For the past 7 weeks I have been following a majority plant based diet which has yielded incredible results in more ways than I could have imagined. I recently made an instagram post about the progress i've made and a few other thoughts i've had about being plant based and the responses have been crazy, so I figured i'd make a more detailed post about my experience.
To start, I want to put it out there that I don't consider myself to be an expert on this topic, and everything expressed in this post is what I have personally researched and experimented with.
Fix Your Gut
I was experiencing some reoccurring bacterial issues which at first, I was pretty embarrassed about but I quickly realized that a lot of people, especially women experience the same problems, we just never talk about them. It turns out that I had a candida overgrowth in my gut and rather than continuing to use OTC medication that clearly wasn't healing the problem, I started reading up on gut health and the gut micro biome.
I have two friends that are reps for a probiotic company called Plexus, and they both make posts on facebook about the benefits of probiotics and taking care of your gut. Not gonna lie, most of the time when I saw these posts I would read a few lines then keep the thumb scrolling (Sorry Caitlin/Melissa) until I saw this picture pop up on my timeline one day.
This clogged pipe is supposed to be a representation of the build up that occurs in our gut over time if we never clean it out. *This picture had me sold on the product before I even read the caption.
I was so grossed out by the clogged pipe picture I immediately ordered probiotics from my friend (hit me up if you're interested and i'll send you her way) hoping they would be the answer to my candida problem.
As mentioned, I started doing more research on gut health and found that poor gut health correlates to a lot of the daily, negative symptoms we experience. Allergies, acne, sickness, lack of energy, poor moods, etc. all link back to our gut. I also found that certain foods and the way we eat can also impact our gut health. After about two months, I started seeing results from the probiotics I was taking. As happy as I was with the results, I didn't like the idea of always taking pills to maintain a healthy gut, and I didn't want to worry about the bacterial problems I was having resurface.
This is what lead me to plant based.
What is a plant based diet?
'A plant based diet is based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil' [Via Forks Over Knives]
After entertaining the idea of being vegan, I chose to go the 'plant based omnivore' route. This means that I still consume some meat (usually chicken and fish), and eggs and the rest of what I consume is plant based...for the most part.
How did I do it?
Going into it, I knew cutting back on meat would be the hardest thing to do as I was already eating meat at least 3 times a day. I made one of my goals to only eat meat for dinner because I figured eating eggs with my breakfast and a protein shake (plant based, not whey) for lunch would hold me over. I also had to keep in mind that just because I was saving meat for dinner, didn't mean that I could eat a whole chicken in one sitting and I still had to monitor my portion of meat, otherwise it would defeat the purpose.
My second goal was to have at least one vegetable in every meal. Before I started this, I wasn't eating terribly bad, but I also wasn't loading up on fruits and veggies how I probably should have been. I knew there were only a handful of veggies I liked to eat, so I made a sub goal of trying new and different veggies as well.
*I didn't have a set start and end date that I was going to experiment with eating this way for. My goal was just to see if I could even maintain doing it for more than a few days.
What i'm eating
I've had a bunch of people reaching out asking if I could make them a plant based meal plan, about the foods i'm eating, and if I could post recipes. Throughout the years i've experimented with a few popular diets (paleo, bodybuilding bro diets, counting macros) but I honestly think that following a plant based diet isn't something you can put on a paper schedule for people. I could be wrong, but I feel like this journey is only enjoyable if you're able to navigate it yourself and figure out the foods that work best for you.
Although i'm not planning on making any meal plans, I will list some of my current go to's below. If you're interested in recipes and some of the foods that i've randomly created from playing around in the kitchen, follow me on Instagram and check out my story [@tara.nicole1]. I try to post the food i'm eating at least once a day so that might help if you are looking for ideas.
*Please note that majority of the time, I keeps it simple. I work a lot and don't always have the time or the energy to cook an extravagant meal and i'm more than fine with rotating between the same 4 meals throughout the week
Veggies: Most green veggies. Collard greens (raw or sautéed, not how my grandma used to cook them lol) bell peppers, broccoli, and green beans I could eat every day and never get tired of them. I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and have incorporated new veggies in my diet just for variety, but those are the mains.
