I recently kicked off a blog series to explore each of my 5 pillars of wellness—being mindful about what you’re eating, drinking and thinking, and how you’re resting and renewing—on a deeper level and how they’re tied to your overall health. And today we’re going to talk about the eating pillar!
This pillar is close to my heart because it was the first stop on my own wellness journey. After I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, I knew that my diet (which consisted mostly of fake and fast food, ramen noodles, ice cream and salty takeout) HAD to change.
My diet seemed like an obvious place to start back then, because it felt like something I had more control over. I sure as heck wasn’t tuned into the other pillars yet—that came later.
Once I got that life-changing news and decided to take action, I started researching how to eat to literally save myself. And the more I investigated, the more I realized that the answer was very simple. One-word-simple, in fact. Plants.
So, I headed straight for the produce aisle.
You might know by now that I’m vegan, but that’s not really what the eating pillar is all about. It’s about recognizing that you have this beautiful, delicate inner terrain, and how you care for it defines how you’re gonna feel. That means listening to your body and choosing to put stuff on your plate that makes you feel GOOD, not bloated, depleted and unwell.
But guess what? You don’t have to be vegan to get value from this article, experience optimum well-being or be part of our community—all are welcome here! But I do know that a plant-based diet is by far one of the healthiest options out there, so I’m going to let you in on some of the reasons I chose this lifestyle and the countless benefits I’ve seen. Also, if you’re new to veganism and wondering exactly HOW to eat a plant-based diet, I’ve got some insider tips to help you get started (and be successful!).
But first, grab this free gift to transform your diet and overall wellness with small daily steps!
What are the benefits of eating a plant-based diet?
There are so many wonderful benefits of eating a plant-based diet, but these three really stand out because of their enormous impact.
1. Good for you.
Everywhere you look these days, there’s yet another nutrition expert or wellness teacher telling you what to eat. But despite all of the conflicting information out there, the experts agree on one thing: Plants are really, really good for you.
Study after study shows the health benefits of plant-based diets. For example, vegans have a 40 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 34 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure. Also, 90 percent of patients with blocked arteries are able to reverse the damage after adopting a plant-based diet (source). Studies also show that vegans are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes (source).
The research tells a different story when it comes to eating animal products. Diets rich in inflammatory meats and processed foods are responsible for up to 35 percent of cancers. If more people adopted a plant-based diet, we could significantly reduce the occurrence of this devastating disease (source). That’s just one example of how inflammatory meat, dairy and eggs can wreak havoc on your health.
Here’s the bottom line: One of the best things you can do for your health is to eat more plants, no matter what your overall diet looks like. They’re full of amazing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, phytochemicals and other stuff that’ll help your body run like a well-oiled machine.
2. Good for the planet.
Our planet is in crisis, and the demand for animal products is a huge part of the problem. Raising beef and lamb for meat produces 250 times more greenhouse gases than farming legumes (per gram of protein). Research suggests that beef farming is the number one driver of deforestation globally (source).
Our environment isn’t separate from us. We’re mirrors of it, which means that when the planet is sick, so are we. Environmentalists and climate change authorities everywhere agree: Reducing your meat and dairy consumption is one of the best things you can do to help save this magnificent place we call home.
Just keep this in mind: While eating plant-based is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint, this lifestyle isn’t free of problematic foods. For example, huge tracts of precious rainforest land are cleared every day around the world to make space for palm oil plantations (source). Please practice conscious consumption no matter what diet you choose—that’s what the eating pillar is about!
3. Good for other living beings.
It’s no secret how much I adore animals. And because they don’t have voices of their own, we must stand up for them! Some people believe humane meat and dairy do exist. I’m of the opinion that raising an animal to kill or otherwise exploit is just cruel.
You might have a different take on this subject than I do, and that’s ok. But I think most of us can agree that factory farms, where a lot of the animal products on the market come from these days, are inhumane. Animals at factory farms are deprived not only of love, but also their most basic needs.
These sweet beings are often confined to small indoor spaces where they can’t move or get any sunlight. They’re forced to suffer through torturous, unsafe procedures. They spend their days in unsanitary conditions watching their family and friends get abused and killed. An animal who is sick when he/she is alive is still sick when they end up on someone’s plate.
