The diet that God gave to us all in Genesis 1:29 is no longer as easy to follow as it was thousands of years ago. Today, the hurdles to consuming a primarily raw, plant-based diet are more challenging than ever.
However, it's no less important to fuel our miraculous self-healing bodies with raw fruits and vegetables. Though modern challenges make it more difficult to achieve this lifestyle, there are effective and meaningful ways to overcome them. In our most recent live webinar, Micaela Karlsen, MSPH, author of "A Plant-Based Life" and contributor to "Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health," a New York Times bestseller, addresses these obstacles as well as four ways to be successful in plant-based eating in the modern world.
The Four Keys
In her presentation, Karlsen dives into four key topics: handling food addiction and barriers, avoiding the use of willpower, mastering the physical environment and fostering a supportive social environment. When it comes to barriers in eating raw or plant-based foods, people often report the following:
- Lack of information.
- Concerns about nutrition.
- Not enough willpower.
- Family members are not willing to change their diets with them.
- No access to plant-based foods.
- Reluctance or feeling as though it would not be filling.
- Would miss eating junk food.
These are real concerns that many feel prohibit them from taking part in a biblical plant-based diet as explained in Genesis 1:29. In her presentation, however, Karlsen addresses how following her four key tips for success can help anyone to succeed in the long term.
"A plant-based diet is really the most straightforward path to improved health," she said.
1. Food Addiction
These barriers to plant-based eating go beyond just mainstream Western culture and social activity, however. There are many people who are suffering from food addiction, a disease that causes individuals lose the ability to monitor the food they are consuming. This chemical dependency on food or on one specific type of food is very real. Those who experience it feel they are unable to control their eating.
Today, there is extensive evidence indicating that hyperpalatable foods – highly processed foods – are addictive substances, even more evidence than existed to support the declaration that alcohol and tobacco were substances of abuse, explained Karlsen. All of these concentrated substances with added fat, sugar and salt activate the same neural circuitry in the brain as does drug addiction. Similarly to drug or alcohol addictions, when people begin to remove things like potato chips, meat, processed foods and junk food from their diet, they will go through a period of withdrawal. Though changes will start happening almost immediately, the time frame for withdrawal from sugar, salt, fat and animal products is different for each person. Most experts say that "a full retraining can take between three weeks and three or more months."
"It's important to know that when you're moving toward a healthier diet there may be several steps forward and a couple steps back," said Karlsen. "And it's important to be forgiving of yourself and have permission to go through that process."
As such, commitment is crucial and individuals must commit to waiting out the withdrawal period. The feeling of cravings will pass.
2. Willpower Alone Won't Work
According to Karlsen, the American culture fosters an obesogenic and disease-promoting environment. Often, food cravings are artificially stimulated, through food advertisements, social gatherings and the accessibility of food today. However, using willpower alone does not work, which is why so many fad diets fail. When you are relying on willpower alone to stick with dietary intentions, it cannot outlast the mental and physical fatigue that so many people face. In fact, cravings and impulses go up when willpower is low.
"The modern food environment could not be better designed to induce decision fatigue around food," Karlsen said.
Did you know that researchers have found that people face an average of 200 food decisions each day? Most of these decisions are subconscious. According to Karlsen, the fewer food decisions that you face, the more self-control you will hold on to. Thus, the idea is to preserve willpower for only the most dire of situations. The best strategy is to plan ahead for each mealtime and food decision. By mapping out in advance, you can avoid placing yourself in situations where a food decision needs to be made.
3. Make the Healthy Default Your Norm
One of the best ways to reduce the number of food decisions faced each day is to create a food environment that is conducive to your goals. This means keeping your home, office and car stocked with only whole, plant-based foods and snacks and removing all other foods. This will likely include having an honest conversation with family and friends to gain their support. If your commute to work includes tempting restaurants or stores, consider a new route or better yet, bring food with you. When dining out with friends, call ahead and speak with the chef or manager to place an order that works for you.
"Habits become strengthened by repetition."
These tips are especially crucial during the first few weeks of your transition. Down the road, healthy decisions will only become easier and easier.
As Karlsen explained, habits become strengthened by repetition and more importantly, "Habits dominate when intentions are weak or unformed, or when willpower is diminished. Habits can be the bane or the blessing of a healthy diet."
4. Social Environment is Important
Research has shown that most people will have, or adapt, very similar eating and lifestyle patterns as their friends. As such, the final key of the presentation is to build a social network that normalizes consuming a plant-based diet. It's a natural human desire to have affirmation from your community, Karlsen explained.
However, this does not mean eliminating friends or family members who do not share the same diet as you. It simply means maintaining those relationships through your transformation as well as reaching out to local or nearby plant-based communities, such as Hallelujah Acres, to form new relationships and gain support on your journey toward a primarily raw, plant-based diet.