Algorithms For Life

Going Vegan in 2017. You can succeed. Here’s How.

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vegan

n.

a person who does not eat or use animal products.

-Google

It’s 2017 and you are considering going Vegan?

  • Did you just watch a documentary?
  • Have you been looking at your body in the mirror?
  • Are you getting older and realizing the need to make serious changes?

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, you’re definitely not alone.

The Documentary Effect

Almost anyone and everyone has seen Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead or Forks over Knives. How did it affect you? Did you immediately feel like I did?

  • I feel sick.
  • I’m tired.
  • I feel nearly dead sometimes.

I’ve got it! I’ll just go vegan! Seems simple enough.

  1. I’ll juice every day.
  2. I’ll eat only fruits and vegetables.
  3. I’ll exercise 3-5 days a week.  

Simple problem = simple solution, right?  If you’re anything like myself then you dived right in. You went cold turkey on evil meat.  A juicer was the next thing you purchased. Your grocery list was revamped and you turned your entire grocery shopping trip into the perfect non-processed outer rim grocery store adventure.  The kitchen counters were soon covered in a colorful array and your fridge was brimming with every sort of vegetable.  Visits to your Farmers market and local health food store became normal.  Just about every chance you’d get, you would tell everyone who had a listening ear why they should stop eating processed food. If you watched Forks over Knives you developed a strong disdain for the meat industry.

Days passed……….. and……………………turned into Week 1.

How’s it going? Did you stick with it?

Look at that body!

Years have come and gone. Life has been busy, to say the least.

Then one day it hits you and suddenly you remember….. oh that body!

Lately, you’ve been checking out yourself in the mirror. (cheesy grin) Shower after shower. Day after day. You see it. (grin fading) It’s gotten a bit rounder, a bit lumpier and a bit dumpier. Each day you look hoping to find a glimpse of your former self. One morning you catch a glimpse in the foggy mirror. (Queue the music, “Oh Yeah!’) Wait a minute? What…… is that? Could it be? My abs. Joy oh Joy hope has returned. You wipe the fog away to get a clearer view. Grab your glasses….. and then…..life hits you all at once!

You have got to be kidding me! Seriously? Is that fat? Is that fat in the shape of a six pack ON my abs?

AGE the age old problem.

Are you getting older? Paradoxically the problem is that we all are. This unavoidable gift of age is often packaged with the baggage of our past decisions. Each time we indulged in the doughnut, the fries, the 520 calorie frappe and let’s not forget the “well deserved” reward of the sedentary weekend following each long work week, we added weight to that baggage. Quite literally. To make matters worse, as we age we begin to lose a few things. I’m not talking about the keys or the reason you walked into the room ( “why DID I come in here?”) or even the car when you came out of the mall. That’s an entirely different article. In addition to getting older, we lose muscle, skin elasticity,  and even our strength.  In light of this, we want to preserve and improve what we have especially when it comes to, yes you guessed… that body. (wink)

A Simple Problem = Simple Solution, Right?

Wrong! Why then, is it so hard to change especially when we see the positive results? On one hand solutions to our problems are often presented in a very clear cut manner. One size fits all. While on the other hand humans are very individualized. We are in fact very human.

What are some challenges that might prevent us from reaching our goal? In this case – adopting a vegan lifestyle. Ask yourself, what would challenge MY determination?

Perhaps you fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • I hate vegetables.
  • I can’t cook.
  • I live on a tight budget.
  • I’m hypoglycemic.
  • I lack discipline.
  • I crave meat.
  • I’m anemic.
  • It’s a lot of work. I’m already busy.
  • I like eating out.
  • I eat for comfort.
  • I have a different reason.

Whatever your reason is, it is something that you have to be able to understand and address. Here is the truth. Veganism isn’t for everyone. If in the end, you decide that it is not for you, that doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you a failure. If you and I share any similarity, it’s that I believe the only way that I can know whether or not it is the best way is if I try. *extremely long side note – I do not try this method with all things. Some things are BAD. Like drugs, drugs are bad. So hugs not drugs. Actually, I’m not a big hugger either…..also an introvert issue….so fist bump with washed hands, not drugs..…(insert awkward smile.)

Veganism, is it for you?

Ask yourself, what am I trying to achieve?

  • Weight Loss
  • Less Inflammation
  • Gain Energy
  • Lower Cholesterol
  • Longevity
  • Change family history
  • Deep Moral attachment to animal life.
  • That body? (Queue music…Oh Yeah…wink)

I’m going to assume that you answered yes to one or more of the above. Let’s proceed. How are you going to successfully achieve this?

Preparation

The first preparation that you have to make is with your mindset. This often develops over time and comes long before making the actual physical changes. Earlier we looked at some challenges that you might face. The following are a few of the most common:

I love comfort foods. Creamy Mac and Cheese. Mashed Potatoes with Butter. Warm Apple Pie. Moist Chocolate Cake. Crispy Bacon. Sound Tantalizing? Irresistible?Here is a funny quip that quite simply changed my perception of that phrase “comfort food” almost immediately.

Don’t reward yourself with food. You are not a dog.

Funny and strangely true. By the same token, when did humanity get to this point?

What it typically narrows down to is this: instant gratification. In itself, it is not always a bad thing. All of us enjoy it. The thing is that when it comes to making a healthy decision it may not always work in our favor. We can learn to do two things about it.