Fruit: Simple gal on the fruit grind. Apples, strawberries, avocado (did yall know its technically a fruit?!), pineapple, blueberries...you get it
Legumes: Black beans, Lentils, cashews/peanuts
Whole grains: Brown rice, oats, whole grain/sprouted breads, I typically don't enjoy quinoa but Trader Joe's has a quinoa +black bean chip and its fireeeee
Animal sources: Chicken (I try to do free range as much as possible), shrimp
This would be my staple breakfast. As mentioned, I am still eating eggs so almost everyday I make 3 pasture raised eggs with potatoes, collard greens, bell peppers, and onions with a serving of steel cut oats, fruit, peanut butter, chia seeds, and cinnamon. I cook my oats with half almond milk, half water.
The biggest fear I had was probably in regards to protein intake. For as long as i've been involved with fitness, i've always read and have "known" that you need anywhere from .8-1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain and build muscle. I have always aimed to consume 120g of protein per day to meet my protein goal, but i'm starting to question the validity of that protein "golden rule". Right now, I probably consistently hit 55-70g of protein per day and i'm more ripped than i've ever been in my life. Things like this are the reason i'm not willing to offer up any advice to clients or people interested because I myself am still trying to figure everything out. At this point, i'm honestly just confused and feel like everything i've ever known about protein in regards to muscle is completely wrong. If anyone has any insight, please feel free to let me know!
What have I changed?
Before transitioning to a plant based diet, I ate meat with every meal, doing intermittent fasting, and was counting macros. I wasn't eating "bad" but I used tracking macronutrients as a way to fit in foods that are honestly just shitty but in moderation. If you aren't familiar with counting macronutrients, its a way for you to sneak in junkier foods while staying within a certain amount of protein, carbs, and fats.
For the most part, I have eliminated dairy which was the struggle because cheese and greek yogurt were staples for me. I'm saying for the most part because there have been a few mornings where i've had a muffin from the sacramento Co-op (seriously the best blueberry muffin of my life) and I know the ingredients have dairy. I also still cook with Ghee butter on occasion. I've also only had ice cream a handful of times in the last 7 weeks, which is good considering i'd have ice cream multiple times a week (if it fits your macros, right?)
As mentioned in my instagram post, i've lost 13lbs in 7 weeks. My intentions for starting a plant based diet weren't to lose weight and that was the furthest thing from my mind. I feel like my energy levels are the same, or maybe they are better? Other than the weight loss, I think the biggest change has been with me being bloated and my bowel regularity. Before changing my diet I was incredibly irregular and in the mornings my stomach was always very bloated.
Most of the people that have reached out to me after seeing my instagram post were looking for a quick fix and I gave everyone the same answer. I didn't choose to go on a diet for 6 or 7 weeks, I chose to make a lifestyle change. It sounds cheesy as hell but its the honest truth. I didn't go into this with the hopes of losing weight, my reasoning was that I had another problem I wanted to get in check. Staying consistent with the goal I had of fixing my candida problem by eating better, resulted in the loss of weight. Oftentimes, people see someone who's made incredible progress and they want in, thinking it will be a quick fix and thats just now how things work. I've also had people ask me specifically what am I following, or where I found it and I technically am not following any sort of plan. I wrote down goals of what I wanted to accomplish (cutting out meat, eating more veggies) and that lead to me figuring out ways that I could eat this way why staying full enough to not binge on foods later.
This isn't a post to say that everyone needs to follow a plant based diet, but I do think that everyone needs to be more conscious of the foods we're putting into our bodies. If you're looking for bodily results, know that everything is going to take time and consistency. The progress i've made from changing my diet may be different from someone else's progress but at the end of the day it comes down to consistency and having a greater reason of why you're wanting to do something.
Strive to make changes to your life that are lasting, and be willing to be "in it" for the long run and not just the time frame that you think changes should be happening. If you are looking to change your diet, regardless of what it is, my biggest piece of advice would be to take things slowly and don't be in a rush to see progress.
I'm hoping this post has addressed some of the questions i've been hit with the past few days, and if you have any additional questions please reach out and I will try my hardest to help. Also, if you are interested in online personal training, please check out the "train with me" tab or reach out if you have questions. If you're interested in some of the foods that I cook/eat on a regular basis, make sure to follow me on instagram @tara.nicole1 and check my story.