There is, as you know, a wealth of information available about diet and exercise and you also know it can be overwhelming. I’ve had several questions about being vegan/vegetarian and since so many people start out the new year intending to lose weight, I thought now would be a good time to give you my coach tips (2 cents!) on this topic. Therefore, I’m suggesting small, doable ‘BEGINNING” steps to help you launch your journey to a more plant-based diet and better feeling body.
Step One: Focus on Health, Not Weight
When I gave up trying to lose weight, I lost weight. Long ago I gave up dieting and started learning what worked and didn’t work for my particular body. When I made my focus about how I wanted to feel instead of what I thought I should look like, it all got easier. What does your ideal weight feel like to you? Write it out. Post the words where you can see them. I chose ‘lean,’ ‘light,’ ‘energized.’ I soon discovered what foods and behaviours gave me these feelings and which ones didn’t.
Step Two: Observe
Become curious and do some fact finding. Before you make any changes, observe how you feel after you eat. Bloating, fatigue even a dip in mood are all signs that your body has either had too much, the combination of foods is too complicated or there’s a particular food your body can’t tolerate.
Make note of the types of foods/meals that have you feeling energized or focused and clear thinking afterward. If you never feel energized or clear thinking after a meal, there’s some work to do.
Step Three: Add Fruits and Vegetables
Before you subtract anything from your current way of eating, focus on adding fruits and vegetables. If your breakfast is toast or cereal, add some fruit, make a smoothie. For lunch and dinner, add a big salad and 2 – 3 vegetables with your meat and potatoes/bread/pasta/rice. Eventually you’ll crowd out or cut down the portion size of your meat and carb. Find ways to add vegetables to your recipes.
Step Four: Small Consistent Changes
The first change I made after I stopped dieting was eliminating dairy products. It took a while. I went back to cream in my coffee and cheese on my pizza often. (There is almost always dairy in packaged, processed foods. Read labels.) But, eventually I succeeded.
Next, I cut out meat. Begin by swapping out meat for a meat replacement in your regular recipes. Start by making one meatless meal a week (there’s a thing called Meatless Mondays!)
Here’s one of my favourite from my food blogger friend @ Art & the Kitchen As you get going you’ll find more and more recipes that you want to try and can eventually be meat free.
One of my favourite whole foods recipe websites: Sylvia Feasting at Home
You might begin by cutting out/finding better substitutes for saturated fat, sugar, gluten, things that are white, processed foods, etc. whatever you suspect may be the thing your body needs.
Step Five: Move
Commit to some activity every day. Don’t force yourself to exercise if you hate exercise. Get a good pair of shoes/boots, (invest in good warm clothes if you live in winter climate) put on some headphones with good music/podcast and walk. I love the saying; ‘there’s no bad weather, there’s only bad clothes.’ When dressed for it, every day is a good walking day. I have a set of hand weights in my living room and I do weight lifting exercises while I watch t.v. Find ways to add steps and activity to your day. Find physical activities that interest you.
Again, small, consistent change. If you’re completely inactive now, begin by committing to walking 2x/week. After a week or two, make it 3x/week. By the end of a month or 6 weeks you can be active 5-6x/week. Moving every day will feel normal.
Bonus Step: Use the Hunger Scale
Unfortunately, most of us simply over eat. We are not used to feeling slightly hungry or simply satisfied. (‘more on this next week) The hunger scale is a coach tool to help overeaters learn to listen to their bodies. 0 on the scale means starving! +10 on the scale means Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner overload. +6 is where you want to stop eating. Between 4 and 6 is our sweet spot and we should shoot for this with every meal. Not hungry/full enough to be satisfied and last a while, but not so full we feel done in. In order to utilize this scale, you’re going to have to slow down and observe how you’re feeling. This takes practice. You can do it.
DON’T EXPECT PERFECT. It’s naïve to think that we can make effortless change. By knowing you will hit some resistance and roadblocks, you’ll be better able to overcome them. Plan your strategy now.
ONE OR TWO CHANGES AT A TIME. When those are consistent. Add another change or two.
KEEP GOING. When you do eat a meal/food that makes you feel terrible or you stop moving consistently, be kind to yourself. Instead of spiralling down into shame and allowing yourself to abandon all efforts, be patient and encourage yourself to begin again. You get to begin as many times as you need to. Talk about it with someone who will encourage you.
IT’S GOING TO TASTE DIFFERENT (maybe even terrible) at first. And that’s ok. Your tastes will adjust to food substitutions. Again, if you make the changes very small, but keep substituting, you will eventually enjoy the difference.
FOCUS ON HOW YOU’RE FEELING. Listen to the messages your body is sending you. It is on your side and is doing its best to work with what you are giving it. We are inundated with messages that have us believe our body is something to be overcome and beat into submission. This is simply not true. As the ‘need oil’ light in your car is a message that your car needs attention, excess weight, aches, pains, sickness, etc. are all messages from your body. You can learn to decipher them.
Need some reasons to go vegan? Watch Cowspiracy and/or Forks over Knives (Both available on Netflix)
Again, the message is Small, Consistent Changes.
Congratulations for choosing health.
You can do it!
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