Your guest poster, Tyler Read, has hands-on experience with transitioning to a plant-based diet. It took him almost 4 months to do it and claims it was ‘quite an experience’. If he were to do it again he’d have a more educated approach, which would make the process so much easier.
Dieting has been and will always be a hot topic. In a world where 1 in 3 adults are considered overweight and meat consumption is at an all-time high, there’s clearly a need for a change.
As a personal trainer, I see many people struggling with crash diets that are supposed to perform miracles overnight. Some work, some don’t, and most seriously mess up your mood, social life and your metabolism.
When that happens, you tend to give up and gain back the weight you (might have) lost. You’re back to square one, if not worse.
What is a plant-based diet? How you can try plant-based eating? What are the benefits of a plant-based diet? In my guest post, I’m going to cover those questions around plant-based lifestyles.
Let’s start with the beginning.
Why a plant-based diet?
Most my clients want to lose weight. That’s why most people start working out. Sure, there are other benefits to exercise, but weight loss is the main reason.
What most of them don’t know is that the time and effort put in the gym is half (if not less) of the battle. If your diet isn’t healthy you won’t weight no matter how hard you train. Regardless of what anyone is tells you, weight loss (and weight gain) is all down to calories in versus calories out. It is simple math and there’s no other way around it.
If you want to lose weight you need a caloric deficit. I.e. Eat fewer calories than your body needs. Exercising can help you because you’ll be burning more calories, but it won’t matter if you’re eating the wrong foods.
The reason plant-based diets work great is it’s a much less calorically dense diet. You can eat more food, which fills you up faster while eating fewer calories.
I’m not telling you to go all in. That’s a matter of personal choice. But I encourage you to eat as many plant-based foods as possible.
It’s difficult to change old eating habits. I had a hard time doing it, but I worked through it. I learned how you can make the whole process a lot smoother. Following are my top tips for transitioning to a plant-based diet.
Tip #1 Increase your fruit and veggie intake
I always recommend slowly progressing from one stage to another. Transitioning to a different eating style is no exception.
For me, the first step was to start eating more fruits and vegetables. If you eat just one piece of fruit a day, start eating two. Add a salad to your meals.
It seems like small steps, but it makes a difference. It’s all about taking baby steps and focusing on progression. I even recommend setting weekly goals.
For example, set a goal of eating 1 serving of fruits and 1 serving of vegetables each day. On week number two, try to eat 2 servings of fruits and 2 of vegetables each day.
After one month you’ll be eating enough fruits and veggies to replace one of your meals. This leads us to the second tip.
Tip #2 Have one plant-based meal a day
Once you’ve added more fruits and veggies to your diet, the next step is to replace one of your meals with a 100% plant-based meal. It can be any meal if it fits your schedule and lifestyle.
I recommend starting with lunch because it likely won’t affect your social life. I don’t recommend dinner because having dinner or lunch with friends and family is common. When you eat with others, you’ll be tempted to eat what everyone else does.
On the other hand, lunch is a meal you typically have by yourself at work or at school. It’s the perfect meal for big bowl of veggies with beans and quinoa or humble PB&J.
Making it this far is an accomplishment. If you feel like this is the best you can do, congrats! If you want to take things a step further, the next step is to decrease processed foods from your diet.
Tip #3 Get rid of processed food
The third step is to swap all the processed foods with non-processed foods. This tends to be the most difficult step. Spend as much time on it as you need. From my experience, this one takes more time to get used to.
To begin, replace soda with water and/or tea. Most of us don’t drink enough water. That alone is a major improvement. I recommend setting goals, such as drinking a glass of water every hour. This fills you up so won’t need to drink other beverages anyway.
Next, cut out refined grains and sugars. They provide little (or no) nutritional value and you can easily swap that with whole grains and natural sugars. Try quinoa, brown rice, millet, wheat berries and wholegrain bread to replace white bread and rice. Use fruit to sweeten your food instead of table sugar, honey or maple syrup.
It’s important to swap with foods you enjoy eating. Find something that you love eating and stick with it.
Tip #4 Get your family involved
This tip should go in parallel with all the others. Having the support of the people around you is really, really important.
This doesn’t mean they need to make the switch too. If you can convince them: kudos! But at the very least you want them to understand and respect the changes you’re making. This can mean you have your own area in the fridge or your own little kitchen cabinet where you keep your food. It’s helpful to have your area so you’re less tempted by the unhealthy, refined foods still lurking around the house.
Make your kitchen work in your favor, not against you.
Bonus Tip: Addressing the protein intake concern
Most know that protein plays a major role in muscle building and recovery. Many “fitness experts” recommend a protein intake of 200+ grams. This is outrageous!
Many fitness gurus are bashing vegans and vegan diets, claiming that plants aren’t as rich in protein as meat, dairy and eggs.
Studies show you need around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, a 180-pound person needs 108 to 144 grams. Those numbers are more achievable with a whole food, plant-based diet. High protein foods include soy, lentils, black beans (and other beans), nuts, seeds and peanut butter.
I’ve been following the P90X and P90X3 programs while on a plant-based diet. I haven’t noticed any slowdown in terms of performance or muscle development. In fact, some people even notice an acceleration in their gains when they eat more nutritiously.
>> Read more about the deficiencies in Sara’s article, Nutrient Deficiencies and Plant-Based Diets <<
Keep in mind that there’s no miracle formula to weight loss or healthy eating. It takes time and dedication. If someone is trying to tell you otherwise, they’re ignorant or trying to sell you a scam. Be patient when you decide to make any radical change.
Lastly, remember: baby steps. Make one change at a time and give it time to become a habit. Then move on to the next change and to the next one, until you reached your goal.
That’s all there is to it really.
About the Author
Tyler has been working as a certified personal trainer for over 10 years. He specializes in weight loss and functional training with women between the ages of 30 – 65. Tyler enjoys helping others become industry leading personal trainers through his website PTPioneer.com. You can also catch him on YouTube.