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Habits + Behaviors

How can I learn to enjoy shopping and cooking?

Understood. Not feeling like doing something is a challenge for all of us. And not knowing how to do something well (or avoiding something) can be rather uncomfortable. Feeling like a "failure" only adds to our resistance to try food shopping and/or cooking more often. It seems to come down to three things: budgets, time, and nutritional value. There are batch cooking hacks, short-cuts for food prep, and optimal times to go to the market which can make things more manageable. If your budget allows, consider using an "ugly food" delivery service or another type of plant-based delivery option. 

More food for thought: cook or don't cook. It's all about choice, and there's no Kitchen Police forcing us to take bank accounts and health seriously. For beginners, this whole foods cooking thing can feel a bit daunting. Check out this how-to video to get you started with basic knife skills and with practice, watch your mastery and cool-factor soar. Please consider this: I've seen people transform their perspectives from an aversion to cooking and shopping to making this fun food adventure their new favorite hobby. After all, cooking is way cool. It's also gooey and gross. 

Is food addiction the same as other addictions?

The effect of all addictions in the brain and body are fairly similar, since the 'objects of our desire' as Dr Maté explains, wake up dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin in our brain. These substances create pleasure, thus, we can become obsessed and addicted. The most significant difference with food addiction is that FULL abstinence is not possible (unless we wish to die of starvation). Selective abstinence seems to be working for many food addicts, including me. My late night beer and nacho sessions are a thing of the past, 99% of the time. My addictions are work and food, and I'm glad to share that I'm a fully recovered workaholic and a mostly recovered food junkie.  

More food for thought: I've never met a person who is completely addiction-free, even if they're not prepared to admit it to themselves. Food addiction is the most challenging to overcome because 100% abstinence isn't possible. Solutions? Therapy, support groups, selective abstinence, truthful nutrition labels, and food-beverage education. Addiction is unfortunately one of the most misdiagnosed "diseases" and instead, could be looked at in a more compassionate way. Check out Dr Gabor Maté, one of the most intelligent and insightful experts on addiction. Also check out Dr Lisle and Dr Howk at the TrueNorth Health Center as well as Dr Thompson, founder of Bright Line Eating Solutions and Chef AJ (see Pleasure + Addiction). These truth-tellers offer effective and unconventional wisdom. 

Why is cooking at home so important? I'm not giving up restaurants (CH says: me, neither).

Restaurant menus are designed to entice repeat and loyal customers. With a few exceptions, most restaurant food is filled with overly fatty, sugary, and salty ingredients, even when advertised as heart-healthy. Operators do this with a combination of a lack of food education as well as profit margins in mind (restaurant margins are extremely low). If you know the chef or operator personally, they might be open to creating dishes just for you. Some sage advice from a hospitality pro: please keep this privilege to a minimum as it's a pain in the backside in the industry, no matter how accommodated they make you feel by saying yes with a smile. Hospitality workers can be quite amazing that way. 

PSA from a Restaurant Pro: Some plant-based and vegan advocates casually suggest that people ask restaurant staff to make something special for them. I do understand the intention but again, most hospitality pros won't let you know what a nuisance this is. Trust me. Asking for oil-free, dairy-free, or sauce on the side is often just fine, as chefs and line cooks have become more familiar with dietary requests. But asking for a special dish or for a restaurant to bend to your specific diet? Well... not so much. Everyone should work in a restaurant once. Off my soap box now. 

Suggestions for eating out: I've watched WPF advocates talk about the lack of plant-focused food choices when traveling. Here are six mainstream options for eating out, which I've found to be relatively nutritious for restaurant food:

  • Chipotle: order the Salad with black beans, brown rice, corn, salsa, salsa verde, pico de gallo, and a half-portion of their delicious guacamole. Keep asking for whole wheat tortillas and they'll begin to sell them! Money talks, right? 

  • Subway: order the toasted Veggie Delight Salad OR on wheat bread with all the veggies. Ask for extra spinach, red onion, and bell pepper - they don't charge extra (if you get a snarky stare, remind them that skipping cheese saves on food costs!). You can add black olives, banana peppers, jalapeños, spicy brown mustard, oregano, and black pepper for extra flavors. With this combo, you won't miss the sauces. Ask to bring back whole wheat flatbread! 

  • Panera: order the Baja or Mediterranean bowls and skip the dairy. As well, the Greek salad without dairy is good.

  • Chili's: this chain doesn't cater to plant eaters. However, you can order off their sides menu (in general, a great tip for many restaurants). Beans, rice, asparagus, broccoli. Asking for light or no oil might work, too. 

  • Sweetgreens: order just about any plant-based item and choose the balsamic or lemon squeeze for a dressing.

