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Whole Food, Whole Faith – Exploring a Plant-based Lifestyle

October 19, 2011

For a while now, I’ve felt like something was missing when it comes to my overall health and nutrition. If you were to ask me if I was a pretty healthy person, I would say, “Sure!” I try to eat really well and watch my portions.

I get good sleep and I exercise consistently. One day a week I do a strength training class at the gym that whips me every time. And I run 2-3 times a week. And walk regularly.

But lately I’ve been taking a hard look at my diet (thus what I’m feeding my family) and I’ve noticed were I really want to see some change and ultimately feel better. Here’s how I’ll sum it up borrowing from the words of popular food writer & UC Berkeley Professor Michael Pollan:

Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Cancer experts agree that adding green and other vibrant colors to your diet in addition to vegetables, fruits, legumes (dried peas & beans), and grains aids in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

We’ve heard it before. Foods so rich in phytochemicals and other fancy words can do nothing but help my diet. But this knowledge has never made a significant impact on my personal health and food choices until now.

Fruits & Veggies As the Foundation

In other words, I’ve never seen fruits and veggies as the foundation of my health. They have been more like a “side” item.

Going green in one form or another has been a trend for a while. Celebrities and politicians like Alicia Silverstone and Bill Clinton are adopting plant-based lifestyles. And movements like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the Meatless Monday Campaign are making a big dent in how people view what they consume.

Recently, to my surprise,  I’ve discovered that several of my friends have adopted plant-based lifestyles as well.

From what I’ve read, a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian, it just means that most of the food on your plate should be from plant sources. But with that, many people do choose to go all-out vegan or vegetarian.

Introducing More Color to My Kitchen

For the last four days, I’ve been off meat completely. I’m not sure if this is something I will do long-term but for now I want to see how my body feels and if I notice any differences over a span of several weeks.

This is huge for me because I love meat. Most of my favorite dishes involve chicken and beef. But for now, I’m going to get my “meat” from the protein that exists in plant sources and through dairy. We thrive on yogurt and milk around here.

Practically for us this week, my fridge and pantry is filled with foods like raw spinach (for eggs or smoothies), orange, red, and green peppers, hummus, tomatoes, celery, carrotts, whole grain bread, kale, organic yogurt, oranges, grapes, apples, satian (a wheat gluten), quinoa flakes, nuts, and more. I’ve decided to budget out organic crackers, fruit snacks and cereal for the kids.

Here’s our meal schedule until Thursday:

Monday- Chickpea Burgers w/ corn and brocolli - it turned our really well. Very different than what we are used to but we didn’t go to bed hungry. Not sure if I’ll make it again.

Tuesday- Black bean & Zucchini Tortilla Casserole - delicious! a little weird without meat but the whole family enjoyed it.

Wednesday- Tortellini in Sweet Potato Sauce

Thursday- Vegeterian Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce w/ Feta Cheese

I’m on the hunt for good recipes that I’ll reuse and I know there are better ones out there. The main thing I’m remembering as we look into the plant-based lifestyle is that it’s a lifestyle.

If we have a party, are eating out, traveling, or at a friend’s for dinner, there is room to flex a little. I don’t want to be obsessed about it, but aware and conscious of my food choices with moderation and balance.

Whole Faith

So why am I going into detail about all of this health stuff on a blog that is primarily about faith and life? I guess first, I love sharing with you about what I’m learning, especially when I feel like it could encourage you.

Obviously I’m not a health expert or nutritionist- I’m a writer and stay-at-home mom. My husband is an amazing RN so I’ve heard a lot of health-related stories. My sister is a gifted Registered Dietitian and has taught me a lot about health and wellness.

But the truth is that we don’t have to be experts to understand that our health greatly impacts our spiritual life, and vice-versa.

