The Truth about Going Vegan
I read Tara Parker-Pope’s article, “The Challenge of Going Vegan,” which ran in the April 16, 2012, edition of the New York Times, in the Well Column, with great interest: 1) As someone who enjoys a nearly 100% plant-based, nutrient-rich healthy eating style most of the time—aka “near” Vegan, and 2) As the founder of nutrientrich.com., a website where we help people make the Switch to a More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich® healthy eating style, on a daily basis.
What I would like to add to Ms. Pope’s article is a third option that goes beyond the modern day omnivorous eating style, or that of the strict Vegan, which presents a dilemma for most people. It is the More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich® healthy eating approach, which bridges the gap that causes so many people to fall short of their desired outcome.
Ms. Pope points out that going Vegan, at the “snap of a finger,” can be “fraught with challenges.” I acknowledge this. It can be challenging to go from being a modern-day omnivore, who is eating approximately 25% animal foods, and over 60% refined foods, with approximately 12% or less coming from actual whole, plant-based nutrient-rich foods, to a strict herbivore (aka Vegan) diet.
That is a big leap—and anyone with experience knows it’s not simply a matter of making “the Switch.” Deciding to make a “Switch” to a More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich® eating style or a Vegan diet is first and foremost, a decision.
What follows is a transition, or what we call a nutrition transition. As with any other style of living, it takes time as you develop the mindset and skill set you need to succeed. When you try to take a big leap in a single bound, without enough inspiration, education and support, which is what most people do, the chances are good that you won’t make it. You will fall prey to the many challenges that Ms. Pope outlines in her article.
As a Performance Lifestyle Trainer, who spends a good deal of time training people on Nutrient Rich® healthy eating, I have never been a proponent of lifestyle changes that take you too far too fast--with the exception of those people who are suffering from critical conditions, who need to take immediate, deliberate and uncompromising measures. President Clinton, who Ms. Pope and I refer to, is a good example of this.
But, for the average person, who simply no longer wants to deal the negative consequences of the Standard American Diet (SAD), and is tired of weight loss-only diets that may help you lose weight, but keep you stuck, diet-trapped for life, and want more motivation than simply eating “healthier” provides (a vague term at best), going Vegan seems like a potentially clear cut decision—one that is charged with emotion and logic.
But, as Ms. Pope points out, it can be fraught with "physical, social and economic challenges," and, to be honest, this is true for any other dietary changes. These challenges are not about “going Vegan,” they are about making a lifestyle change. There are costs on many levels when making a change, and they can be challenging when you don’t have the knowledge or experience. So challenge yourself!
Why is that a problem? Even an article, like Ms. Pope’s, can deter people from change if the challenges aren’t seen in the proper context. I don’t know about you, but if I was newbie, her article might deter me. But, facing challenges is how you get successful, and eating a More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich®, potentially Vegan, diet if you choose, is the healthy and successful way to eat so you can detoxify your body, lose weight naturally, dramatically improve your health, reverse lifestyle-induced diseases, age slower, look younger and live longer.
As much as we support people in going Vegan, we suggest that you start eating in a More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich® way as the most viable approach. It’s a more natural mindset, which is flexible, but no less committed than you are to a healthy eating style. It helps to mitigate the many challenges, which are par-for-the-course of any significant change, such as going Vegan, because it’s not an all or nothing approach. By the same token, we encourage people to get to 90% or More Plant- Based Nutrient Rich®, because that’s the zone where you will experience the most success, which we define as The 7 Success Results, at nutrientrich.com.
With this approach, you aren’t “fraught with struggle,” trying to “stick with a Vegan diet.” Rather, if you want to go Vegan, you can go through the natural change process to get there. If you don’t, taking on too much too fast will leave you struggling with ideas like “I need a personal chef,” “I have to give up my favorite foods” and what will my “unsympathetic friends” say—all while you are personally dealing with all the nutritional, psycho social and economic changes that will come your way when you change too fast. Under less duress, when you transition your eating style, you will resolve and evolve through all of these issues. That’s what every person goes through, and it’s not going to be any different for you.
