Plant-Based Transition FAQ #2: Was it hard?

After a long hiatus, you are reading part 2 of the series I started on my transition to a plant-based diet! Brief refresher: the first part of the series covered why I transitioned, and now I’m going to answer another common question I get- was it hard?

In terms of being expensive or accessible- most people have this misconception that all of a sudden, I could only shop at Whole Foods and eat at exclusively vegan restaurants-- not the case. After deciding to go plant-based, my mom continued to joke that I was “made in Kroger,” because of my frequent trips to scope out “10 for $10 deals” on Larabars and Silk yogurt. Plus, despite that people are soooo sleep on Atlanta’s vegan restaurant scene, I could definitely still find things to eat at my favorite “omni” restaurants like Desta’s or Thai Restaurant of Norcross.

It also helped that one of my greatest friends, Rahkeen, had been vegan for years. He went out of his way to bring me different treats and cooking essentials like coconut oil, vegan kimchi, and goji berries. 

I actually began cooking and baking more than ever- and found a love for it. My pseudo-sister Nhi watched Cowspiracy with me, so we began the plant-based transition together- using some of Rahkeen’s gifts to whip up vegan deliciousness. Whether on my own, with Nhi, Rahkeen, or my actual sister Nancy- we chef’d up meat & dairy-free versions mushroom Alfredo, cheesecakes, key lime pies, cornbread, stir-fries, Mac n cheese, lasagna, cinnamon rolls, lotsa stews and chilis, and my pretty popular banana bread.

I will admit though, being plant-based was and still is a test of patience and conviction for me.

These are some of the things I hear most often and the responses I have (in my head…when I’m feeling sassy). 

Plant Based Pet Peeves

  • "There’s no way you can survive like that!”
    • So... I guess we’re going to ignore the lives of people and entire cultures that never have/will choose to eat meat. 
  • "You can’t eat anything!”
    • Given that I have no allergies, I can eat about anything anyone else can- I just don’t want to eat meat.
  • "I can’t eat that; it’s vegetarian."
    • Plant-based diets are just about as inclusive as it gets.
  • "Man I couldn’t do it." 
    • Most people just don't want to do it. Very few people who've said this to me have actually tried or got a doctor's note saying they're protein deficient.

The hardest part was probably family outings, or even at home. It wasn’t hard to turn down the food itself. However, the frequent guilt-trips with people insisting that I eat meat to be part of the family- despite knowing that I’ve made a decision that makes me happy, was unpleasant.

This definitely gets better with time, as my momma eventually started whipping up animal-free goodness like this veggie stir-fry.

All in all, I’ve found that a plant-based diet is typically cheaper than an omnivorous one and I can still enjoy several options eating out. On top of that, I have and incredible support system, and try to stay aware of my nutritional needs. At this rate, I’m happy and don’t see myself reverting back from being plant-based. 

AskHuyen #5: Spring Break Bad Habits - Tips for a Healthy Spring Break

A topic/question you want covered by AskHuyen : 

Spring break

Details/Specific Questions: 

How does one balance eating plant based foods (especially on the road) and exercise while on spring break?

Mango from a pop up farmer's market in Miami.

Mango from a pop up farmer's market in Miami.

Indulging over Spring Break can leave you feeling like you need more recovery rather than helping you feel refreshed. Here are my tips for making your Spring Break a healthy one

1. Preparation is key.

Pack snacks on snack on snacks. Having healthy alternatives with you will help curb sugary, processed, gas station temptations. Here are some items that I'd bring:

  • Nuts. A nutritious energy source you can reach for instead of candy.
  • Oatmeal. Super easy to pack and cook in the Airbnb’s microwave.
  • Fruit. Especially ones that won’t take L’s from being packed in your bag- like oranges!
  • Baby carrots. Depending on where you’re going, these should probably be eaten first.
  • Peanut Butter. Pair this with your carrots or oatmeal. 

It may be hard to prep all of your meals, so remember that you also have the option of going to the nearest grocery store or farmer’s market. You can get a small supply of easy-to-cook veggies or lean proteins. I took a risk and packed yogurts that survived a drive from Atlanta to Miami. Pulling out a cool coconut greek yogurt on the beach was Clutch.

