When Whole Foods contacted me to take part in their 28-day Healthy Eating Challenge, I took a few days to consider. I'm not one for gimmicks, have never done blog giveaways in the past and don't like to place my stamp of approval on anything unless I really believe in it.
But, I thought that I could use the support and the challenge. I always love a good challenge. Here was an entirely plant based (vegan) plan for me to try for just 28 days, that's it, 28 days. I really wanted to start being healthier and needed to lose several pounds, so I had no excuses not to take them up on the challenge. Still I thought I'd fail miserably.
So, 16 days ago, I started eating only foods from plants: no meat, no dairy, no eggs, whatsoever. I greatly increased my intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. For over 35 years, I've eaten enough pizza, fried chicken, ice cream, sausage, hot dogs (Superdawg! Drew's!), cheeseburgers and pastries to never need to eat them again. Besides, I thought, why not? Those foods will always be around, if I ever decide to have a bite.
Here's what I've noticed in the short time I've been off animal protein:
I've had a complete increase in energy. Not just energy to walk farther, bike farther and keep up with the kids, but a consistent energy level without huge plummets in blood sugar level that typically left me thinking about food incessantly and crabby, irritable and deprived (or so I felt.)
I feel younger and lighter, I've lost about 7 pounds, mostly it seems around the waist, and I still have more to follow. My consistent and lifelong problems with heartburn and gas are completely gone. In the past I'd relied on over-the-counter acid reducers regularly. My stomach has always been my enemy number one, both in terms of how it feels and how it looks, eating plant based solves both those problems.
I can still eat my beloved carbs. I love bread, sandwiches, a roll here and there, pancakes, waffles, cereal. But, now they are all whole grain, which I can eat less of, since they are very filling and they are packed with plenty of nutrition. They also don't cause the blood sugar spikes and falls that would make me overeat, which refined (white) flour and white rice do.
The basic elements of the challenge, guided principally by the book "The Engine 2 Diet" by Rip Esselstyn are to increase your intake of plant-based foods, (Esselstyn uses the words "plant-strong" in lieu of vegan through much of the book) eliminate the consumption of animal based foods, and reduce your oil and sodium intake. A former triathlete and a current Texas firefighter, Esselstyn's plan is based on decades of scientific research and pilot studies that show a plant based diet lowering cholesterol dramatically.
Briefly, here are my thoughts on Esselstyn's book and plan: His book, which is nearly half-full with recipes makes great strides in showing people that being vegan is not something that must be relegated to animal activists alone. It is a way of eating that can appeal to people who are decidedly self-centered in their approach, too. Self-centered isn't necessarily a bad thing when it comes to eating this way since people individually have their particular needs and many Americans suffer from poor health, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and so forth. The repercussions from eating a plant based diet reach beyond the individual and benefit animals, the environment (less factory farming, better water conservation and land conservation) and society as a whole which can become healthier and stronger with less rampant disease.
In my family alone, I have a history of congestive heart failure and diabetes. My husband's family has a strong history of high blood pressure. My husband, who's been following a slightly modified version of the E2 diet with me (the book's Fire Cadet program) just boasted a completely normal blood pressure reading at his doctor's visit yesterday. This after a high reading of 147 just 2 years ago. Both the nurse and the doctor asked him what he'd done and he proudly told them he'd given up meat.
When Esselstyn brought up the point that some of the strongest and largest animals on the planet: gorillas, horses, elephants, etc. are plant eaters, I think that sealed the deal for me. We're talking solid muscle baby, on only plant proteins alone.
At the rate I'm feeling, I'm hoping to continue on this path for the entire 28 days and beyond. Check back with me in a couple of weeks and we'll see...
-photo credit: Two Gypsy Hearts, flickr