This all brings up the main point of this blog post. Even in Vegan circles, many people, including health professionals don’t use the “V” word simply because it’s perceived as a big leap from how most people eat, and one that will prevent most people from even getting started, because it’s so black and white. Couple that with a limited nutritional education and experience with this kind of change, and you are set up for failure.
The nutritional world is full of ex Vegetarians and Vegans, who have resorted to far less healthy diets that make them “feel” better, simply because they tried to go Vegan or Vegetarian too fast focused mainly on “giving up” meat, before they learned how to eat a More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich® healthy eating style, which is what we teach at nutrientrich.com. If you then want to go Vegan, great!
The Truth is, if you gave most people $1m, they wouldn’t know how to manage it, and would likely blow it. But, someone who has grown into developing wealth has fewer challenges, even though they may have had them at an earlier time. It’s the same with nutrient-rich healthy eating—you have to transition into it over time, even if you go gangbusters at the start, if you expect that you are going to sustain the change.
When you have the right nutritional knowledge, combined with the emerging experience you get with a plan and support to guide you, even eating a 100% plant-based Vegan style can be attained and enjoyed in a big way. But, you have to go through the natural change process.
So here’s what the natural change process looks like. It was inspired by a research article, called Consumer’s Readiness to Eat a Plant-Based Diet which is based on original research from W. F, Prochaska.
The Natural Change Process:
• Pre-contemplation—not yet acknowledging that there is a problem behavior that needs to be changed, such as eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), focusing on weight loss alone at the expense of your health, or thinking you are eating healthy, when you are not.
• Contemplation—you acknowledge that there is a problem, but are not yet ready or sure you want to make a change. Ms Pope’s article doesn’t help that cause.
• Preparation/Determination—getting ready to change, by learning a new way, like you are doing right now by reading this article. It may inspire you to become a subscriber at nutrientrich.com, where you will learn how healthy an eater you really are, and will be encouraged to make the Switch to Rich, Nutrient Rich—The Great-Tasting Healthy Way to Eat.
• Action/Willpower—actually changing the behavior (the way you eat). At nutrientrich.com, we will help you do just that.
• Maintenance—maintaining the behavior change (new eating style), with a community of friends going through a similar process.
• Relapse—returning to older behaviors and abandoning the new changes, which will happen if you don’t have a community of friends that support your new behavior or the right approach!
Unfortunately, too many people experience relapse, and it’s simply attributed to trying to change too far too fast by going Vegan from a previous eating style that is miles away. It’s the reason why people feel like they have to “give up” their old food favorites and they struggle with that. They haven’t yet created the desire for new foods, and get too caught up in missing what they now feel they can’t have anymore. Can you blame them? I can’t. I felt that way too.
It doesn’t need to be that way. With a More Plant Based Nutrient Rich® approach, where up to 90% or more of the foods and meals you eat are derived from plants, you leave yourself at least 10% wiggle room for your old food favorites, as you make the transition.
For example, if you eat a 2,000 calorie diet, 1800 calories will come from nutrient-rich foods in the optimized way you will learn about in The Nutrient Rich Healthy Eating Plan, and 200 calories can come from nutrient-poor foods, if you so choose. It can take several exposures to a new food for your taste buds to change, but your taste buds will change along the way, and soon, you’ll be desiring great-tasting nutrient-rich foods, the same way you used to desire your old food favorites.
In reference to Ms. Pope’s comments about how hard it is to give up dairy or any other nutrient-poor foods for that matter, no one wants to “give up” anything that they like. You have to look at this differently if you are going to be successful. And, that is to enjoy the dairy and cheese in your 10%, until you don’t need it any more.
In conclusion, I appreciate Ms. Pope and her candid revelations about the challenges one may face when going Vegan. Yet, I need to point out that these challenges are only that “challenging” when you are going Vegan in the same way most people “go on a diet.”
There are thousands of people who have make the Switch to a More Plant-Based Nutrient Rich® healthy eating style, without all of that “struggle” and it has everything to do with the approach.