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Find your why

So, how to make a lifestyle change? This is a tough one. . .easy to say but challenging to implement. Cleary, prior to clinical testing, Rob and I were in denial about our health. We thought our lifestyle was optimal for the kind of life we intended to live.

Believe it or not, there is a process we consciously or unconsciously work through to be ready for making lifestyle changes. Changing behavior is hard and at the first stage, people have no intention of changing. They, quite simply, are not ready. People can be in denial about their health problems or consider it not serious. Sometimes, failures in making a specific change have perpetuated a sense of hopelessness.

Take comfort, this is part of the process. All of us, before making a lasting change, have been there. The best strategy at this stage (for a loved one) is providing a safe and comfortable environment in which to discuss concerns. Sometimes, education and discussing risks (by a third party) can help people through this stage. People must be ready for change, otherwise you are simply the nagging husband or the worrying mom. People must find their “why” on their own. The “why” becomes expected return on their health investment.

While everyone’s why is slightly different, a common goal we hear in our clinic, is wanting to feel good again or, at least, feel better. These are the people who are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. By the time we are meeting people in our wellness clinic, they are in the same spot we were in, they have passed by the “thinking about making change” to recognizing there is a problem, are serious about solving it, and have started to plan on how to solve the problem. They are committed to finding a sustainable solution.

Once we found our why and made the decision to make the nutritional lifestyle change—going whole food plant based, I threw myself into figuring out the next stuff. What the heck are we going to eat? How do we get protein? How the hell am I going to give up CHEESE!? At the time, I did not realize the number of resources available to help with this kind of nutritional change. Ultimately, the action was the easiest part for us! I love a good challenge and learning new stuff.

At this point, I decided to start thinking of myself as a whole food, plant-based person—not someone who is trying out a new “diet” or someone who “used to” eat processed foods, meat, and dairy. I started to internalize the change—this is who I am, not merely something I am doing.

I downloaded the Forks over Knives recipe and meal planning application. I put together a list of common plant-based ingredients I needed to add to our pantry. I pulled out everything we would no longer be eating and donated it to a food pantry. I went through our fridge and the food in our cabinets, gave some stuff to the kids (what we could not donate) and threw out the rest. Now, I grew up poor, throwing out food felt weird if not completely wrong. But. . .either way we were not going to eat it. . .so out it went.

Until then, I cooked what I watched my mom cook when I was kid. There was very little variety, protein was always an animal (rarely fish), and flavor was fat. So, the next step was to learn how to cook again. I learned how to flavor food without adding fat and salt. (Goodness, I had no idea you could use water to sauté vegetables!) I discovered a whole new world of food and flavors! I learned more about macronutrients, especially fiber (the good carbs) and protein, and micronutrients.

I started planning meals, instead of frantically foraging daily for something to cook for dinner. Meal prep and planning are key to changing and maintaining a healthy nutrition plan. This is a time commitment, although after learning what to eat and how to prepare it, cooking becomes as automatic as before the lifestyle change. I remind myself that long term good health i is the priority. My “why” is more important than any food.

Good health is more than bragging rights or looking good. Good health is the key to unlocking the freedom to experience life on your terms. Nutrition is just one piece of the good health puzzle. No short-term satisfaction I could get from food, is more important than my long-term needs. Being alive at 80 or 90 is not good enough for me, I want to be climbing mountains!

Keep your eye on your “why” and focus on progress not perfection. For most people, an 80/20 whole food plant-based plan gets them to their health goals.

Oh, and what about the protein? Apparently, we get our protein from the same place cows get their protein, plants.

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