Here’s what I’ve experienced:

  1. When I have more energy, I’m highly productive during the day.
  2. When I get sufficient sleep, I’m quicker to go for decaf coffee than caffeinated.
  3. When I feel good about my body, I often treat others better.
  4. When I’m properly fueled, I have energy to carry a conversation and share my faith with someone.
  5. When I’m renewed in God’s Word and prayer, it changes the attitudes and choices I make.
  6. When I see my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, it changes how I steward my body for God’s glory.
  7. When I pray, anxiety and stress is lifted as I give my burdens to God.
  8. When I exercise, I release endorphins that give me a “high,” making me feel better than I did before while decreasing depression, moodiness, or irritability.
  9. When I serve others as the hands and feet of Christ, it gets the focus off of me and my problems and onto helping people.
  10. When my overall health is well-balanced, I’m inspired to keep at it and persevere in my faith.

Well I’m not exactly sure what my diet will look like months from now, but I do know that I’m going to make better choices. I know that this lifestyle will require sacrifice and hard work, no doubt. I know it’s a road less traveled in our American, fast-food culture. But I’m excited to start this journey and see where it will take me and my family and my faith.

I’d love to hear from you- Did any of the 10 points jump out to you when it comes to your health and faith? What would you add? Do tell!
If you’re interested in more resources regarding the plant-based lifestyle, these have been helpful for me:
5.) Vibrant Life Magazine- faith & health
7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2011 7:58 am

    I’ve made major changes in our diet as well the past 10 months. I’ve lost 21 pounds and lots of inches and I feel great! Our is mostly plant based as well- but I do eat meat- just hardly anything processed (or at least that is my goal each day!)

  2. Anna Lewis permalink
    October 19, 2011 10:45 am

    You know I love a plant based diet! One of my challenges has been to NOT supplement with (many) processed products that simulate meat. (We use some, but I limit it.) I do use tofu, tempeh and seitan though, because they aren’t processed in the same way that a “ground meat” product is. You should check out seitan, it’s made from wheat gluten (you can actually make it at home, but I’ve never tried it.) I think part of the faith aspect for me is using the resources God has given in a way that shows how much I care for and respect what he has provided. Honestly, I might eat meat again if it was from small, local, respectful sources like Windy Meadows Farm. The author of 66daysvegan.wordpress is a friend of a friend. You might like reading about her project!

    • October 19, 2011 12:07 pm

      haha I totally have seitan in my fridge but I spelled it satian up top. The guy at whole foods thought it was “satan”. how is it pronounced?

      I’ll check out that blog. Thanks Anna!

      • Anna Lewis permalink
        October 19, 2011 3:31 pm

        Haha, it’s a weird word. I pronounce it SEE-ten. It’s good for a lot of things, but I usually slice it and sautee like fajitas, or chop for fried rice, etc. Oh, it makes good “barbecue” sandwiches, too! I get mine at Krogers, so you might not have to go to WF. (It’s in the produce section, where they have the guacamole, salad dressings, etc.) I really like tempeh a lot. I like to slice it in half to make it thinner, marinade in tamari (like soy sauce, but better) then sautee in oil for sandwiches. A great way to try tofu is to slice the ‘brick’ into 1/2 or 1/4 slices, pat dry with paper towels, marinate in tamari, then coat with a mixture of cornmeal and dried herbs then bake in the oven.

        I read an article once that instead of thinking about eating this or that, it’s about changing the real estate on your plate. So it’s ok to have mac and cheese, but it should occupy much less space than the broccoli and tofu, etc.

  3. Victoria permalink
    October 19, 2011 10:51 am

    I just wanted to say your posts are really inspirational to me and have helped me. I just graduated high school and will be starting college in January and your posts have been really relevant to what I am going through in my life, its quite funny how God speaks to his children through inspirational writers such as yourself, so thank you!!!

  4. stephindialogue permalink
    October 25, 2011 7:51 pm

    I love this!! You are voicing a lot of similar things that prompted me to start eating differently and blogging about embodied faith. I just wrote today a response to a fantastic book called Earthen Vessels about how Christians tend to be dangerously inattentive to their bodies, viewing them often as second-tier to spiritual growth. But the Incarnation teaches us that our bodies matter to our faith, and we do ourselves a favor to be good stewards of them, as you helpfully outlined.

    I also see many food metaphors in Scripture about God’s providence for our bodies, being sustained in Him, and delighting ourselves in “rich food” what He provides. I believe as embodied creatures, He has gifted us with incredible senses through which to experience Him, and food is one of them.

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