“I Can Have It, But I Don’t Want It.”
I have a very frustrating teenage daughter. I love the kid. I do. She’s adorably, annoyingly frustrating. She’s starting her sophomore year this week and I’m bracing myself for yet another year of the battle of the grades. Here’s what typically happens each year for has long as I care to remember.
How many of you have teenagers who do this. When it comes to grades ,she’ll let them slip down to D’s and sometimes F’s (Not all of them, usually math and science) and scramble during the last month of the semester to bring them back up to passing grades (she always manages to bring them back up).
I often propose what seem like common sense questions to her: Why don’t you just keep steady with your good grades throughout the entire quarter? Why do you wait until the last-minute to get your grades where they need to be? Haven’t you learned that it’s so much easier to just stay on top of your grades during the semester and not have to stress about failing? She really doesn’t grasp that when so many F’s and D’s have accumulated against her, it doesn’t matter if she gets one or two A’s at the end. It isn’t enough to makeup for a semester worth of damage. What she ends up doing is gambling with her academic future.
Doesn’t that just sound irritating? Ugh! The trials of parenthood. But you know what irritates me even more than that? Adults do the same thing with their lives. Unless we live a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle we choose to accept D’s and F’s in ‘health class’. The only difference between that and what my daughter does is we’re gambling with our lives.
Every year we live, is a semester where we either acquired a passing bill of health, or we failed miserably. Every meal is a pass or fail, and there is no grading curve. Every bite takes you one step closer to sickness or health. And the longer we make deposits in the bank of sickness, the harder it is to make a transfer to our health account.
We do this for 30, 40, or 50 years. Then the report card comes. We find ourselves with Cancer, Degenerative Diseases, or even a Fatal heart attack. C’s D’s and F’s for a life time of poor eating choices. We scramble, much like my teenage daughter to change our fate before it’s too late. Sometimes she does extra credit, sometimes it’s coming in to make up work on a Saturday, and sometimes it’s praying like heck getting an A on the final will bring her to a passing grade. Sometimes she cries, begs, and barters with teachers,aiming for just enough to get her through until the next year.
We get equally desperate. We cry, beg and barter. Maybe with our doctors, health professionals, and even God. We try chemo (a carcinogen to get rid of cancer? Who thought that up, and more importantly how did they convince us to use it!), radiation (who thought that up and… you see where I’m going), and we cut out important internal organs (who thought…..).
Not so fun fact: Did you know that Doctors receive incentives for prescribing chemo therapy to patients? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pay for some Doctor’s tahitian vacation with my health, do you?
Even at this point it’s not too late to nutritionally save your health. But why wait until it gets this dismal? Why gamble with the most precious and valuable thing you have? Your health. Keep steady with good nutrition during each semester (or phase) of your life and watch how you shine! Don’t be that silly teenager that lives as if her actions will never catch up with her. Make the best choices everyday. There is no makeup test in the game of life. We don’t get held back, we can’t retake a class. We get cancer, we get heart disease, and we get sick. Make choices as if they will impact your health later in life, because that’s exactly what happens. We are not victims of fate or chance. We are active participants in deciding our health destiny. Don’t gamble on ‘good’ genes. Get the A’s all year every year. You’ll never worry about failing again.
It may seem overwhelming to begin a plant-based diet and I often get asked “Where should I start?” So here are my five best tips for leaning into a plant-based diet.
1. Educate yourself.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘knowledge is power?’ Well, it is. The more you educate yourself about the benefits of a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle to more likely you’ll be to make long-term changes. Without educating yourself your resolve will start to crumble under the first sign of pressure. Read as many books and watch as many documentaries as you can on the subject. Here are a few of our favorites:
Books: Eat to Live, The End of Dieting, Super Immunity, The China Study, The Food Revolution, and Crazy Sexy Diet.
Documentaries: Hungry for Change, Forks Over Knives, and Fat Sick and Nearly Dead.
2. Have a solid support system.
I’ve heard it be said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely. You want to surround yourself with people who support your healthy lifestyle. Misery loves company. People will try their best to derail you, because they wish they could do what you’re doing. Find a buddy who’s willing to make the changes with you. You can share the journey and lean on each other if you feel overwhelmed.
3. Have a pantry overhaul.
If it’s in the house, you’ll eat it. Even if you think you have an iron will of plant-based resolve, keeping tempting food in the house is asking for trouble. I’ve been plant-based for many years. It took about five years to be able to keep a treat in the house without feeling the slightest tug of temptation. Stock your fridge with an abundance of fruits and veggies. Have your pantry overflowing with superseeds, nuts, and beans.
4. Plan, Plan, Plan ahead.
If you couldn’t tell from the title, planning ahead is key. When hunger sets in and there is nothing on hand, bad decisions happen. If you know you’re going to be out running errands, grab an apple and a handful of nuts before you walk out the door. If you know you’ll be at work late wrapping up a last-minute project bring extra food along to keep you satisfied. Remember fruits and veggies are the original fast food. Prep meals and snacks the night before, boil beans and make chilis over the weekend. Pack five salads on Sunday night in individual Tupperware for easy morning grab and go. Make it a priority to commit 100% of yourself to the new healthy lifestyle. If you start to feel deprived tell yourself I can have it, I just don’t want it.
5. Take it one day at a time.
Isn’t it funny how we never live in the present. We’re either longing for the past, or looking forward to the future. Just think about today. Today I’m going to make the best food choices. Today I’m going to have a fresh, vibrant salad instead of a burger. Today I’m going to grab an apple and peanut butter instead of snuggling up to the company vending machine(which will only lead to heartbreak). Thinking about long-term eating habits can be daunting enough to make you run back with open arms to that comforting bag of potato chips or tub of Ben and Jerry’s. In just a few short weeks you’ll find that a sweet banana date smoothie makes your mouth water. You’ll look forward to foods you never imagined liking. Food will start to smell and taste better. You’ll look better. All of those things will come, in time. Let’s just worry about today.