Becoming a Vegetarian: Overcoming the Fear of the UnknownPosted | 2 comments
As I mentioned in my article (Getting Started with a Whole Food, Plant Based Lifestyle) last week, I have come to realize that our relationship with food can have a tremendous impact on our well-being, health and spiritual growth.
All food contains and gives life. We humans are also life giving and life containing.
All plants, animals and humans depend on the elements of the sun, the earth, soil, water and air to live and thrive. As we deepen our Spiritual Awareness we also acknowledge the interdependence and connection among plants, animals, human beings, the mystery of life and our connection to this life force.
One of the best ways to gain the greatest health benefits from our food is to activate the healing energy of mindfulness, appreciation and love each time we eat.
Deciding whether to implement a vegetarian, vegan or whole foods/plant based lifestyle is a very personal decision. Only you can decide what’s right for you but understanding some key concepts may help you with your decision.
- We are more than just a physical body; we are a spiritual source.
- By nourishing the body with healthy foods, we nourish the spark of life within the body.
- The body is Sacred and therefore, the nutrition of the body is also Sacred.
- Our relationship to food teaches us a great deal about who we are and how we live on this earth.
Note: There are some slight differences between a vegetarian lifestyle, a vegan lifestyle and a whole foods/plant based lifestyle, which I will talk about in later articles, but for now, just know that I fall into all three categories for slightly different reasons.
For me, following a vegetarian, vegan and whole foods/plant based lifestyle is a great way I can voice my compassion and respect for life through my food choices. This lifestyle has also become an integral aspect of my spirituality.
There was a time in our recent history when people needed animal meat and their hide to survive the harsh elements. Today’s modern conveniences, clothing, shelter and abundant food sources are readily available to us here in America and other prosperous countries, so this is no longer the case. Today we have “options” and with these options the power to choose differently! With this being said, I have chosen to nourish and enrich my body with whole foods grown directly from the earth, soil, sun, water and fresh air.
Choosing a vegetarian whole food/plant based lifestyle is also a pathway towards optimal health as I omit foods high in saturated fats, such as meat and dairy.
The good news is that you get to decide how YOU want to structure, implement and navigate your nutritional voyage. It’s your personal journey, so listen to your own body wisdom and the promptings of your spirit to help guide you in making compassionate and healthy food choices.
I have to admit, that in the beginning, I did have some fears, reservations and misconceptions about this way of eating. I want to share them with you in case you have had some of the same concerns.
Misconception One: Cost
I use to think that maintaining a vegetarian – vegan – whole food/plant based lifestyle would be too expensive.
But I have discovered that beans, other legumes, whole grains and veggies are a lot less expensive than meats and they’re jam packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. I mostly buy them in bulk so they are even less expensive that way.
Misconception Two: Vegetarian plant based foods won’t contain enough protein.
One of my main concerns in switching to a vegetarian lifestyle is that I wouldn’t be getting enough protein in my diet to adequately keep my body fit and healthy if I eliminated meat and dairy.
I still eat eggs, that I receive from a local resident who cares for her chickens in a nurturing environment but I have learned through my own experience that animal-based protein is NOT my only option for complete proteins and/or keeping my body fit and healthy.
A complete protein is one that delivers all nine essential amino acids and these amino acids are found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes.
For example, a cup of cooked lentils and a cup of cooked black beans each pack 18 grams of protein; some veggie burgers pack 13g of protein; while 4 ounces of firm tofu packs 11g of protein. I also add a high quality plant based protein powder to my smoothies and oatmeal cookies that yield 23g of protein. I get my protein powder at my local health food store. I will discuss this in later articles with vegetarian – vegan – whole food – plant based recipes as well.
Foods that don’t supply all nine amino acids are processed foods, i.e. starches and vegetables stripped of their fiber like sugar, white flour and white breads.
I also discovered that as long as I’m taking in enough calories from the whole foods that I’m eating, I’m taking in “plenty” of protein. I have not lost any muscle and/or felt depleted, vitamin deficient and/or lethargic since incorporating a vegetarian – whole foods – plant based lifestyle. I also take in a high quality multi-vitamin for added supplementation.
Misconception Three: Too many carbs will make me experience unwanted weight gain.
In my experience I have discovered that this is not the case. I have actually lost unwanted fat while maintaining muscle.
Whole plant based foods are rich in necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; they are high in fiber and protein as well. The fiber in these foods helps slow the digestion of carbohydrates. This means you don’t experience the ‘bad’ effects of processed (or stripped) carbs like a candy bar or a sugary soda that make you gain the extra weight, or cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then plummet.
Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are also high in complex (or intact) carbohydrates, which is what our body needs for ENERGY.
Misconception Four: Unwanted hunger cravings
I thought that eating only whole -plant based food would make me feel hungry all the time. I later discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I found this way of eating to be totally satisfying and fulfilling!
When I eat plenty of whole plant-based foods, I’m loading up on fiber. Fiber is really what makes you feel full; it fills up your stomach and stabilizes your blood sugar levels and prevents cravings.
Legumes (i.e. foods like beans, peas and lentils) are especially good because they are composed of hunger-satisfying protein and have uniquely high levels of fiber and resistant starch (carbohydrates that are not broken down by our digestive system).
So with all my fears and misconceptions dispelled, I discovered staying fit and healthy boils down to one simple truth; A vegetarian – whole food – plant based lifestyle is low in saturated fat, free of cholesterol, and rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants!
Keep in mind that for most people, a gradual change of diet is easier for the mind, body and spirit. Giving up meat is obviously the first step to becoming a vegetarian but there’s nothing that says you have to do it all at once. Quitting cold turkey (pun intended), while efficient, is a bit extreme and may make the change more difficult for you.
Today’s tip: If you normally eat meat every day, cut down to five or six times a week, then three or four, then one or two times a week to gradually make these changes. At this point you’ll probably be ready to make the transition, but if not, keep working on it until you are!
I hope you take a little extra time today to watch this sweet video clip “Animal Farm Sanctuary.”
This short clip is about 5 year old (Arie) who comes face-to-face with a group of wonderful animals when he explores a real-life animal farm sanctuary.
Peace be with you, and may you always find light on your path, good health, and true friends to make the journey with you.
See you next Week!
Spiritual Practitioner of Healthy Living