This is actually a highly requested question for me therefore I felt it best to just do a good ole blog post, and address all of the questions that come up with this topic. As many of you know, for the most part, Tanner and I are plant based. I say "for the most part" because as you also all know, I'm a wanna be hippy vegan living in Hawaii, but here I am in Shelby with limited options and cravings so I'm just putting that out there. lol!
It's been a very slow transition, very very slow, like 2 years slow. And I'm specifically talking about me, because I'm a creature of habit and find habits really hard to break whereas my husband can literally snap his fingers overnight, have no emotional connection and just changes everything. It literally blows my mind. He literally has never even watched a documentary or read the books. I just have told him what I've learned and he's like "Yep, okay. Makes sense." Me on the other hand every other week is like "OKAY TANNER THIS WEEK IMMA BE VEGAN" and he's like "Yea okay" and I'm like "WATCH ME BUY THIS CRUELTY FREE DETERGENT LIKE A BOSS!"
I say all that jokingly, but I truly believe in the ENTIRE vegan message to be honest (the no leather, compassionate caring for the animals and the environment vegan message), but I do ride the struggle bus at times, and so I want you to know that I'm WITH YOU. I get it.
"I need protein. But the data shows I don't ACTUALLY need protein. I'm craving meat. But is this really a craving due to something internal or just habitual cultural societal norm stuff? This meal doesn't feel complete. I'm not satisfied. I don't want to eat soy filled fake meats at every meal so what do I do? I REALLY LIKE MY FREAKING WAFFLES. (See HERE)
I say all of this to say that you definitely need to give yourself grace in a big life change and also recognize that sustainable long lasting change is made with the enjoyment of the change and not forcible change, and that you also don't have to be perfect EVER if that's what you so choose. You are still making an impact by just one meal that you decide to go meat free! :)
I'm sure that most that are reading this blog are also wondering about tips of going plant based that have previously tracked macros, and I think that it's totally possible to make that transition as well. Know that your protein is probably not going to be the same, and if that makes you uncomfortable then you can reduce your protein slowly, but I know from experience with both Tanner and myself that we noticed ZERO change in our body's by doing the change in protein, same calories, overnight with the same training so I don't want to really bring body image into this, but I know that's something many girls are afraid of so I'm here to tell ya, YOUR'E GOOD! ;)
Second, your calories don't need to change, but you can just make adjustments in the ratios of calories. You might find that you can actually handle more calories because all of your food is "good calories" and most of the time, the body tends to handle this better due to de novo lipogenesis, which is actually a complex metabolic pathway that shows that carbs can not in fact be turned into adipose tissue as long as the caloric intake does not exceed TEE (total energy expenditure). INTERESTING RIGHT? Pub Med Reference
De novo lipogenesis actually gave me a lot of confidence in changing my macros. Fat and carbs and protein are INDEPENDENT of one another and are utilized for different functions of the body but our body's are not these specific calculators that says "Oh you had the perfect X number of protein grams today therefore your body will look like THIS!" Nope. The evidence supports that the recommended amount of protein is actually only 5% but they give the 10% for good measure to sustain the amount of muscle mass that you currently have AS LONG AS caloric intake is high enough (that's the important part).
The amount of protein that is recommended by the RDA is actually 10-35% and I won't get into the reasons behind why they give that number all the way up to 35%. There is no real study that shows either 10% or 35% or anywhere in between that I'm aware of (please link below if you have one) because nutritional studies are so complicated, but this complete review of protein done in 1989 is actually really great (REFERENCE) if you want to read through it all. One thing to note at the end is the need for certain studies which since this time have been done to show that animal protein does in fact cause cancer and foster the growth of foci (the little ball or group of cancerous cells), form atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia independent of adipose tissue (aka overweight) BUTTTTT, I know you gotta live your life #YOLO and I know that many reading will say that everything is toxic. Blah blah. Well, the studies are here, so I think it's good to be educated vs blissfully ignorant but das just me.
Back to the adequate calories part-YOU GOTTA HAVE ADEQUATE CALORIES when you make this change. That is the #1 tip that anyone will give you across the board. The foods in vegan foods are going to have a lower glycemic index therefore that means that they are going to keep you full for longer so honestly if you are not wanting to lose weight or muscle mass, you probably need to track your calories at least in the beginning. Tanner did that and he doesn't track but he didn't want to lose weight.
One question I get a lot is "HOW DOES HE STAY FULL. MY HUSBAND IS SO HUNGRY!"
And it probably is that the types of foods chosen are not what is keeping him full. Here are some good examples to keep you full:
- Smoothies filled with peanut butter, tons of fruits, regular coconut milk, honey, flax seeds, chia seeds, coconut oil
- PASTA PASTA PASTA with tons of yummy sauces
- Rice & Beans of course
- Granola (pinterest some high calorie granola recipes)
- Dates- lots of them
- Lentils (so many fun pasta + lentil combos)
I found this super cool website called "eatthismuch" and you can put in the calories that you would like to eat, the type of diet (vegan) and the number of meals that you want to have, and it will generate meals for you.
I'm going to address the questions that a former client asked me now and I think those are ones that come up frequently and are great questions.
1) How do you do it in a small town with limited vegan options?