 

2. Walk it out.

The Southern Girl in me couldn’t resist a DJ Unk reference, but ditch the Uber and walk through the city instead. Especially if the destination is only a couple miles away, you can get your step count up while exploring at the same time. If you’re staying local, check out a new park or find a new hike to go on.

3. Dance hard.

Speaking of dance moves, dance like you want it to count as a workout. Being boujee on the club couches burns less calories.

We danced really hard in between pictures I promise.

We danced really hard in between pictures I promise.

4. BBQ Bonding.

Have one night where everyone stays in and tosses lean meats, tofu, and veggies on the grill. 

 5. Go easy on your wallet.

Smaller dishes and salads are cheaper, and alcohol is expensive. What a bonus that more greens are good for you, and so is less hard alcohol! For ladies it may be difficult to resist free drinks- but throw some curve balls by asserting water as your drink of choice. Use the money you save to make memories. Get souvenirs for your family or get a cheap bike rental.

6. Don’t compromise your workouts.

I truly hope for all of your wellbeings that you don’t have a professor cruel enough to assign work over break. In any case, the lack of classes gives you an opportunity to continue being consistent with your workout routines, or start a program if you were too busy before.

You don't need to get a weeklong gym membership either. Find a friend on your trip to do a morning beach run, or get temporary gym/class passes to use facilities in your area!

AskHuyen #4: "Beer Bellies"

A topic/question you want covered by AskHuyen: 

"Beer Bellies"

Details/Specific Questions: 

"What do you like to drink is a common question that comes up amongst my friends and I. I always tell people I like wine and hard alcohol! Sometimes guys have beer bellies and they tell me they love beer. But I wouldn't risk my flat stomach to drink beer. Can you discuss the physique effects of drinking beer and alcohol in general?

I love my figure personally but is it common to gain weight from any type of consistent alcohol consumption? I eat pretty healthy and drink lots of water. I also enjoy working out to the max."

 

Whether you’re still on Frat Row, feel obligated to attend Team Happy Hours or just have a glass of wine welcoming you home each night, an overwhelming amount of Americans consume alcohol at some point in their lives (87.6% to be specific) The term “beer belly” suggests a perception that certain alcohols put people at a lower risk for weight gain than others. We’ll quickly clarify the concept of general weight gain- noting if the type of alcohol matters, before going into how alcohol may or may not contribute to the dreaded “beer belly". 

What makes you gain weight? Intaking more calories that your body uses. If you have a great work out every day of the week, but binge drink heavily on the weekends; it is still possible to gain weight over time. Even after eating all your fruits and veggies according to your preferred dietary guidelines, you could still literally tip the scale because of those glasses of wine. It boils down to what your net calories look like. To keep this simple, say your calories burned for the day equal 2300, and calories eaten for the same day equal 2300. Now, you come home ready to unwind, sit down in from of the TV, and throw back a few beers. Those excess calories can contribute to weight gain.

Seeing as it’s the calories that determine weight gain, and all alcohol has calories, it doesn’t really matter what type of alcohol you drink. A small shot of some liquors can have the same amount of calories as a bottle of beer. The same goes for certain types of wines. 

 

Some research suggests beer in particular may be associated with weight gain, because of a socialized link between beer and food, i.e. being the quintessential complement to pizza and hot wings at the upcoming Super Bowl party. This also holds true for many wines, but wine is associated with being more sophisticated and not as connected to deep fried party snacks. The same study looks into the effects of alcohol on activating your appetite, but doesn’t find a clear correlation. 

Overall, light to moderate drinking has not been directly linked to weight gain in your mid-section. Since general nutrition and exercise vary from person to person, what you do outside of the bar will largely determine whether or not you gain weight with alcohol as part of your lifestyle. Frequent heavy drinking on the other hand, not only could give your body more calories than it needs, but does other damage to vital bodily functions such as those of your liver.

So, if you want to maintain both your physique and overall health, keep in mind what your nutrition and physical activity looks like to counter the calories, and potentially long-term detrimental effects of heavy drinking.