It took me 50 years to go plant-based

50 years sounds like a long time – especially to me!  For 50 years I consumed a diverse, well-balanced diet of low carbs, meats (mostly chicken and fish but definitely had my share of steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs), cheese, and lots of vegetables and fruits.  I always loved my vegetables and they were a significant part of my meals. At times, they were the only part of my meal.  But I was far from being plant-based!

Not Feeling Great

I turned 50 in June 2020. According to my blood work and regular doctor checkups, I was the epitome of health for my age. However,  I was just not feeling great.  And it wasn’t just about a number on the scale.  I was having some upper digestive pressure that had no diagnosis, I wasn’t fitting comfortably in my clothing (it almost felt like constant bloat), I was allowing life stresses to take over, and I was getting some headaches after consuming certain foods.  For me, these things were uncomfortable and I knew I was seeking a change.

At the same time, I was watching my husband go through knee replacement surgery and recovery.  He was going down a bad path with his health.  This was difficult for me to watch as he was so healthy and fit when he was younger.  I think a great contributor to his weight gain was work stress and not effectively managing it.  He was very overweight and the blood tests from the physical prior to his surgery revealed all sorts of fun facts about high blood pressure, pre diabetes, fatty liver, and the list goes on.  After being placed on high blood pressure medicine, he had his knee surgery and went through his recovery.   He was diligent about his physical therapy and getting his knee to a place where he could start exercising again. 

Too Many Weight Loss Fads

During my 50 years, I have researched and sometimes tried all different types of weight loss, wellness, and fitness strategies.  As I mentioned, vegetables have always been part of my life – both from a food perspective and a business perspective.  Having gardens and farms taught me about the intricacy of these plants – how delicate and hardy they are at the same time.  They truly connected me to where my food came from and the power of real food.  So, I always understood and appreciated the importance of vegetables and their positive impact on our health.

The Agriculture Industry is Scary

Through the years I have watched the many documentaries that talk about our world agriculture – the good, the bad and the very ugly including:

I believe in veganism and all that it stands for.  But even with all of this knowledge and awareness, and being a farmer, agriculture buff, vegetable lover, and person who was very focused on her wellness and the health of her family…I still allowed meat to be a decent part of my daily diet.

Plant-Based Gurus

I worked at Whole Foods Market in marketing for a short period of time and helped to open up the Lake Grove, NY store.  At that time, Rip Esselstyn, author of the Engine 2 Diet, was a big contributor and was becoming very integrated into the store’s focus on healthy eating.  Each store had a nutrition representative who was helping people follow a plant-based diet full of vegetables and grains.  Rip also happened to be a triathlete and friend of Steve Tarpinian. Steve was a great friend of mine who ran the largest triathlon company in Long Island.  Steve had conveyed that he really loved Rip and believed in what he was doing.  So I continued to follow Rip’s journey as he published many books, became integrated into the Forks Over Knives Plant-Based movement, and eventually had his own line of foods that were being integrated into every aisle at Whole Foods Market.  

But – to be brutally honest – when I would think about going exclusively plant-based, I was terrified.  I had no clue how to do it.  I wasn’t the best at following recipes.  It was too intimidating and seemed way to difficult to pull off.  So I stayed with my version of a healthy diet which included meats and dairy. Rip’s emails, Forks Over Knives emails, and many other plant-based people and companies crossed my eyes on a daily basis.  But I didn’t budge at the time. I perceived it as just too much extra work! 

Walking the Hills

After my husband’s surgery, he started walking a lot more.  I walked on a daily basis already – about 2 miles per day. My daily walks were less about exercise and more about mental exercise! I needed the fresh air before launching into a full workday!   

I started walking with my husband in the evenings – and by the way, we live in a very hilly area so no matter where we walk, there are steep hills which make for great exercise!   One day I just asked him, “Would you try 30 days plant-based with me?”  I am not sure why I suggested this.  I just did.  And he said yes! So we just did it!  

Spelt Bread, Rye Berries, Cashew Ricotta, & Plant-Based Soups

I downloaded the Forks Over Knives Recipe app which is amazing because it not only has absolutely delicious recipes, it also creates a shopping list for you! I also participated in Rip’s Plant Stock 2020 (which was virtual this year).  My husband and I just figure it out each day. We are not perfect. Sometimes we eat things and don’t realize their source.  Although plant-based, oils are a big no no from a heart-health perspective. I always used oils in the past and they are included in so many prepared foods. 

Now, my husband even makes his own spelt bread.  Every Sunday we prepare his bread and a bunch of grains, rice, and vegetables for the week and make grain bowls for our lunches.  And every week we try out new recipes and perfect some old ones.  I have an amazing eggplant parmesan with a cashew ricotta recipe that is completely plant-based and oil-free!  Even the kids and family like it! 

To support our CSA at the farm, I launched farm to table soups about 5 seasons ago. At the time, I did know how healthy and valuable these soups were. We never used oils and only vegetable broth.  They were the perfect plant-based meal.  Only now do I truly realize and appreciate their real value.  For someone who is plant-based, these soups are the perfect meal on their own or over brown rice or any grain! So you better believe that HeartBeet Farms farm to table, PLANT-BASED soups will be back this winter season – now with a more focused vision!  

Our 2-Month Plant-Based Results – no exaggeration! 

And you are probably wondering what happened with our 30-day plant-based experiment.  After over 21 years of marriage, we are actually spending more time together as we walk 4 to 7 miles every evening – regardless of the weather.  It’s a great catch up time or it can also be a time to fight it out when we need to resolve something.  We also spend time on Sundays making food and researching ingredients. There are so many new ingredients that we are using that we had never heard of or didn’t know much about.  My husband loves to research this stuff!  

The best part is that we have been on our plant-based journey for 2 1/2 months now.  At the 2 month mark, my husband had lost 30 pounds, his blood pressure is down to 126/76, he is no longer taking any blood pressure medications, and the BEST PART – the house is quiet at night!!! Why you may ask???  His snoring used to be heard and felt throughout the house – it was so loud and rumbling!  And it always felt like his body was under tremendous stress from the snoring.  Now I enter the room and he literally sleeps like a baby. It is silent!!!!  And his body is actually getting real sleep!  Oh, and his stress level is significantly less because he has something to look forward to – his evening walks, preparing food, etc. He has diverted some of the work stress to a positive outlet with positive results. 

For me – I have lost about 11 pounds so far and I feel great.  I haven’t had headaches or any digestive pains or issues.  And I can put my jeans on without struggle!

It’s your choice

I would not begin to tell anyone what they should do.  My teenage kids still eat meat and I still cook it for them. Decisions about your health, your weight, the food you eat or don’t eat are very personal.  I can only speak from my experiences and hope that it inspires you to do YOUR research and figure out what is best for you and your family.  And remember that my husband and I are living a plant-based lifestyle and have a significant walking regimen that has contributed to our results.

Our plant-based journey is far from over.  Let’s see how it sustains over the long run. Let’s see how we feel.  We have a lot to learn and discover!  As long as we are having fun doing it – that’s all that counts!   And I will certainly keep you posted on our journey and our food creations!