  1. Learning to halt immediate pleasure for a delayed reward. Think back to when you ate ALL of that food. Back THEN in the MOMENT, it was comforting or just plain enjoyable. That is a fact. Go on over to the mirror. NOW look at the results. Are you happy with the results? Do you still feel comforted by that food? Are enjoying looking at…yup you guessed…at that body? Think about how differently you could look and feel if you put off instant gratification and worked instead for a delayed reward.
  2. Changing your perception of what instantly gratifies you.  Do you want something sweet? Heavy? Creamy? Indulgent? What is the vegan option? Sometimes the right choice itself is empowering and brings instant gratification. Just knowing I ate a piece of fruit instead of junk or a chia pudding feels better. Why? I decided what the result was going to be. In the end, you are not a victim of circumstance but rather a person who OWNS their choices.

Write. Write. Write.

Never underestimate the value of writing things down. This age old simplistic function can help tremendously. Buy a pack of post-it notes and write reminders. When you feel like you want to give in write down why and it post it on fridge or desk, even pin it to the couch. It helps you to deconstruct and identify the way that you think. When you write out your typical grocery list look at where you can make trade-offs.

Chips- coconut chips, dried fruit, rice cakes, pita and hummus, celery, apples, popcorn

Cakes- bananas, vegan oatmeal cookie

Ice Cream- smoothie bowl, sorbet, oatmeal with fruit, blended vegan drink like pina colada, chia puddings

Meat- lentils, beans, mushrooms, curry seasoning, taco seasoning, herbs

Look at your go-to behaviors.

When do you eat your worst? Make an action plan beforehand.

  1. I eat out a lot. Make use of apps like Yelp or Find Me Gluten Free. Discover new vegan spots or research the menu of your favorite place. It’s not just all salads or fries anymore. Be adventurous. Veganism is more popular than you think.  
  2. I’m busy. I need convenient foods. I agree! This probably is the single most important reason why people quit. Depending on your budget and access to Stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods this can vary. I live in a town that has neither. I’ll write a post about how I snack later. For now, fruit and veggies are super convenient. Smoothies are also easy to travel with.  I have a Pinterest board called VEGAN SNACKS and SMOOTHIES with ideas.   
  3. I’m hypoglycemic. This can fall in line with the need for convenience food with a twist. Hypoglycemics experience brain fog and disorientation and sleepiness with sugar spikes. If we eat a piece of fruit or simple carbs we may fear the crash. We need protein. Insulin spikes sometimes occur more frequently on a processed food diet. Over time this may correct or improve itself. Initially, I cut out all meat except for eggs at breakfast and fish once a week. But aren’t you trying to be vegan, you ask? Remember that it’s a journey and you cannot get to your destination if it kills you. On days where I would stay at home I would experiment with vegan breakfasts. I find that avocado with spinach and pico de gallo with beans is good for my levels. Cabbage is a great addition as well. Mix together different things. You can play around with smoothies with veggies or different nut milk. Almonds and coconut help me not to spike. Take your vitamins as well.
  4. I JUST hate vegetables. I hate salad. I hate green beans. Not to mention, I also hate broccoli.  Equally important to your decision to become vegan is taking ownership of the fact that you will have to become decidedly different. You just can’t be a vegan and hate vegetables. To begin with, there’s like a lot of vegetables involved. Given this fact, you kinda gotta get over it. On a positive note, what you can do is learn how to utilize different flavors or preparations to make them more palatable. For example, the taste of cauliflower mashed with potatoes virtually disappears. My husband hates cucumbers. When I make Asian food he only eats a few, because of this I put them in the blender with water a slice of lemon and pineapple. He then consumes an entire cucumber. Cook with different herbs and blend with different combinations.

Plan for: FAILURE

I cannot overemphasize this enough. Eventually, it’ll happen. Good news is that sooner or later it happens to almost everyone. You will recover.  It’s 100% normal. There is no need to quit. Just keep going forward. What will you eat next? Before I embarked on this journey I analyzed the situation and set a goal of eating vegan at a ratio of 80/20. This is the algorithm I chose. With this in mind, I proceeded with less pressure and it gave me a HUGE margin for error and more importantly time to learn and make adjustments. Funny thing is I have never really utilized my 20%. My husband on the other hand does, but he was eating less than 20% vegetables when we set out on this path. So this is a grand improvement. I’m at around 95%.

You can succeed!

Encouragement goes a long way. So here it is. (insert large grin, and that buff arm emoji.)

Don’t expect to become Vegan overnight.

  1. Examine where you might fail and plan for success.
  2. Make becoming vegan a destination.
  3. Enjoy the journey be open to discovering new things.

Food really is an important and fun aspect of life but when it enslaves you it becomes your master. By the same token, Hippocrates reminds us of why we want to be the master of what we eat he said,  “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” In view of this knowledge, we can use food to improve our health if there is a possibility for it. I haven’t had an arthritis flare since the first day of my new 95% vegan way of eating. That is a definite win.

The reward for eating better is that you feel empowered and in control when you decide what you are putting into your body.

AND THEN THERE’S THIS!

All things considered with a good diet and an active life…….there will be a morning like many others when you step out of that shower, clear the fog ….and ……oh look at that body

What is that? A real six pack this time. Instant Gratification for sure!

Finally! Maestro..queue my Music!

Oh Yeah!

Note to self: Remember this post.


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