If you are unfamiliar with the term “flexitarian” (much like I was until I looked it up not long ago), it is also known as “semi-vegetarian.” In the past month I made some major changes to my diet, which has included focusing on a primarily plant-based diet (I make more vegan options than vegetarian) but I still eat meat every now and again, but no more than only a few times a month. This shift started to come about after writing the Wellness Wednesday post The Power of Plant Based, which prompted me to further my research + understanding past a biased, seemingly fear-tactic based documentary.
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I ordered the book How Not to Die by Michael Greger, M.D. and I have to say it’s been pretty eye opening. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the power of a plant-based diet because he doesn’t completely demonize the consumption of meat – he simply provides the data + testimonies of those who consume meat/animal products on daily basis against those who only consume it occasionally or not at all. I promise this post isn’t a book review – but it has played a fairly significant role in how I approach my meal planning, so I knew it was definitely worth mentioning!
I didn’t make this decision based off a conviction about animals – I will admit, they are raised + treated horribly and I think that it’s something that should change. However, I personally made this decision from a health perspective. I have always yo-yo’d with my weight and cholesterol, I have anxiety + mild depression, chronic fatigue, and have started struggling with recurring joint pain. I’m young + healthy, but if these are struggles that I’m having at 24, I don’t want to know how much my health would continue to decline if I didn’t make a change.
So when it comes to my day-to-day life, I have decided to focus on plant-based meals. But like I said, I am not against having a meal every now and again that isn’t 100% plant-based – I still love pizza and tacos with all my heart, I just knew for the sake of my health that I had to cut back.
I’ve been focusing on plant-based meals for a few weeks now – the first thing I noticed one week when I lost some of that discipline and deviated from my meal plan was that I broke out like crazy. Since finishing up Accutane, breaking out is rare for me these days; it really has become strictly diet + hormone related. So when I say I broke out, I had it around my mouth and along my jaw/cheeks. They were stubborn and cystic and I hated it.As soon as I went back to my meal plan, the breakouts stopped.
The next thing I visibly noticed was that I finally broke my weight plateau. Despite my consistent exercise routine and my previous diet (which wasn’t necessarily unhealthy, mind you) for months I yo-yo’d between 165-170 lbs. Sure, I was building muscle and toning up, but my latest DEXA* scan said I’m still about 39% body fat. Big yikes, fam. From a BFP perspective, that’s obese (see WebMD). I would really hate to know what it was before I started consistently working out. I hesitantly weighed myself one morning last week – ya know, just to see what was going on – and to my surprise I was down to 163.5 lbs. So maybe I didn’t break it by much, but it’s the most progress I’ve seen in a long time.
*DEXA scans are used primarily to determine bone density – so they’re not necessarily the best way to determine body fat percentage, but it is among some of the top methods.
As great as the physical results are, my reason for making this change is so much more than avoiding pimples and losing weight. Here are some of the major reasons I decided meat + other animal products had to go.
I knew I wasn’t getting nearly enough fiber. I noticed that when I was eating meat-focused meals, I wasn’t consuming nearly as much produce as I should; whether I was admittedly too lazy to add a side to my meal, simply didn’t have the money left in the budget to invest in produce, or whatever excuse it may be, it still boils down to the fact that I just wasn’t eating produce. Could I have just been better about adding it to my meals? Yeah, sure, but I knew I wouldn’t, so I made a choice to cut meat out so I wouldn’t be tempted to make it my sole focus any time I ate. Not to mention, my cholesterol has always yo-yo’d between normal and high (it runs in the family) so I knew that consuming animal proteins high in saturated fats in combination with virtually no fiber was not doing me any favors since fiber plays a huge part in detoxifying our bodies from excess cholesterol, as well as heavy metals and estrogen. FUN FACT: adults should be consuming at least 24g of fiber a day, but on average, American adults only get about 4g. Only 3% of the American population consumes enough fiber making it one of the most widespread nutrient deficiencies in the country (Greger, p.77). I don’t know about you, but I’m not happy being a part of that statistic.
Eating plant-based is cheaper. Let’s be real – I’m on a heckin’ tight budget (see: Healthier Eating on a Budget). Prior to starting my plant-based meals I was spending $75-80 a shopping trip for about 2 weeks worth of meals. Frankly, that’s definitely not bad, but I knew I had other uses for my money. By switching to plant-based, I now spend about $40-60 for two weeks worth of food. Let’s just say, I’m not complaining. The meals I prepare now have higher fiber and water content than what I was eating before, so my meals are honestly more filling + satisfying than they were before. Plus, plant-based meals don’t really leave you feeling like you need to count calories. It’s a win-win.
I was uncomfortable with all the hormones + antibiotics in meat. Just so you know, marketing claims on the packaging of your meat doesn’t mean much. “All natural” is an incredibly empty claim and has zero official regulation by the FDA (see their website). I feel a little better about organic meat – and if I buy meat at all anymore it has to be organic – but ultimately I’ve come to have a rather unwavering distrust of the meat industry. In fact, as of 2012 “the FDA estimates that 80% of the antimicrobial drugs sold in the United States every year now go to the meat industry” (Greger, p.98) and I don’t think that’s cool… at all.
Rest assured, I’m not going to be “one of those people” that imposes their worldview of meat on everyone every chance they get, but I definitely think it’s something worth looking into, especially anyone who feels like they have a lot of health concerns or anxieties about family-related health issues that could develop later in life. Food is either medicine or poison, and I decided there was no better time than the present to make a change for myself. I honestly owe Arbonne a huge “thank you” for facilitating my passion for whole foods + clean eating.