When you type in “what were humans…” into the google search bar, the first thing that comes up is the question “what were humans meant to eat?” That right there is proof enough that over the years, we have flooded the internet with hundreds of diets and lifestyles and have since confused even ourselves. We stand in the grocery store befuddled by what to make for dinner. We study menus at restaurants trying to make the right decision…but what is “right”? Is there a “right?”
There is no doubt that since the beginning of human existence we have evolved to chew and digest both meat and plants. That’s just plain science. But are we starting to evolve again, or has the vast and ever changing internet landscape just convinced us that we have to eat a different way?
I am a personal trainer, so I have studied nutrition over the course of six years. In those six years, I have tried both vegetarian and Paleo lifestyles. It has taken me six years to realize that my body doesn’t like when I eat processed grains, processed sugars, or too much salt. Lately, my body doesn’t like booze (tragic, I know). I have also been allergic to chocolate since I was 14, but it’s been getting better. (GASP! NOT THE CHOCOLATE!) Sometimes, I fall out of love with meat, and I opt to go for beans as a protein source instead. But no, no, no. Beans don’t fly in the paleo lifestyle, what are you thinking??? Other times, there wouldn’t be a day I didn’t have bacon with my breakfast.
The point I’m trying to make is this; our bodies are ever changing. As we age, it changes, both internally and externally. And even more importantly, every body is different. Each and every one of us is completely different. Therefore, it is my belief that no one should wake up one day and just decide they are going to adopt a certain food-related lifestyle, and struggle through it just for the sake of sticking with it and reaping the benefits. We, as humans part of the American media culture, have had information thrown at us from all sides; Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TV, News, Magazines, Google, Blogs, YouTube, etc. It’s very overwhelming!
I’m writing this article because after these six wonderful years of researching and learning, and imparting my knowledge on others, I find myself considering another lifestyle change; veganism. (DOUBLE GASP!!) Let me tell you why.
I have terrible, terrible skin for a 25 year old female. It makes me sad, honestly. I have acne (most of the time, but not always.) I have oily skin (but with dry patches). I have hyper-pigmentation (but such pale skin that I have dark circles)…you can see why this is a concern of mine. It. Drives. Me. CRAZY. I have spent, literally, thousands of dollars on make-up and products over the years to try and get my angry skin under control. I am so sick of wearing makeup! I love it, but I don’t want to rely on it. There is a HUGE difference.
I began considering veganism for this reason. But, I didn’t just jump into it. “Today, I start anew! NO MORE ANIMAL ANYTHING!”…that’s a big, BIG step, especially when I already eat Paleo, a lifestyle heavily reliant on animal-based proteins and against all grains.
So here are the steps I am taking to transition to this new lifestyle. Before I did anything, I wrote down all the reasons for making this change;
- I want to see if it will make my skin healthier.
- I want to see if my digestion will improve.
- I want to feel healthy and have more energy.
- I want to see if my hormones will get under control (from not eating hormone laden meats).
Then, I wrote down all my concerns:
- Will I get enough protein to support my active, athletic lifestyle?
- Will I deprive my body of any essential nutrients?
- Will I be able to both support my own nutritional needs as well as my boyfriends, who will absolutely not be a vegan with me?
- Am I doing it for the right reasons?
- Is it economical in my current situation?
Then, I researched all those questions. I thought about them, and discussed them with my partner. Because, let’s face it. When you’re in a relationship you are subject to whatever your partner eats, and when you decide to give up sugar and he/she eats a pint of ice cream while you’re nibbling on plain pistachio nuts…let’s face it. That sucks. If you’re making a lifestyle change, discuss it with your companion/parents/roommates. If they love you, they will support you. But, they may also not adopt that lifestyle as well, so prepare to sometimes cook two dinners, or add an additional meat to it. (Good luck convincing mom to start making different meals for you! I mean…I’m sure she’ll love the idea!)
You should always start a new lifestyle with as much knowledge as possible. That is why writing all these things down and researching them is so important. REMEMBER: you can’t just take out something from your diet without replacing/supplementing it with something that fits into that lifestyle. For example, when you become a vegetarian, you can’t just take out meat and not replace it with a vegetarian protein source. Also, you can’t just take out all grains and dairy from the Paleo lifestyle without realizing that you will have to add more fats to your diet to replace those essential carbohydrates.
Take out foods slowly from your diet. If you are becoming a vegetarian, start by taking out red meat for a week. The next week, no chicken. After that, no fish. Same with Paleo. Start by taking out sandwich breads and milk. Then cheeses and cereals. Then beans and processed sugars. But like I said, replace them accordingly.
Print out, write down, or make a folder on your computer of recipes for different meals of the day. Start simply. This is new for you, so you don’t want to get overwhelmed. Stick with flavors and ingredients that you know you like. If you’ve never tried tofu…wait a bit. Try it at a restaurant where they know what they’re doing, before you try and tackle it. (Believe me…I’ve made many a horrible vegetarian meal before. BLECH.)
Keep a diary. Write down all your thoughts day to day. Your frustrations, your achievements, your goals, and your feelings, physical and emotional. It will keep you on track and it is great to look back on to see how far you’ve come. You can also write down what you ate each day, if you liked it, etc.
Give it time. I would stick with it for 21 days at least. At the end, reevaluate yourself.
- How does your body feel?
- How does it look?
- Is this what you wanted/how you wanted to feel?
- Do you truly enjoy this lifestyle?
Decide if it’s for you and remember that it’s ok if you didn’t enjoy it! Maybe you didn’t do enough research and can try again. But either way, do what’s right for you, not what the internet/TV tells you to do.
Always do what’s in your best interest. This is the only body you will ever have, and no one knows it as well as you do. I wish you the best of luck on your healthy-lifestyle transition! Be well, and good luck!