In the health and fitness world, there are so many different diets and ways to eat—it’s enough to make your head spin. Confronted with a million different trends and lifestyle options, I found myself in a tough place. It became so hard to find a way to eat that would make me happy, feel good, and that would fit in the category of what I thought could be considered “healthy enough” that I struggled daily with the decision.

However, all of this changed the minute I started looking into going plant-based.

This is something I’ve considered for a long time but never thought I’d “be able to do it”; but recently, it finally clicked. I read two books about plant-based diets (How Not to Die and Eat to Live), watched the documentaries (Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives), and I was sold.

(And the food’s pretty good, too!)

vegan mac & cheese with roasted sweet potatoes

vegan mac & cheese with roasted sweet potatoes

I could go on for hours about the benefits of eating less meat and dairy and gearing yourself toward a plant-based, whole foods diet, but I’ll sum it up to the key benefits I’ve found that have pushed me to take this huge dietary risk for the sake of my health:

  1. toast with peanut butter, bee free honey & different types of seeds (chia, flax, and hemp)

    toast with peanut butter, bee free honey & different types of seeds (chia, flax, and hemp)

    Heart health. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower your risk of heart disease (one of the nation’s biggest killers).

  2. Diabetes prevention.
  3. Lower risk of cancer. Seriously, take a minute and geek out over the China study. It’s amazing how changing the way we eat can not only lower our risk of cancer, but slow down cancer where it already exists: studies have shown that plant-based diets can actually turn off cancer cells, whereas diets high in meat and dairy promote cancer growth.
  4. Disease prevention. Research shows how diseases can not only be prevented but can be completely reversed all by eating a plant-based diet.
  5. Mental health. There are also studies that show vegans have lower levels stress and anxiety. This is a huge benefit for me, as I’ve struggled with an anxiety disorder especially related to health and food.

Since heart disease and diabetes unfortunately run in my family, I decided it was time for me to take full control of my health and protect myself from all the disease I could.

I understood the health benefits after countless hours of research, but I had no idea how much it would affect my mindset.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with food, but for a long time I found it hard to practice what I preached.

homemade Lara-type bars with dates nuts and seeds

homemade Lara-type bars with dates nuts and seeds

In the past two years I’ve lost about 70 pounds, and I’ve struggled a lot with having balance in my life and not being controlled by my food choices and the idea of being “perfect”.

In the past, I would meticulously count calories, weigh every single bite of food I ate, and stress myself to the point of panic attacks if I ate “bad foods”.

Now, I’m only interested in providing my body with the most wholesome nutrients possible. I feel more relaxed about food, and I have to get creative with what I eat, which has made me enjoy food again. Looking up recipes has renewed my passion for cooking and eating. I feel like I’m starting to be freed from a really dark, scary place that happens so easily when people start getting too obsessed with food and fitness. The best part is, this feeling isn’t part of some “fad” or diet—it’s just because I’m eating in a way that is the most health conscious for myself and in a way that makes me feel good.

homemade hummus & guacamole with homemade sweet potato fries

homemade hummus & guacamole with homemade sweet potato fries

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go on this journey. Of course, this is my personal experience—fitness looks different on everybody! But if you’re looking for a place to start, going plant-based might be a good one.

 

Resources:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/medNews/vegans-have-less-stress-and-anxiety

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/slideshows/reasons-to-choose-a-plant-based-diet

About The Author

Charlotte Kurz is a rising junior at Binghamton University majoring in human development and health and wellness. She's a spinning instructor for her college, and is studying to become a registered dietitian after school. She wants to help others see how health and fitness can make a difference in their own lives!

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