Those environments are unsafe for our fellow humans, too. Many workers are exposed to unsafe and unhealthy conditions, low pay and long hours. People of color, undocumented people and folks who have few other options for work are disproportionately affected by these issues.
How to Eat a Plant-Based Diet: Tips from the Trenches!
I’ve got tons of resources to help you get started or test out a plant-based diet, including my books, articles and recipes here on kriscarr.com, as well as my new membership community, Inner Circle Wellness. Dig in, explore and most importantly, have fun!
But because I know you need more than just the practical how-tos, the following tips take things a step further… all the way down to the soul level. These are the things I wish I’d known when I was learning how to eat a plant-based diet.
1. Find your why.
Practicing a plant-based lifestyle isn’t hard or restrictive, but it’s not always convenient and it takes some time to adapt. It’s a choice you’ll make more than once, so having a reason that really resonates with your true heart can be incredibly powerful.
Your why is your inner compass. It’s the light that guides you back to your intentions when the siren song of old comfort foods tries to lure you away. You might find your why in the benefits of eating a plant-based diet we discussed above. Or it might come from within—write about it, meditate about it, welcome your why into your life and it will come.
Here’s my why: I choose to nourish myself with whole, plant-based foods because I love and respect my body. My body is already struggling with cancer, so I want to pitch in by participating in my well-being, not my disease. I leave animals off my plate because doing so means I can save 7,000 lives in my lifetime. I’m vegan because I want to tread lightly on our precious planet—the only one we have.
2. Add before you subtract.
So many diets tell us what we CAN’T have. But ya now what? I’m tired of that noise! It makes us feel restricted and it doesn’t work. So instead of focusing on what we can’t have, let’s talk about what we CAN.
We can have a colorful cornucopia of delicious fruits and veggies. We can have lovely legumes and great grains. We can snack on seeds and even chow down on delectable chocolate. You deserve abundance, dear one—don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
This is absolutely fundamental to keep in mind as you’re learning how to eat a plant-based diet. You’ll enjoy it more and be more successful if you don’t feel deprived. So rather than trying to cut out a whole bunch of foods you currently enjoy, start by simply adding some new plant-based treats. And with time, the good stuff will naturally start to crowd out the not-so-good.
3. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfection.
Story time! You may have noticed that when I commit to something, I tend to go all in. That was definitely the case when I was newly diagnosed. Saving my life became my job. Part of that meant going to wellness centers and certification programs where I could learn about nutrition, holistic healthcare and more.
At one of those wellness centers, I had a teacher who instilled the idea that if you’re not taking care of yourself perfectly, you loathe yourself. Gulp. What a scary, unmotivating way to think. But at the time, that belief really made itself comfortable inside my brain… and ended up driving a lot of negative thinking and behavior.
But as my wellness journey continued, I realized how bogus that ideology was. None of us truly loathe ourselves. Love is our base. Our job is to remove the blocks to that love, like that very thought I’d adopted. So I decided to let it go and take a more loving, grace-filled approach to my diet and overall wellness practice (and I hope you will too!): Progress, not perfection.
Your diet is not who you are.
I know what it’s like to obsess about diet… To worry about how many calories that lunch is gonna set you back. To dream about cake while you’re chomping on carrots. And to feel like all the joy in cooking and eating has vanished. I get it.
So here’s an important reminder for your wellness journey: No matter how many times you’ve heard “you are what you eat,” believe me when I say: You are so much more than that. You don’t need a diet to fix you, because you don’t need fixing. Period.
I want to leave you with a quote from my dear friend, Robert Holden, PhD. He said this during our interview for the Healing Cancer World Summit and it really stuck with me. I hope you’ll hold these words closely as you work on the eating pillar in your own life.
“The self you judge is not the real self. The self you love is the real you. When you judge yourself, you can’t see who you are.”
I see you, sweetheart… And I love you oh-so-much!
Your turn: What other questions do you have about how to eat a plant-based diet? Let me know what’s on your mind in the comments below! I’ll answer what I can here and might even turn some of your brilliant Qs into fuel for future blog posts.
Peace and powerful plants,