There is not ONE even vegetarian restaurant in Shelby. There is actually weirdly enough a place that opened up that has a vegetarian pita which is actually really good but I'm like super impressed by that because it's meat city up in here. The brewery that has food as well also has some vegetarian options as the managers are super progressive, but that's it. The thing is though, something doesn't have to be called vegan or vegetarian or plant based to actually be so. You can adjust things and make it that way. It's not that you have to be obnoxious because again, for us, if I eat something not plant based, I'm not going to freak out, but we do ask for things in restaurants, like no cheese on the black bean quesadilla at the mexican restaurant. As much as we want to enjoy the eating out experience, we also understand that every meal is not going to be perfect. Some nights we are feeling more "vegan" and we might just sacrifice taste for that. I might order a freakin house salad no cheese and eat before I go and when I leave. There's ALWAYS a way if you want it bad enough, and that's not to ensue guilt (no no no no) but just to let you know that you CAN DO IT! :)
Lastly, we don't eat out that much so there's that.
2 ) How do you make it work with a family?
WELP-it's just me and Tanner and I'm lucky that the man will eat anything and I'm also lucky that I enjoy trying out new meals. If you are wanting to make this change and want to enjoy it, then you are going to have to experiment. There are SO many new foods that we have discovered that I never knew how much I loved, but I'm so glad that I went out of my comfort zone to try these new recipes. I know that kids are not that easy. They don't want to make the transition as easily as adults, and I know that getting kids to eat their veggies is tough. I have actually listened to a lot of podcasts on this for our future kids, and here are their tips
- Always keep a variety available (I know that's tough but they have to find their favorites just like we do)
- Don't put emotion into their food choices "I HATE BRUSSELS" ... "Oh okay cool **puts brussels on the table every night that week along with other choices and kid sees parents and other siblings eating brussels and maybe tries them again** I know that age matters and I know that all kids are vastly different. I also am just sharing tips from VEGAN parents, so I'm not just coming from non-parenting land
- Let them be apart of the grocery and cooking process and let them pick their favorites even if it's freaking spaghetti every night! haha!
I think one of the biggest tips that I can give in the whole journey of making it work for the family is knowing that you are going to have to sit down, write out some meal plans, write out how much food is needed (which will be vastly more than normal) and just MAKE THE TIME. We ALL make time for things we want to do. 30 minutes here and there to plan some things can make a world of difference. Give yourself grace in that if you don't take the time to make these changes, they will not happen. You just have to force it for a hot minute until it becomes more natural. Lastly, I know I said it will be vastly more food and you are thinking "Uh more money" and that's NOT what I mean. Yes, some produce is more (thank God for Aldi) but for the most part, all of the foods that are keeping you full (lentils, beans, pasta, oats, grains) are really cheap and you don't need luscious expensive fruits to sustain a happy plant based lifestyle.
3) What are the best resources that you find helpful?
The best resource that I have found is actually youtube. There are a lot of really passionate youtubers that want to help people make this positive change. Here are some really helpful channels:
- Bite Sized Vegan (videos for children to watch to help them change as well)
- Ellen Fisher (she's my vegan crush)
- Supreme Banana (she shows you how you can literally eat vegan ANYWHERE - all fast food restaurants)
- That Vegan Couple (they try to be nice and are a bit obnoxious but they address a lot of different issues)
- Liv's Healthy Life (she gives you super duper easy vegan meals)
- Bonny Rebecca (she's honestly just adorable and vegan LOL)
Some other helpful resources I've found are books and websites that really help encourage me on the reasons that I have made the change and to keep trying to make little small changes towards less animal products:
- The China Study
These websites are HIGHLY divisive in the medical community, and the China Study has a lot of critiques on the way that the information was presented as well as the studies that are included. Everyone wants to say BIAS and propaganda, and they are literally saying the exact opposite and the physician behind nutritionfacts.org actually does not earn money from the site just to basically prove that he's not there for the money but for the information to get out. Neither of these physicians grew up vegan. They simply learned the data and made the change and then dedicated their careers to it. Obviously, I am more on their side, but I do think that it's really valuable to take ALL information that is presented to you and critically evaluate it. If something bothers you, then look up the freakin study on pubmed and read it. Evaluate it. See who is the person or group that funded the study. Think about the lobbying that might be behind an agenda. You are more than allowed to think through those things, and there are certain "vegan things" that I giggle at because they go a littleeeeee too extreme, but I also think that many meat eaters are very close minded to actual data and just keep screaming the word "AGENDA AND BIAS".
Lastly, if I hear one more person debunk the entire documentary "What the Health" from the simple one liner in it that states "I saw a study once that one egg is the equivalent of smoking 5 cigarettes" then I'm going to punch someone. HA! I wish they had NOT included that line, and I wish that it didn't make the entire world just put that documentary as ALL COMPLETELY FALSE because of that one line. BUT I DIGRESS! I hope to do a full review of the entire documentary and link up studies to what was found soon. It's going to take me for-freakin-ever, but I want to do it right and I'm hopeful I can when I find some time soon.
I'm never going to press veganism or plant based living on anyone. I actually want to be a medium as a person who DOES still occasionally eat meat, still has some egg whites, but tries really hard to live a whole foods plant based vegan and compassionate lifestyle as much as I can and find reasonable to my situation and my life in those moments each day <3 It makes me feel really at peace and I think it's a beautiful lifestyle.