My Journey: Vegan vs. Plant-Based
Are you CONFUSED about what you should be eating??
Should you eat less meat? Be vegan? Or vegetarian? Wait, what is plant-based? What about keto? Or Paleo?
Here's the thing...
SO many people are confused and it's no wonder, there's a million and one people with opinions on this subject.
There is NOT one right way to eat. There isn't a label everyone will fit under.
Here is my opinion and my experience with veganism, vegetarianism, and ultimately plant-based eating.
I grew up like most people. Eating what my Mom and Dad deemed healthy. Lots of fruit, vegetables, pasta, bread, dairy, eggs, meat, etc. I didn't have a very restricted diet as a child, and I certainly didn't know anyone who identified as vegan.
In my 20's I worked as a veterinary technician in a wildlife rehabilitation centre and had my eyes opened. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who were conscious of their food. Where it came from, the environmental impact, animal welfare. And I realized that I spent my days tirelessly working to save the lives of animals, just to go home at night and eat meat. Eat an animal that had been killed. after saving them all day.
The irony was not lost on me.
Suddenly my eating habits were brought to question, and this turned into a lot of time experimenting and finding my own way.
I was vegetarian for a couple of years, but it didn't last. I never stopped wanting meat. And eventually the restriction and diet mentality got the best of me - I craved meat, I caved, then once I was eating it again I kind of just shrugged and gave up.
Shortly before my 30th birthday, I began studying as a Health Coach and did an experimental cleanse for two weeks. This involved cutting out the most common allergens including meat, dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, sugar, etc.
The results of this cleanse were that I realized I felt WAY better when I chose not to eat dairy and gluten! They made me bloated, tired, foggy, and left me feeling less than my best.
So I figured why not just go all the way and eat in a way that would leave me feeling awesome - I transitioned to veganism for almost two years. This meant no meat, eggs, dairy or other animal products. I also chose to limit gluten and eliminate wheat specifcally as I seemed to react most strongly to it.
This was great and my body felt awesome, there was just one problem.
In the meantime I moved to a small town with few dining options. This meant that if I wanted to go out to eat and follow my chosen diet, I had to just get a plain salad. This wasn't delicious, wasn't filling, and left me wanting more.
Basically I felt like I was on a hyper-restrictive diet.
We all know what happens when you diet. You get cravings, you want more.
After many months of this, I realized I had to choose - keep labeling myself as vegan and keep my diet restricted while occasionally "cheating", or loosen up and create more flexibility in my diet.
It just so happened that at this time in my life I was hyper-focused on the word Freedom. I named my coaching program The Freedom Transformation. My private Facebook group became the Freedom Healthstyle Tribe.
I craved the expansiveness of freedom.
Food is meant to be delicious, fun, can help create social bonds, bring joy, satisfaction, and fuel the body. It is nutritious in every sense of the word when enjoyed to the fullest.
Yet my diet was restrictive and left me feeling anything but free.
The Next Step
I needed to assess what I wanted to do.
I craved freedom, wanted to create my best health, and feel wonderful in my body.
I needed balance.
Welcome to Plant-Based Eating. According to this article from Harvard: "Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. It doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan and never eat meat or dairy. Rather, you are proportionately choosing more of your foods from plant sources."