Heather Mills discusses the difficulties that can occur when transitioning to a plant based diet
So, here I am, writing a column for PlantBased magazine. But where to start? There is a lot to be said about the plant based world and I hope to bring you some of my thoughts on the things that matter in upcoming issues.
Having spent 25 years immersed in the world and after studying the benefits of eating a plant based diet, I feel I have a lot of information that can wipe out some of the misconceptions around plant based eating, both from meat eaters and vegans alike.
Some of you may be new to eating a plant based diet and I hope that I can shed some light on things you may be confused over or help to make things easier during your period of transition.
When transitioning from a meat heavy diet to a plant based diet, many find that it is plain sailing. Nevertheless, it is clear that not all people’s bodies can handle a sudden change to plant based eating overnight. So don’t worry or kick yourself if transitioning takes longer for you. Some people do need to transition gradually.
You may be reading this as a vegan of many years and struggle to understand why others aren’t making the change too. However, not everybody has the information or ability to make such a change to their lifestyle. There are a variety of reasons this may be the case. From poor understanding of the diet and how to change, lack of willpower, no illness to give motivation to get healthier, no love of animals (a rare one, I know, but trust me some people do not love animals) and no understanding or time to care for the environment.
The prevailing reason I find when speaking to people is the idea that going plant based means eating cardboard. This isn’t true, of course. For those of you concerned with missing meat and dairy, I suggest you supplement your vegetables, beans, pulses and lentils alongside faux meats, cheese and fish. Check they are suitable for a vegan diet and made in this country to ensure best quality products.
There may be other, underlying reasons for struggling to make a plant based diet work for you. If you try to see a GP about this, they often don’t have the experience or knowledge to help to treat your problems. Unbelievably, doctors are barely given a few days of nutritional training, which means that they may just throw prescription drugs at you when problems are encountered. Of course this is not the answer.
One health issue that can be encountered is suffering from acid reflux. Many people suffer from this without realising. The doctors gave me Gaviscon, PPIs and H2 blockers to try and mask the problem with drugs. That is not going to fix it and you will most likely become dependent on short term medical fixes — popping antacids like candy.
Instead it is better to consider prevention rather than treatment. You could possibly have a faulty lower oesophageal valve from stress, as I did, and will not want to throw a blanket on a bubbling volcano.
One way of checking for this issue, is to try a lemon test. Squeeze half a lemon into a glass of water and drink it 10 minutes into your meal. If drinking it is soothing for you then your body is enjoying more acid, whereas if it feels warm, then your body has had enough.
Sometimes, doing this lemon test can be enough, but for me, I needed HCL capsules and digestive enzymes due to the extent of the damage. After studying and meeting an amazing naturopathic doctor we realised this was the best way to help break down the fibre in my digestive system that no longer worked properly because of stress. I will likely need them for the rest of my life.
I know a lot of people are put off becoming 100 per cent plant based because they have complications with their digestive systems, perhaps due to stress or after years of meat and dairy consumption. They find that as the colon works more efficiently, symptoms are eased, as there is more peristaltic movement.
The important thing with transitioning to a plant based diet is not to give up. It will get easier and easier. You cannot expect to have a life filled with meat and dairy and expect it to be eliminated within a week.
Once you discover and understand the benefits to you, your health, the animals and the planet we live on, you will wonder why you did not get started years ago. It will become something you can feel proud about.
However, be careful not to become too self-righteous when you do. There is no faster turn off for a meat eater than shoving your wealth of new information down their throats, no matter how frustrating that can seem. Instead, try winning them over by feeding friends, family and especially your children delicious plant based foods.
Over the coming issues, my plan is to make it as simple and pain-free as possible, so you can succeed at plant based eating. Don’t worry though; I am not going to dictate to you. This is really an opportunity to inform and help everyone make conscientious choices to lead a yummy, immune-boosting, energising plant based lifestyle.
You can also look out for my vlogs talking about making plant based easier, especially with how to choose products in supermarkets or health food stores or for eating out in restaurants, flying on planes and travelling to countries that seem allergic to the word vegan until you can show how simple it can be.
We are all human and have good and bad days when we are transitioning. Prepare by educating yourself and researching what you can eat. Fill your cupboards with plant based goodies, don’t be tough on yourself, and just do the best you can. If you’re reading this you already made the first step. Every journey begins with a single step.