By Chris Ellis
A plant-based diet can transform your life, but this transformation is more complex than a good vegan recipe; it’s about real life. It’s about making promises to yourself and doing the work. I am a 56-year-old mom and wife. I am a real person who has done this. I have broken down the process as I see it into three parts. I.) The Decision, II.) The Transition, III.) The Lifestyle.
I.) The Decision
How does one make The Decision to stop eating animal products? It may be a sudden, all-or-nothing decision or a gradual one. It may be precipitated by a disease such as cancer or heart disease. Regardless, people are making this decision every day. For my husband, Danny and I, the decision was made out of desperation. Danny, genetically disposed to heart disease, had a heart attack at 49. Following the heart attack, he took his medicine, exercised as usual, and ate his cheeseburgers. Why not? The doctors said he was doing great. And then things changed. He could barely mow the grass without getting winded. Something was wrong, but a litany of tests showed nothing. Back up 3 months… We had visited family and they had told us about plant-based eating and how it could even reverse heart disease. We were polite but this wasn’t for us. But now, at our wits end, we thought: what do we have to lose? That day we stopped eating meat. After just one week of this new eating, we felt remarkable. We had more energy than ever. We exercised more and felt clear-headed all day. My husband’s breathing problems subsided. There was something to this!
- The Transition
So, you’ve made The Decision. You’ve watched the documentaries. You feel good. But you’re becoming a junk food vegan because the only quick vegan thing you can find is potato chips! See, here’s the issue. Change is hard. I have been cooking for over 30 years. All my life, a meal meant three things – the starch, the vegetable, and the meat. I had no clue how to cook without eggs, cheese, and meat. The Transition is about understanding that you don’t need meat to give you protein, you don’t need milk for your calcium and that plant-based eating can be delicious. I relearned to cook. I replace eggs in recipes and make delicious vegan cream sauces. Our days of rice and beans for dinner every night are gone. We’re eating fluffy, protein-rich pancakes made with garbanzo flour and lasagna made with tofu cashew ricotta.
III.) The Lifestyle
So, you’ve made The Decision, you’ve survived The Transition and now you are just living. What does that look like for a vegan? For the longest time, my husband and I wouldn’t even say the word ‘vegan’ because of the connotation. Living a vegan lifestyle can be challenging, but here’s what is also happening… remember how I said that after 7 days of eating plant-based we noticed a remarkable difference? Well, after a year, the difference is even more pronounced. It just keeps getting better. My husband ran a 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours this Spring and wasn’t even winded. If you embark on this journey and think it’s going to be easy you are wrong. Your commitment will be tested often. Is it worth it? In my opinion it absolutely is. Do the hard work, keep the promise to yourself and live your best life. This is a Lifestyle.
This article was edited for publication. The complete version can be found on Chris’ website: ellisearthlyeats.com
Chris Ellis and her husband, Danny, moved to the Florida Panhandle from Orlando in 2016 and currently live on the Choctawhatchee Bay in Freeport. Chris is an Engineer at Eglin AFB and Danny is a Vice President for FirstService Residential. In her free time, Chris loves to cook and share vegan recipes. You can find great recipes on her website: EllisEarthlyEats.com, on Instagram: Ellis.Earthly.Eats or on Facebook.