By Brit Rosenfeld
When I was really sick with stage 4 breast cancer, my intuition was screaming at me to go whole food plant based (WFPB). I had this romantic idea that as soon as I made the switch, that would be it. No going back. It would be magical and easy. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there would be a million and one things that would try to get in my way, and I was going to have to figure out how to overcome them if I wanted to sustain this way of eating.
The biggest challenge for me was my need for perfection. I had this grand idea that changing my diet would be like switching on a light. Once it was on, it would always be on. Turns out, the SAD (Standard American Diet) foods I had been devouring for 28 years were like that one bad relationship that you can’t quite shake. I knew it wasn’t good for me, but I wanted to dive face first into a slice of greasy, cheesy pizza because it was so bad in the best possible way.
If I’m being totally honest, there were times when I actually cried over having to change my lifestyle. It wasn’t this romantic, magical transformation like I had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, the romance and the magic came later, but man, that breakup was hard! I often wondered how I was ever going to enjoy life without cheese?! But what I found was that the harder I tried to be perfect, the less likely I was to stick to this way of eating.
If I veered off the whole food plant based path once and ate something with added oils or eggs in a baked good, I felt like I had failed and couldn’t keep going. I had convinced myself I had ruined everything by not doing this 100%. If I wanted to prepare a meal and I couldn’t find a WFPB version of something, like bread, I would feel like everything else I had done was useless.
What I eventually realized was that I was far too focused on my level of perfection instead of focusing on my why, my reason for doing this. And with this need to be perfect, I wasn’t showing myself any forgiveness. I was tearing myself apart as soon as my expectations weren’t met.
My need for perfection fueled feelings of overwhelm. I convinced myself that this WOE (way of eating) was too hard, it wasn’t worth it, it’s too expensive, it’s too time consuming, it’s no fun, and maybe it isn’t all that healthier anyway. I had a really bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) every time I would get together with friends or family to eat, and I got tired of all the attention my dietary choices would get, positive or not.
So gradually, I went back to eating meat, dairy, sugar, and eggs and I made up every excuse I could to convince myself that this was the right thing to do, even though my intuition told me otherwise.
Physically, I could feel it.
I felt lethargic and bloated again and pooping wasn’t exactly a stellar experience, if it was an experience at all.
Mentally, I could feel it.
My brain felt heavy and slow some days, and far too zippy for my tired body other days. It was a rollercoaster of thoughts.
Emotionally, I could feel it.
I felt more anxious and irritable. Sometimes, even a deep sadness.
It was chaotic.
My intuition to start eating plant based again was tugging at me like a little kid pulling on their mom’s pant leg for attention. I couldn’t ignore it any longer, but how in the hell was I supposed to make this work?
Here’s what I did.
Instead of focusing on challenge after challenge after challenge, I decided to think about why I did this in the first place. For me, it was because it made me feel damn good. It’s a swirly, giggly, light-hearted, magical feeling. I feel like I’m more in touch with my true self. It also helped me physically. My tumor markers have stayed low, my scans are consistently clear, and I’m currently not on any medication!
So instead of being perfect, I now focus on my why. And then I take things one meal, one snack, one bite at a time, and I give myself a lot of grace and forgiveness along the way. What I’ve found is that the longer I eat this way and focus on my why, the easier it becomes, and the less tempting those old food habits (like fast food, super sweet sugar loaded snacks, and even cheese!) have become as well.
It took some time, and it wasn’t always easy, but eventually, things shifted for me. I’ve reached a point where eating this way is my new normal. Who would’ve thought cheese wouldn’t turn me on anymore?! Not me! I’m going to continue focusing on my why because there are too many reasons for me to eat WFPB, and I can’t imagine ever going back now.
You can find out more about Brit and her work by visiting her website, The Intuitive Bee.
Chickpea Green Curry
Chickpea Green Curry
Makes about 6 cups
Green Curry Sauce
- 1¾ cups full fat coconut milk (400 ml / 1 can / best tasting with full fat, but can use light)
- ½ cup water (120 ml)
- ¼ cup yellow onion, chopped (30 g)
- ¼ cup cilantro, left whole (use stems and leaves) (10 g)
- ¼ cup Thai basil, left whole (6 g / can sub regular basil)
- 3 tablespoons jalapeno, chopped, stems discarded (25 g / remove seeds if you don't like spicy)
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 15 g / can sub ½ teaspoon ginger powder)
- 1 teaspoon fresh turmeric root, peeled and chopped (can sub ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder)
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons lime zest (zest before juicing)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups red onion, sliced (195 g)
- 1½ cups cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (225 g / these can be homemade or canned)
- 2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed, cut into thirds (190 g / can sub snap peas or broccoli florets)
- 1½ cups red bell pepper, chopped into about 1" chunks (225 g / can sub any color bell pepper)
- 2 cups green cabbage, chopped (130 g / can sub zucchini)
- 2 cups kale, chopped (50 g / can sub any leafy green)
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot flour (AKA arrowroot powder or starch)
- 2 tablespoons Thai basil (10 g / can sub regular basil)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
Suggested for Serving (Optional but yummy)
- brown rice, cooked
- raw cashews, chopped
- green onion, thinly sliced (discard root ends)
- jalapeno, finely diced
- lime, cut into wedges
- brown sesame seeds, toasted
Place all of the Green Curry Sauce ingredients into your blender and blend until completely smooth. Set aside for now.
Heat a large pot over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the sliced onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often and adding a small splash of water if they begin to stick.
Add the Green Curry Sauce, chickpeas, and green beans to the pot and stir. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the bell pepper, cabbage, and kale to the pot and cook with the lid on for an additional 10 minutes, or until the green beans are crisp tender or as soft as you like them.
While your Curry is simmering, place the water and arrowroot flour in a small bowl and whisk until well combined.
When the Curry is done simmering, add the water / arrowroot mixture and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the basil and lime juice. We suggest serving over rice topped with chopped cashews, green onion, jalapeno, and sesame seeds. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top and dig in!
Here’s a brown rice recipe if you need one.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with finding your why.