  • Mediterranean and Asian cuisine: most Mediterranean (Persian-Greek-Turkish-Lebanese), and Asian (Japanese-Chinese-Thai) menus will have a lot of plants. You can ask for light sauce, no sauce, or sauce on the side, and see if they can accommodate this mainstream request. If they can't or won't, leave it alone. Dips and sauces tend to have a lot of oil, so be mindful of portions. Italian and Korean could be included, but these cuisines in restaurants tend to use tons of oil and/or sugar. Of course, you can ask for light oil and see what happens.

  • Honorable mention: I use to eat the Seven Layer Burrito (no dairy) at Taco Bell because they don't use lard or fry their beans. However, the bleached white-flour tortilla causes inflammation, and my tummy blows up like a bleached whale (pun intended). If your only option is Taco Bell, their Crunchy Taco with black beans on a corn tortilla are kinda ok without dairy. The Bean Burrito without dairy is fine, too. In a pinch, in the middle of nowhere. 

More food for thought: as a hospitality industry pro, I love going out to a cool restaurant and trying dishes which I then cook at home in a more nutritious way. Generally speaking, restaurant food isn't nutrient-dense. Plus, the restaurant lobby is powerfully influential. Heads up: beware of vegan restaurants that use nutrient-deficient, faux-vegan ingredients, high amounts of fat, sugar, and salt, and processed foods. The truth is whole plant foods cooked at home from scratch is a more lucrative bang for your buck and a more nutritious option. If you can't imagine giving up restaurants like me, be mindful of your choices and try not to make eating out the norm. Food shopping and cooking at home are keys for health and longevity (and way cheaper than a doctor). 

How do I transition to a WPF or vegan diet if my family and/or friends aren't on board?

As challenging and messy as this situation can become, being truthful and vulnerable are keys towards bridging the gap between omnivores and plant-based eaters. Tell the truth in an unapologetic and graceful way. Be vulnerable about your choices, thoughts, and emotions. Share your plant-focused POV. I've found that being authentically honest with kindness in my heart usually has a positive effect on a conversation. I've also learned that using humor is a great tool, and I find myself truthfully agreeing with a giggle that the WPF diet and lifestyle feels strict as heck and is a genuine challenge for most at first. I'll share that eating an abundance of plants eventually feels like riding a bicycle along a gorgeous shoreline with my BFF's: beans, greens, berries, and broccoli. Then they usually giggle and lighten up. Laugher is medicine, indeed. By the way, if someone is being verbally aggressive, I tend to walk away. Life is too short. I trust you'll find your groove.

Of course, if we have the intention of shutting the discussion door, preaching with an underbelly of judgement towards omnivores, vegetarians, junk food/faux-food vegans works wonders! If people in your tribe are skeptical - and some will be - send them love and grace whenever you think of them and then let it go. I can hang out with tobacco smokers, BBQ enthusiasts, and heavy drinkers with joy, and I suspect you can do this too. And thank goodness, there are several WPF and vegan communities offering support, which are essential when considering a diet and lifestyle shift. This looks like transitioning away from take-out and moving towards tangerines.

More food for thought: sometimes, it's hard to comprehend when the people we love and trust begin to judge our choices, especially if our transition towards plants is vital for saving our life, food animals, and Mother Earth. If you don't get support at home, at work, at places of worship, or in your community, find others outside of these spheres of influence who get it. Keep in mind that some harsher reactions are possibly fueled by nutrition ignorance, a sense of personal loss, or even guilt. Be kind. We all don't know what we all don't know. 

Taking an honest look in the mirror and at the food in our kitchens is quite difficult for most of us mere mortals. I've learned that the topic of food science tends to bring up resistance in general, as if we're taking away people's heroin. When considering food addiction, I suppose that's what we're doing, so some may see this as a threat to their fixes. This runs deep. For additional support, I would suggest starting with Dr Greger's and then participating in one (or all) of the following summits. These free online sessions offer valuable info and resources via the hosts below. Contact them and ask when their next summit will take place.  

  • Mastering Diabetes - Cyrus Khambatta PhD and Robby Bartbaro MPH  LINK

  • Plant Fit Summit - Luke Tan and Tobi Weihofen  LINK

  • Goodness Lover - Sara Otto and Matt Potts  LINK

  • Food Revolution Network - John and Ocean Robbins  LINK 

  • Chef AJ - WPF cook + weight loss and food addiction educator  LINK 

  • No Meat Athlete Plantapalooza - diet + lifestyle + fitness + supplementation  LINK

  • ALSO: CH Resources - Subscriptions + Communities (scroll to section)  LINK 

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