And Suddenly I Was a Plant-Eater

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If you had told me last year that I would mainly eat plant-based food by now, I would have declared you crazy. For more than twelve years, I was a ‘phony vegetarian’, meaning that I ate no meat, but fish, eggs, and dairy. My journey as a future plant-eater began in April, during the Business Bootcamp (a two-day training for solopreneurs). Not the kind of location, where you would expect the start of such a journey, right?

My encounter with ‘The Plant Eater’

Boele Ytsma is a well-known vegan in the Netherlands. After being a farmer for many years, he quit, became a vegan, and started a new company, where he helps people with courses and programs to make the switch to a plant-based diet.

During this Business Bootcamp, we started talking. Back then, I did not know that he was quite famous in the Dutch vegan world. With astonishment, I heard him talking about his lifestyle. He even took his own food to the event. To be honest, I found this a bit too much. “I would never do that,” I thought. At the end of our conversation, Boele gave me his book “Ik ben een Planteneter, net als jij” (I am a plant-eater, just like you) as a gift. At first, it ended up on my bookshelf, but became a great source of help and guidance a couple of months later.

Get in shape with more plant-based food

Shortly afterwards, I got in contact with a plant-based lifestyle, again. I wanted to lose some kilos and signed up for the “Get in Shape” program in my local health club. Part of the program was to reduce the consumption of animal products to a maximum of four times a week. This meant, for me, not more than four portions of cheese, fish, dairy and eggs per week. As a big cheese lover, this was quite a challenge for me, and to be honest, I didn’t want to do it. Change is pain, right? But I wanted to lose weight; therefore, I needed to change my habits. As Albert Einstein said: “If you do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” Eventually, I decided to give it a chance. After all, the program lasted only for four weeks, long enough to find out if it worked and short enough to look forward to a wonderful piece of cheese.

A feeling of coming home

The first week was really difficult. Next to much less animal products, I was not allowed to eat sugar. After seven days, I was on my last leg. I was angry and sad, at the same time. Would it always be like that? I asked myself, desperately.

Luckily not, after seven days, it was over. My body gave up its mental and physical resistance. With every day that went by, I enjoyed the pure, healthy, and tasty food even more. I started experimenting with different tastes and combinations of food. Our fridge burst from all the colorful fruits and vegetables. Instead of chocolate and biscuits, nuts and dates found their way into our cupboards.

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I cannot describe it in another way than a feeling of coming home. This way of eating felt like it belonged to me. I always liked cooking, but this was a very different experience: I fed my body, instead of just filling it.

“You are not going to eat like this forever, are you?”

If you ask a plant-eater what they find the most difficult about maintaining a vegan lifestyle, most will answer: “That others aren’t plant-eaters.” And indeed, this remains the biggest challenge for me, as well.

I don’t see my own family that much, as they live in Germany. Luckily, my family-in-law took over the skeptical questioning for them. “So few animal products,” I heard my sister-in-law say, “Is that even healthy? How do you get enough proteins?” and: “You are not going to eat like this forever, are you?” “No, it’s only for a month,” I heard myself answering. “It does not seem very sociable to eat like that forever.” But from the inside, I felt that something had changed fundamentally. And still, there were doubts. My family-in-law was the mirror of my own fears.

The four weeks flew by very fast. The combination of eating healthy and moving regularly showed results quickly. I reached my goal of losing five kilos easily. Even more, the following weeks, I kept losing weight. I felt stronger, fitter, and the spare tire around my waist disappeared.

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What’s it gonna be?

In August, my boyfriend and I went on a motorcycle trip through Europe for three weeks: One couple, two motorcycles, twenty days, eight countries, and 3847 kilometers. We slept in our tent or, sometimes, in a wooden cottage on a campground. Before the trip, I was worried that eating healthy would become a real challenge. Obviously, we didn’t have a fridge on our motorcycles. I wanted to stay in my flow of healthy and nutritious food. Therefore, chocolate bars and sugary snacks were not on my list. However, pretty quickly, I discovered: For healthy, plant-based food, you do not need a fridge. My boyfriend had more difficulties with his meat and cream cheese cravings. Peanut butter, pure chocolate, avocados, dates, bread, vegetables, and fruit were my best friends during this trip. However, now and then, I also enjoyed a delicious pizza in a remote village of the Italian mountains.

The end of our journey came close and with it, for me, the moment to decide how I wanted to eat in the future. On one side, I did not want to come across as asocial or make it difficult for people at dinner parties or visits in restaurants. But on the other side, I felt bad about animals suffering due to my eating habits. Eventually, I decided to take on the challenge to eat plant-based from now on.

My social life as a plant eater

I was prepared well. We were invited for a weekend at my parents-in-law. I was looking forward to it, but at the same time, quite curious/worried how they would take the way I eat now. My mother-in-law was already informed and let me have a say in the food planning. The choice for breakfast was easy: bread rolls with peanut butter, fresh banana, and apples. The lunch: bread with avocado, tomato, and some onion. And in between: vegetables, fruit, and nuts.

