less sugar and salt, your taste buds will adjust, and you’ll begin to want food prepared this way. No more fatty sauces… because you’ll have a new palette.
Also, as you filter out the overly-processed, highly flavored items, your tastebuds will “reset” and not need such overwhelming flavors to be satisfied. The bonus here is that as the adjustment sets in, you will be shocked to discover how delicious simple fruits and vegetables can be!
Takeaway: Throw out old, preconceived notions about what plant-based foods you do and don’t like, and try everything “for the first time” all over again.
4. MORE TIME:
Eating this way may take more time in the beginning. More time is spent thinking, shopping, and preparing. Don’t be frustrated because before you know it, you’ll easily be practicing your new skills and eating a plant-based diet.
As mentioned above, when you’ve practiced this new skill, it’ll become old hat. The added time and effort you put in at the beginning of this endeavor will balance out to much less time in the future, once you get the hang of it.
Takeaway: As with learning anything new, be patient. The extra effort will pay off.
5. YOUR BODY:
One of the most common issues is that you might feel hungrier if you’re not adding enough whole carbs in the form of grains, beans, or legumes. A plant-based diet is not just about fruits and vegetables.
Grains, beans, and legumes are the staple of many cultures worldwide and provide fiber and nutrition to make us feel fuller. In addition, the more bulky foods you eat, such as salads and crunchy vegetables, the fuller your stomach will feel, and you will feel satisfied to eat plant-based.
Additionally, your body may also experience some changes. You may have more gas, bloating, some constipation, or other digestive issues. This is completely normal and is due to a couple of different factors.
For one, you’re likely eating more fiber than before. This can be an adjustment for the body. Start your transition with cooked veggies rather than raw ones to lessen the strain on your digestive system.
And if you find grains particularly difficult to digest, try adding them in smaller amounts, and substitute some root veggies instead of a larger portion of grains.
Second, with this dietary overhaul, you're changing the bacterial profile of your microbiome. Chances are, you are changing things for the better, so this potentially uncomfortable adjustment period will likely lead to much healthier digestion in the future.
Other bodily complaints may include possible plant-based diet detox symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, skin eruptions like acne or eczema flair-ups, insomnia, and irritability.
These symptoms might be especially potent for those who have been eating a diet heavy in processed foods. This is totally normal and will pass as your system clears out years-worth of junk. Hang in there. The physical symptoms will pass, and the long-term results will be worth it. And remember to drink plenty of water to aid in the detoxification process!
Takeaway: Stay strong! Don’t let initial difficulties sway you; they are short-term and pave the way for incredibly wonderful changes.
6. YOUR EMOTIONS:
There will likely be mental and emotional symptoms along with physical symptoms. These will include cravings for foods you miss or feel especially attached to. This is why it’s never recommended to begin this journey around any holiday where food is so important.
Cravings are something that we all deal with no matter what our diet is. The best solution to that is having food substitutions that you can rely on when the urge strikes. Read this good article by Kris Carr on cravings, “Five Ways to Overcome Food Cravings.”
As you make the switch, there will be emotional highs and lows. You may do great for a week and then have a weekend that makes you feel like you’ve taken ten steps backward. Know that moments like these happen to everyone, and be kind to yourself.
No one gets anything down perfectly without practice. Consider these steps backward as opportunities for learning. What can you do differently moving forward to avoid this happening again? With each restart, your efforts will become more solid on the way to becoming permanent.
Takeaway: Be prepared for the emotional aspect. As with the initial physical concerns, they fade with time, and the results are worth the perseverance.
7. YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY:
This area could go either way... be a challenge or a benefit, depending.
When you change your diet and stop eating meat and dairy, there's a chance your family & friends will think it's strange and question if this is a healthy change or if you'll be getting the right nutrition.
Unsupportive people may even try to get you to change or start to feel guilty for the way they eat.
Or, you might positively influence those around you when they see how well you're doing on a plant-based diet. I've heard many stories about spouses and loved ones getting on board. Read more about How to Deal with Non-Plant-Based Vegan Family and Friends.
Takeaway: Knowing you're doing the best for your health, the health of the planet, and the well-being of animals can keep you strong. Keep being the example of a better you and a better world.
With so many long-term benefits, deciding where to start is difficult! You will likely find that you....
- Have more energy,
- are sleeping better, and
- simply feel better. Many people say they
- feel happier,
- lose weight,
- worry less, and
- feel less overall stress.
- You might even get off your medication.
You will most likely prevent the diseases people experience when eating a poor diet – things like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, impotence, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis, among others.
While genetics does play a part in disease, it's becoming more and more evident that changing one's diet can affect the start or progression of your genetic predisposition so that you may never experience it in the first place.
Not only will you provide your body with boundless amounts of the necessary nutrients for healthy cellular processes, but there's also evidence that eating plant-based can protect your DNA from damage and make DNA repair more possible. (1)
This is especially important when it comes to the prevention of diseases you are genetically predisposed to.
REDUCTION OF SYMPTOMS
There's a chance that you will experience a reduction in some of the sumptions you're already experiencing. I can attest to personally having a reduction of arthritis symptoms after switching to a plant-based diet and a lowering of my cholesterol by 40 points. Many people find that after only a few weeks, they can reduce medications.
You can read more about my personal health journey in this article, "Sharing a Personal Health Journey." A reduction of diabetes markers or those for heart disease is commonly heard of. Of course, you should always speak with your doctor before changing any medication.
REVERSAL OF DISEASE
There’s also a chance that you will experience a reversal of the disease or illness you currently have. If you have health concerns related to pain & inflammation, you will see improvement as your body experiences a reduced inflammatory load.
You may develop better markers for a healthy heart & brain, such as lower cholesterol and better triglycerides.
In addition, you may experience better digestion, better blood sugar, clearer skin, weight loss, and feeling fuller. It’s also possible that you’ll be able to reduce medications and therefore spend less money.
These are some of the potential benefits and challenges you will find from eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. The only way to know how you’ll be affected is to make the change and start living your new, healthier, happier life.
I’m here to help you on your way when considering what to expect when eating a plant-based diet, so please feel free to reach out to me in the comments with any questions, concerns, or thoughts you have about going plant-based OR how eating a plant-based diet has affected you.
For more BENEFITS, see this page about plant-based diets.