It’s time to say ciao to the Mediterranean diet and hello to the new plan of the month. The Whole Food, Plant-Based diet is as au naturale as it gets – it makes me want to smack on strategically placed fig leaves and join a nudist colony. As a matter of fact, it’s very close to the diet God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so if you believe in creation like me, this is the oldest diet known to man… sorry my Paleo and Cavemen friends!
This is a radical departure from all the plans I’ve been on so far on my 12 in 12 journey, but I’m no stranger to it. A few years ago, I went vegetarian after my daughter, a ‘weekday vegetarian’, turned me on to a series of documentaries exposing the ugly hidden truths of the food industry and industrialized farming. I binged on those docs like I do on chips and chocolate. For a week straight I was glued to the TV devouring them all: Food, Inc., Earthlings, Forks over Knives, Vegucated, Food Matters, Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, May I Be Frank, and many more. By the time I came up for air I wanted to stop shaving my armpits, hug a tree, and free all confined animals.
I literally went “cold turkey” and didn’t ingest any animal protein for a year. I was proud to be an informed, ethical, and environmentally responsible eater, and figured I’d lose tons of weight too and exude vitality as a result. Oh contraire! Did you know vegetarians can be unhealthy too? It’s not the fruit, veggies and legumes that did me in, it was everything else I consumed.
I only asked one question before I ate something… “Did it have a face?” If the answer was “no”, then down the hatch it would go. You know what doesn’t have a face? Snickers. Ruffle potato chips. Gummie bears, because no real bears were harmed in the process. Garlic bread. Peanut M&Ms, for the protein of course. Nutella. Veggie nacho platter smothered in globs of processed cheese. Do you see where I’m going here? Technically, I was a vegetarian, but in reality I became a Carbetarian.
In my defence, that’s not how I started. I went hard-core, ate very clean at first and dropped 8 lbs. in just a few weeks. I stopped shopping at the local grocery store, and drove a little further to Whole Foods or Planet Organic. I even bought essential gadgets for a face-free kitchen, like an expensive juicer, which now sits on my counter collecting dust, a fancy-schmancy pineapple peeler, and several types of graters. I was even gifted a Spirooli (a fruit and veggie spiralizer) and a Blendtec to support my efforts.
I even planted vegetables in my sad and barren backyard! Me… the Dr. Kevorkian of plants – my home is where plants come to die, and now I was tending to them. I admit, most of them didn’t survive, but it’s true what they say about kale – they’re a hardy bunch – I think they flourished to spite my ineptitude as a gardener. If they fight that hard to survive, they must be good for us!
Other than having the BEST bowel movements (yes, I went there), my health didn’t improve much after the first few months. It wasn’t the diet’s fault, it was entirely mine. Like any diet, it’s about the choices you make, and I made poor ones. The calories were going in, but the nutrients weren’t. I ate more than I did on other diets, because I digested the foods quickly.
Four months after going vegetarian, I was diagnosed with Premature Atrial Contractions (PACs). The cardiologist asked if I made any recent lifestyle changes. I told him I eliminated meat from my diet and he suggested I start eating it again. But I wouldn’t hear it – the documentaries were still fresh in my mind and my convictions were strong.
Six months later, my condition worsened, and my vitamin D and B12 were dangerously low. Once again the cardiologist recommended putting some animal protein back in my diet, something both my family doctor and naturopath also urged. I agonized over the thought of eating meat again, but my wonky ticker was freaking me out. With a heavy flip-floppy heart, I went out and bought a single chicken breast at the organic butcher – I paid what I would have for a whole chicken at the regular grocery store, but justified it was worth it if the poor creature had a better quality of life before it became my dinner. I must have stared at it for 20 minutes before taking a bite, and when I did, I gagged and cried though the entire meal.
I’ve been back on meat for 8 months now, and my vitamin levels are back to normal. My heartbeats got better for a brief time, but now are skipping worse than ever. It’s apparent that diet doesn’t have anything to do with my irregular heartbeats, so if I choose to go back to being vegetarian after 12 in 12 it won’t influence my ticker one way or another.
So why go down this road again, especially since I’ve been there, done that? This time I’ve got me an awesome coach who is going to ensure I plan balanced meals and avoid the sugar and carb traps I fell into before.
Michelle Riccio is not only my co-worker, she’s my beautiful and courageous friend with an inspirational story. She went on a whole food, plant-based diet after being diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer a little over a year ago and has been advocating its benefits on her blog, Tit Happens.
This month, we are joining forces and co-writing our blogs together – a crossover if you will, and will go by the blended name, Searching For My Tit.
We will feature the many benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, highlighting not only the weight loss component, but health and prevention as well.
Please join Michelle and I, as we enjoy our first whole food, plant-based meal together at Raw Aura to launch the plan.
The Result Are In