How to Transition to a Plant Based Diet
Original post: 12/30/19, Updated: 5/4/21
At the end of 2016, my IBD was not under control. My husband researched about what could be done to help me. I was in a limbo of not feeling great, but not feeling terrible. And my diagnosis had just switched from Ulcerative Colitis to Crohn’s Disease. I was switching up medications and was just all around blah. With our wedding coming up in September 2017, we wanted to make sure I felt my very best. After researching, we determined the best course of action would be to transition to a plant based diet.
There are numerous lifestyle changes out there now and tons of research about our gut health and how that impacts our autoimmunity. (You know I am going to mention my two favorite books currently…HEALTHY GUT HEALTHY YOU and THE AUTOIMMUNE WELLNESS HANDBOOK). It is also a known fact that the Standard American Diet just plain sucks. It is sad like its acronym “SAD”. This could be the culprit for a majority of our autoimmune symptoms…and hasn’t been completely ruled out as a potential cause, but nonetheless, it exacerbates a lot of the inflammation we experience.
Why a plant based diet?
We decided that going completely plant based would be the most effective lifestyle for me. My husband even joined in because it is life changing for people who are not affected by autoimmunity. A plant based diet is naturally lower in inflammatory foods, just by the removal of animal products. But, you need to be smart about it as well. Some plant foods don’t work for IBD and that’s understandable. Fully plant based also doesn’t work for everyone. Most importantly, you cannot rush it, and don’t want to cause a flare. We didn’t want to do this transition overnight to avoid shocking my system and instead, were just focused on getting to a good place by our wedding in September, so we decided to take our time switching things up. There are many ways to eliminate things from your lifestyle but from my experience, cutting things out cold turkey isn’t always the best approach.
Our transition to a plant based lifestyle unintentionally ended up being three phases. For phase 1 we focused on three things:
- Removing overly processed foods from our life (it is extremely hard to remove processed food all together unless you want to be real extreme and not use canned tomatoes!) including fast food.
- Cutting our meat and fish consumption down to once a week, at most.
- Checking labels and ingredient lists.
Why did we choose these 3 first?
Well, for one it was the easiest thing to tackle. Second, when you actually sit and read about what goes into processing foods and the meat we eat…you might want to avoid it too. A good resource to check out about processed foods is an article posted from Harvard. It is almost impossible to remove processed foods altogether. We focused on being able to pronounce what was on the labels if we bought something packaged. And educated ourselves on what the purpose of some ingredient were.
As for meat, if you watch some of the documentaries I mentioned in my last post, you’d want to start cutting it out too. To be honest, I didn’t watch a lot of documentaries until after we started making the transition, but they definitely solidified my decision to limit my meat consumption. You literally are what you eat and if you are eating meat pumped with hormones and antibiotics, not to mention fed extremely poor diets, all of that is now going into your system. So when my husband and I ate meat, we made sure to pay the price for extremely good quality meat. After a while, we didn’t love paying the money, so our consumption went down drastically. And the effects of animal agriculture on our planet is mind blowingly bad. My husband is a big environment guy and really knowing what it did to the planet hurt his soul a little bit…along with me continually throwing out yogurt containers 🙂 .
I think everyone can easily tackle Phase 1 of the plant based transition. Essentially, you just need to open your eyes and be more conscious of what you are putting into your body. With that, you’ll understand the effects of what you are eating on your health and our planet. And, please consider, as your body detoxes, you may feel a bit crumby for a few days, but it will pass…I promise! I’m excited for those of you who are taking the time to better your health! We worked on Phase 1 for about 2 months then transitioned onto Phase 2!