21 Day Plant Based Challenge

1 03 2012

I watched a PBS program tonight called “Kickstart Your Health with Dr. Neal Barnard”. He has several other programs including “Tackling Diabetes” and “Kickstart Your Metabolism”. All are worth DVRing, even if just to begin incorporating some of the ideas into your current diet. “Kickstart Your Health” was very interesting. It’s basically the roadmap for beginning a potential plant based lifestyle change. In it, Dr. Barnard states that a switch to a plant based diet can dramatically reduce your cholesterol, high blood pressure and weight while beginning to reversing heart disease, diabetes and other chronic issues. Some of the stats he threw out there were pretty interesting. He said that studies have shown that the average American consumes 75 more pounds of meat , 30 pounds more cheese and 30 pounds more sugar yearly than they did 100 years ago. Imagine how perplexed our body must be when trying to figure out what to do with all of this stuff. It’s no wonder that we have a major health epidemic occurring in this country today. So many of these issues could be eliminated through diet and exercise alone. For instance, did you know that a plant based diet burns calories 16% faster up to three hours after a meal is consumed?

Dr. Barnard’s plan is fairly simple. Take one week to examine what sort of plant based foods you like and start compiling a list of them as well as recipes you might want to try. He states that for this first week, you don not have to change your diet at all. He then advocates switching to a plant based diet for 21 days. That means no animal products (meat and dairy) and “very little” oils. Substitute rye and pumpernickel for other breads and try to stay clear of white potatoes as both cause sugar spikes and cravings. Vegetables, fruits, beans, rice and pasta are all okay. He contends that many people won’t likely want to go back to their old diet after the 21 days. By then weight will have been lost, considerable energy will have been found and cravings for some of the foods that may have been problematic in the past will be less intense.

I know that for me, this plan rings true. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine living like this and sustaining it. I was fortunate to not really have much of a choice. My choice was to eat better or continue to eat like I was and watch my health further deteriorate. Now I’m over 9 weeks into a plant based lifestyle change and I wouldn’t think about going back to eating the way that I used to. I’m sure I will eventually get less strict with my diet but for now, it is working fantastically and it will do me good to continue strictly on this path. Even though the last few weeks, I have seen the weight loss slow, it has not once stopped. Many overweight people adopting this lifestyle change see significant weight decrease, even without exercise. Dr. Barnard stated that many people will lose about 50 pounds in the first year. Furthermore, the majority of people keep the weight off and actually lose additional weight the second year. These figures are much higher than conventional diets. He explained that in the first several months, the average person will lower their cholesterol and blood pressure by amounts that are consistent with what would occur while on medication. And as daunting a task as it seems initially, switching to a plant based lifestyle and being able to maintain it is not so terribly difficult once you get going. The noticeable change in the ways you feel and look should definitely propel you to keep on going.

If you’ve been thinking about going plant based, why not mull it over for another week, come up with a plan and try it for 21 days. You might just find out it is the best thing you have ever done for yourself. I encourage those who have already made the switch to comment here about the positive changes you’ve experienced or drop me a line at johnnysized@gmail.com.


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