I received 10 amazing gifts from eating plants which were simply the side effects of eating real foods compared to a diet high in processed foods and some animal products. The gifts did not just show up one day, but over time, I noticed a shift in my sleep, energy, skin, mood, and so forth.
Why I Started Eating Plant-Based
About ten years ago I watched the documentary “Forks Over Knives”, and it totally changed my perspective on food. Working as a dietitian/nutritionist for 20 years at this point, I had “helped” many people with their diet focusing on carbohydrates, fat, proteins, calories, etc. in their food choices. After watching the documentary, I realized that I had it wrong. I shifted my thinking to looking at food as a whole, versus in parts and the benefits of whole plant-based food.
Side note: A whole food plant-based diet is not the same as a vegan diet. Someone that is vegan, may eat a whole food plant-based diet, but not all vegans do. Read “Is Vegan the Same as Plant-Based? for the difference.
How I Started Eating More Plant-Based
After watching the documentary, I started being more aware of my food choices and adding in more plants and trying new recipes. Slowly overtime eliminated seafood without “trying”, eliminated cheese without “trying”, doubled my vegetables, added beans to salads, started making my own plant-based milk, etc. I am still learning. It is a never-ending journey but what keeps me going when my friends are enjoying their steaks, eating cheese and crackers, THESE 10 AMAZING GIFTS I SAY!
Gift 1: I Sleep Better
A few days ago, I was hanging with my girlfriends on Zoom Happy Hour, and the subject of sleep came up and how hard it is to get a good night’s sleep. One friend is prescribed Ambian, another Xanax, another just can’t sleep, another may drink wine, etc. and I am sitting there thinking: “I eat plants and sleep pretty awesome almost every night”.
Before switching to a plant-based lifestyle, I would fall asleep, but then if I woke up to go to the bathroom or one of my kids woke me up, I could never fall back to sleep. It was torture being up for a few hours, knowing I had to get up to go to work and how tired I would be. Fast forward ten years, now if I am woken up or need to go to the bathroom, I don’t even think twice about it. I fall right back to sleep. The majority of nights, I sleep 7-8 hours. I notice on the nights I do not sleep well, I had eaten right before going to bed. I sleep much better if I have not eaten anything at least two hours before going to bed.
Gift 2: I Don’t Need Naps
I used to HAVE to take a nap around 3-4 pm on days that I could and on weekends would sleep a few hours in the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday. I would be so so tired, mentally, and physically, that I thought it was normal. It is not normal! Since I have been eating mostly whole plant-based foods, I rarely take naps and if I do, it is more of a “rest” than a deep slumber. I did not realize this change until a few years ago I was thinking that I used to take so many naps and now rarely take one.
Gift 3: I Think Clearer
Before my plant-eating lifestyle, my head would feel fuzzy, like I was in a fog. After eating store-bought cookies, my brain would feel numb and I would have to take a nap. I don’t experience this anymore unless I eat a processed sweet, say like Oreos. or ice cream or white processed bread. Now, when I want something sweet, which is most days, I make my own natural treats and they are delicious and I can still think clearly without brain fog, and if I buy bread, I buy from a local baker made with minimal ingredients.
Gift 4: I Am Happier
My mood has definitely improved. I would feel more down when eating heavier foods such as seafood, cheese, processed foods, and ice cream. I am not saying I walk around on a happy cloud every day, as I do have “down” times, but it is nothing like before. I definitely see a connection between my food and mood. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has an excellent free podcast titled “Food and Bad Mood”.
Gift 5: I Maintain My Weight Easier
I struggled with weight from my teenage years until the late ’20s. Up a few pounds, down a few pounds. Counting calories, eating fat-free foods thinking I could eat as much as I want but not feeling satisfied. Now I eat mostly beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits, with small amounts of nuts/seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee. I eat nice size portions and maintain my weight without trying and feel full and satisfied after eating. I look forward to eating during the day and if I eat a little extra, it is usually a healthier homemade sweet treat and my weight stays the same.
Gift 6: It Is Easier For Me to Get Moving
Since most of the foods I eat are “light” foods meaning they are easy to digest and don’t give me that tired, heavy feeling it is easier for me to get moving in the morning with exercise and also just getting out of bed. Processed foods like chips, crackers, bread, and animal products such as chicken, red meats, and dairy are “heavier” foods. These foods take longer to digest and lead to feeling sluggish. If I eat some brownies made from a box, which I have to admit, are a weakness of mine, I don’t feel like taking the dog for a walk. Poor Bootsi :(. I also typically need to take a nap after the brownies. It is like a domino effect, eating lighter, plant-based foods increase the likelihood of exercising, moving your body, and getting out the door.
Gift 7: My Nose Is No Longer Stuffed
For the longest time, I walked around with a stuffy nose. I thought it was normal. I also suffered from seasonal allergies, especially in the spring. One spring, I could barely breathe out of either nostril. It was horrible, and I was using over the counter nasal decongestants and allergy medicine that are probably awful for you. At that time, I was eating more dairy, seafood, products from a box, and minimal real food. Now, I don’t have seasonal allergies, no over the allergy or nasal medicine and I don’t have a stuffy nose.
Gift 8: I Learned How To Cook
I was never a good cook and my family would notoriously mock my cooking efforts and among my friends we would laugh about the dinners I would make the kids. Now, I am not claiming, that I am a chef, but I have learned to make many different plant-based meals including soups, roasted vegetables, stir-frys, vegetable lo mein, healthier nachos, and yummy sweets to name a few. Why do I cook? Because what I eat is very important to me. I know what the ingredients are and also enjoy the food. When I order out or go to a restaurant, 9 out of 10 times, I really do not enjoy it as much as my own food.
One of my first soups, I made that inspired me to keep cooking was a lentil soup from Cookie & Kate, one of my favorite recipe blogs. The flavor, spices, and consistency of the soup were so perfect that I felt like a chef and it was easy. Learning how to prepare my own meals, was a slow process but now it is routine and I enjoy it. I often use youtube videos for how-to tips along with recipe blogs. It is so easy to learn how to cook a meal. The first step is to just get started: pick a simple recipe that looks good, purchase the ingredients, and give it a try. So many options are available eating plant-based!
Gift 9: My Skin Glows
My skin since eating plant-based eating does not break out and has a glow to it. I often get compliments on my skin and people will ask me what I use on my skin. As a matter of fact, on the day I am writing this, my sister stopped by to say hi and said, “wow, your skin looks great”. Foods such as processed sugar, dairy, additives, etc, combined with hardly any fruits and vegetables in the diet, increase inflammation in the body, and acne, poor skin complexion is a sign of inflammation. Experiment for yourself, take pictures pre and post plant-based eating and see the difference, and also notice the number of people commenting on your skin.
Gift 10: I Don’t Take Any Medications
Lastly, the 10th gift is that I do not take any medications. Many people in my age group take medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. An old guy friend a few years older than me was on cholesterol and blood pressure medications and had expressed interest in eating more plant-based but said “it is so easy to take a pill”. Is it really? Doctor visits, side effects of medications, quality of life, etc. potential heart attacks, feeling tired, poor sleep, does not sound easy to me!
Plus medications do not cure “diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. These medications manage the symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause. Food can either be medicine for the body or toxic. A plant-based diet can help heal the body with no negative side effects and many amazing positive side effects.
WRAPPING IT UP
These 10 gifts were an unexpected bonus when shifting to a plant-based diet and it is these fabulous gifts that keep me going plant-based. The quality of my daily life is so much better and I am ten years older!
Let me know your thoughts about this article and if you have any questions. Also, please share if you have experienced any “gifts” from your plant-based eating experience. I would love to hear about it!