What I'm learning about eating mostly plants is this: I still have a lot to learn.
But reluctantly I admit, I’m a fan. What started out as a healthy Lent challenge with my husband two years ago, quickly morphed into a lifestyle I didn’t mean to start. But I truly have come to appreciate the wonder of fresh produce. To see the whole backstory and original post, you can check it out here.
Maybe kale and cabbage aren't your thing. They weren’t mine either. But eating for wellness felt like one thing I could control among little else in this season of life. For real, plant-eating can be an explosive topic. Just tossing around the words "vegan" and "vegetarian" can sometimes lead to an all-out smackdown among friends. Regardless of which camp you fall in, I have come to learn people have lots of questions and I'm confident I don't have all the answers.
Most importantly, I'm not trying to change anyone. Food is extremely personal and sacred. As it should be, it's what fuels us, sustains us, comforts us, and inspires us. Food is home, family, memory, and love. I can't look at a box of Stove Top stuffing and not get weepy for my mom. I love the smell of frying bacon because my dad started almost every recipe that way. With complete respect and care for however you eat, here are my humble takeaways from two years of plant life.
It’s Not the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket.
My husband loved it when friends asked about the 20 pounds he shed from going plant-based. But for me, it wasn't about numbers, it’s about fueling my body in a better way. Eating plants will not cover every health challenge you have, it's not the "magic" and it doesn’t mean you will instantly have a perfect body. I still have high cholesterol and still struggle with aches, pains, and insomnia. But making plants central does give me more energy and help me feel better in my body. Still eating plants is only one part, things like sleep, movement, community, faith, play, and laughter are also just as vital for taking great care of yourself.
Eat Like Grandpa.
I love watching how my 97-year-old father-in-law eats – with complete joy. He sits down, breathes deeply, and notices everything on his plate. He eats mindfully, slowly, and truly savors each bite. Because of the care and attention plant-eating requires, I noticed that meals have taken on more reverence in our family. In short, we are starting to eat more like Grandpa. When I pay attention to the color, texture, and flavors on my plate, I enjoy it more. Eating plants has invited a depth of sensory experience to our meals that we didn't appreciate before.
Cheat with Joy Sometimes.
I ate steak on Christmas Day. My college-aged son longed for a steak this holiday season, so I obliged by grilling a giant steak garnished with lovely blue cheese. When he offered me a bite, I gladly savored every bite. I didn't need to eat an entire Porterhouse, but having a small amount felt like a fantastic treat. Most importantly, I want my food choices to be motivated by love, not by guilt or pressure. Our friends and family want to be with us for our company, not to be forced to eat a certain way. My hope is to lead with love, not to stiff-arm others with restrictions. No one else needs to know about my food choices but me.
If You Are Curious About Plant Life - Start Where You Are
If you love the idea of plant life but aren’t sure where to start, think about one tiny change you can make. Maybe it’s having an apple before dinner, or eating a soup or salad first. Perhaps it’s Meatless Monday or meat only on the weekends. Think about what would be easy and effortless for you and your family. Try that and see how you feel. For me, we started small and simple, but found we loved it so much, it became a part of our lifestyle. Plants may not be for everyone, but you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to give it a try. They will be grateful for your example and that you might be around longer to celebrate with them.