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Dinner was a bit more of a challenge. French fries, chicken wings, and salad were on the menu. Luckily, there are meat substitutes. My choice in this case: Falafel. Furthermore, I offered to make baked potatoes from the oven, instead of French fries, and mayonnaise from cashew nuts. Healthy and tasty, at least for me.

It is not very common in the Netherlands to bring your own food to a weekend at your parents-in-law. But I believe we managed it well by communicating openly. During the weekend, it became clear that everyone was okay with it. Though, they were still a little concerned about my changed eating habits. Even the word ‘eating disorder’ came up. Honestly, I had thought about this myself already. After all, it had begun with a program to lose weight. However, we are a couple of months down the road now, and I feel healthy and fit. My weight balanced out, and I concluded that there is no danger of an eating disorder. If anything, I appreciate food even more than I ever did. And of course, now and then, I savor something unhealthy. However, in order to make it a little easier for myself, I thought something out.

Don’t be to strict with yourself

It is good to stand for something and to live by your beliefs. I live by a saying of Rumi, a Persian poet of the 13th century: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

But, how do you make sure that you do not go to far with your own beliefs? With regard to a plant-based diet, I thought of the following: 99% of my food is plant-based. The rest gives room for exceptions. What would be such an exception? For example, someone made the effort to bake a cake. Or, if I go out for dinner and, by accident, something non-vegan ended up on my plate, I will just eat it. Although, eating fish and meat remain a taboo for me. I recognize that I can live more relaxed if I give myself this 1% of leverage.

Are you a vegan, vegetarian or do you eat different than other people? What are your biggest challenges? Share your experiences in the comment box below. I am looking forward to read from you!

Namasté,
Nicole

Cover foto: Gratisography and Freepik

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Always on a quest to try new things. After working on an Australian shrimp boat and cattle station, Nicole decided to follow her heart and left her home country Germany for good to move to the Netherlands. Here she lives with her handsome Dutch guy and explores new ways of living more conscious and responsible. She gets excited about everything that is organic, healthy, fairtrade, waste- and cruelty-free. After eating no meat since more than 10 years, Nicole recently decided to go vegan. She strongly believes that we are happier and healthier, if we live more natural. This is why she will do whatever it takes to give you the best insights on how to live a happy, healthy and responsible life.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Nicole for this beautiful article!

    I have been a vegetarian all my life, because my parents were also; except for fish-sticks at my grandparents and a very short-lived dabble with ham, I am extremely glad I never “missed” meat because I never learnt to eat it 😉
    In the past, eating out or being invited for dinner used to create awkward situations sometimes. I must have had the “why do you eat so weirdly” conversation a million times…! So if it happens now, I quickly lose interest and change the subject. I don’t feel the need to argue with people over food choices — everyone makes their own decisions anyway. As long as I have something good to eat, I am happy! However, I have noticed changes in behaviour of people around me; they would get inspired and find their own reasons for eating less to no meat over time.
    Nowadays, restaurants are so much more vega-friendly and my social circle includes so many vegetarians and vegans that I’m never the odd duck anymore and there is always at least one tasty vegetarian option!

    The reason this article really strikes me, however, is that I’ve been thinking of going vegan for a while now — it comes and goes — so I really liked reading your experience! What’s stopping me is that sometimes, my body still really likes cheese, eggs and a little butter, which are the only animal products I still eat (boter kaas en eieren 😉 ). And honey… did you also stop eating honey? (That’s a bit of a controversy, isn’t it?)
    I really like the idea of veganism — I even have a vegan mother-in-law as a great example — but, gosh, is this what the meat eaters are always complaining about? “But it’s so tasty and I like it so much!” Which is a non-argument, of course, haha! I suppose I simply need to make my decision and stick to it, don’t I?
    What really comforted me when I read your piece was that it took you only seven days to get through to the other side… there is hope!

    Hugs for you! ~♥

    • Hi Iris, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts!! I believe that everybody is different and has different needs. Some might need meat and other can live without. I also believe that if we eat meat, fish or animal products, we should make conscious choices especially about where we buy them. Eating animals or animal products is one thing. Exploiting animals and making their life a living hell is a very different thing. And we make that choice every time we do our groceries.

      If you sometimes like to eat cheese, eggs and butter, your body might need it from time to time. Don’t feel bad about it, but make sure that you get it somewhere where the animals have a good life. I am actually thinking of getting two chickens in the future. This way I can take care of them and make sure they are well.

      Maybe you could also go vegan for a month. This way you can reset your body and afterwards see if your cravings come back. However, make sure that you get enough protein (e.g. beans, nuts) and calcium (e.g. kale, collard greens). Luckily, your body is like a super computer, that exactly knows what you need. Just listen. And if you have any more questions, just let me know! 🙂 ♥ ♥ ♥

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