Ever since I went vegan four years ago, I’ve tried to put into words what happened when I went from continuously attempting to follow the latest diet fad or plan, to listening to my heart and embracing a whole food, plant based diet. There was this “holy crap, I’ve found the secret … why isn’t everyone getting it” kind of feeling, coupled with a sense of happiness and contentment that I had finally found a way of eating that could provide the best of both worlds; a healthy system on the inside with a vibrant look on the outside while being able to eat a lot of food (because I’m always hungry) that was varied and delicious and provided me tons of energy and enjoyment.
Every time I survey my community about their biggest struggles when trying to commit to a healthy lifestyle is how to stay consistent. I mean life happens right? All of a sudden you get invited to a wedding with a six course menu, then there’s that vacation in Mexico where you’re bathing in tequila and tacos, and upon your return a blizzard hits out of nowhere and you’re snowed in… which naturally requires at least three bottles of full bodied red wine, pizza and chocolate cupcakes to keep you nourished for the full 24 hour duration.
Why do we develop such an unnatural, obsessive relationship with food?
The problem is three fold:
- what most people are feeding their bodies when they go on a diet or follow a “plan”, is not what the body needs and wants, but is unnatural, restrictive and frankly, not very exciting or tasty. My own memories from when I was eating bland chicken and broccoli five times a day, to looking “forward” to the day when I could ‘cheat, makes me a bit sad, really. When they say ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, they are forgetting that we don’t have to compromise to be healthy, there is in fact ways to be able to eat flavorful food (and enough of it) and still meet your health goals. This is what happens when you embrace a plant based diet.
- Secondly, there is not a deeper reason or why behind the desire to get “healthy”. Because what is healthy to you? And why do you want to be healthy? I’m not talking about a superficial goal of wanting to lose x amount of lbs so you can look hot while you’re at your college reunion event, there has to be a bigger, long lasting acumen. For instance, to me healthy means I’m healthy not just on a physical level, but also happy, content, relaxed, fulfilled and able to enjoy myself and detaching from other people’s expectations or pressures. Mental stress so often manifests into physical ailments, but this is also what is being minimized and devalued so often by society and even health professionals. Another big ‘why’ for me, is that I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of other beings’, mainly animals, or the pollution and destruction of our environment. I cherish everything that lives on this earth with us, and it motivates me to make better, more compassionate choices. When you find a bigger reason for the way you eat, live and love – you will not struggle with cravings for cheese, steak and ice cream, but revel in all the cruelty free, plant based options we are so lucky to have available to us!
- Which brings me to the last point; people often resort to food that will give them a ‘quick fix’ or pleasure, because they are unhappy in other areas of their lives. Food becomes an unconscious addiction. Maybe they feel unfulfilled and underutilized in their job, or perhaps they have settled into a relationship they deep down know is wrong for them, but are in it because of convenience, or they feel like they are living and doing for everybody else, with no time for themselves. Many women I work with came to me because they felt lost, had forgotten who they really are, what they love to do and what lights them up. So they resorted to the only thing that would cheer them up (at least temporarily) and not disappoint: food. This is why I emphasize my work on self awareness so much in my coaching; it’s the key that will unlock so many answers, and make life a whole lot easier when navigating the road to achieving a joyful state.
I read somewhere that “dieting” is when you eat foods that make you sad. Now how depressing is that? Why do we do this to ourselves?!
The issue I see that happens most frequently when women try to go on a “diet”, is that these plans are a) cookie cutter, which means it does not account for your unique schedule, lifestyle, preferences or overall situation, b) terribly boring where you eat the same three bland foods over and over again, which then leads to vitamin deficiencies and cravings which then leads to c) not being sustainable. You end up under a pile of Cheetos, Oreo cookies and ice cream tubs because your body is screaming “what the hell is going on here?? feed us what we need to thrive!!”
There is so much pressure and obligation when someone says “I’m going on a diet”. Because the underlying implication is that now, all fun ends, no food is ever going to be enjoyable, only endured, I have to stop being myself because I’m on a mission to reach a state that I am not even sure I will truly reach or enjoy. But of course, it won’t last forever. So you see how people trick themselves into thinking that a ‘diet’ is temporary, that when they’ve championed through those tough 12 weeks, they can pat themselves on the shoulder saying “I did it man, let’s go get a beer and some nachos?” I mean, what’s the point of those past weeks then? Was it for show? For whom?
The idea should be to want to live fully and eat the foods that provide your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals it screams for so you can be in a high vibrational, optimal state of health both physically and mentally. The goal should be to look forward to every meal, to be grateful for and excited about what’s on your plate, and to feel happiness in your soul that you are not causing any harm to anyone because of what you are eating. That to me, is health.
When I went vegan, one of my biggest concern as a chef and food lover, was that my choices would be severely limited. And that I could never enjoy the flavors I had grown to love so much in dishes that reminded me of my childhood and fun, social gatherings with friends and family. I visualized having to eat salads and dry pastas for the rest of my life, but since I went vegan for the animals, I was willing to give it a try. As I started delving into my new world, meeting vegan chefs, food bloggers, nutritionists and other people passionate about this lifestyle, I began realizing that my fears were unfounded. In fact, the opposite happened; I discovered a whole new world of creative and delicious dishes and ways to prepare foods I had never even thought of before! I was also ecstatic to learn that the classic dishes I thought I had to give up, could easily be veganized and tasting exactly the same!
As with so many other things, the fears in our heads are much worse than reality. There is ALWAYS a solution to a problem, as long as you are willing to stay open minded, be flexible and ready for change so you can grow and improve.
For me, food has become so much more fun and rewarding since I embraced a plant based diet which is why I’ve devoted my life to sharing it with others. My fears held me back for years in making a change, because I had made up a fake reality of what my life would be like if I gave up certain foods. How silly I now feel, knowing what the real truth it. That doesn’t mean I beat myself up over it, it has actually helped me not taking so long making “scary” decisions in other parts of my life because I now know that change is good and makes life so much more interesting and rewarding.
I know a lot of my clients have the same fears when considering doing the switch; that they have to say goodbye to their favorite dishes, perhaps one of the few things that really bring them comfort and joy, and that they will not know where to begin or what to eat and that life will stop being fun. I get it. But I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I would be happy to talk to you about what your concerns are, what you need support around and help with. Don’t let fear of the unknown rule your health, happiness and life. Drop the plans, and say hello to PLANTS!
Visit me at sunnygandara.com to learn more about me and how I work!