The words ‘plant-based’ are proliferating everywhere and in everything from your milk aisle, to Snoop Dogg commercials for Dunkin’, in our skincare products, and if you can believe it, in my dog’s food. If we learned anything from watching the Oscars this past Sunday, it was just how passionate celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix, are about a plant-based, as he referred to the world as ‘entitled’ to be drinking cow’s milk. As Americans, we’re always up for a challenge of a new fad diet, but in reality, plant-based is a movement that requires deep consideration by all.
Plant-based essentially means proportionately choosing more of our foods from plant sources. It sounds easy enough if you’re vegan, like Phoenix, vegetarian or have an affinity for vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. But for the world who grew up as carnivores, like me, it will take a mindset shift to incorporate both at a macro and micro level.
Why all the hubbub about plant-based and why now? Because human health is intertwined with planetary health, it always has been. Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth, according to EAT. Studies show that a diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits. And increasing evidence shows that good nutrition is crucial for mental health. Net-net: the dietary choices you make today, can influence your mental and physical health tomorrow.
When you’ve grown up eating our ‘Standard American Diet’ of burgers and meats galore, yummy cheeses and other dairies how do you even begin? Does watching Joaquin Phoenix’s speech at the Oscars make you put down the tray of sliders you’re serving at your Oscars party? The world is asking us to change habits almost immediately and at a micro-level. So, for example at your next Oscars party, don’t even consider serving beef sliders.
For many people, they need to be convinced that making a change at the individual level will make a difference – in anything we do. Although recycling may seem like a modern concept introduced with the environmental movement of the 1970s, it’s actually been around for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the first Earth Day in 1970 when recycling became mainstream again. Thousands of years of destruction flew by. In 2012 the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development produced a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world, where the food we choose on a daily basis has a monumental impact on these SDGs.
In recent years, as we visibly see the destruction of climate change and the environmental effects that have been associated with meat production (i.e. pollution through fossil fuel usage, animal methane, effluent waste, and water and land consumption), it’s never been more real that our individual actions have consequences – both good and bad. Without individual actions at that micro-level, our world risks failing to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and our future generations of tomorrow will inherit a planet that has been severely deprived and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease. I’ve seen enough episodes of The Walking Dead to get a sense of what a future zombie apocalypse looks like, and it isn’t pretty.
So how do we begin to make this transition to plant-based? It’s about more than just the food, it’s about shifting your mindset around the subject itself. Muhammad Ali once said “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” This is the essence of micro-stepping your mindset.
Here are 5 Microsteps to Shifting Mindset to go Plant-Based:
1. Do everything with love: Remember that we are empowered humans with the ability to overcome barriers. Don’t do things with expectations that you will receive. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. After centuries beating down on our bodies and on the planet, it’s time to show them both love and change our behaviors. Start to embed this notion in your soul.
2. Create your North Star: Think about a positive personal health and planetary goal that you want to achieve. Write it on a sticky note and post it in a place where you can look at it every day. Visualize this every day. Think of your North Star as your guiding principle for all food related decisions. It is very important to me to leave our future generations with food that doesn’t make them sick, and a vibrant planet full of growing resources (my North Star). Therefore, I micro-step my way to reduce my carbon footprint and food-print, in this case.
3. Meditate on your North Star daily: Meditation helps to clear out the noise to focus on mindfulness, which allows you to be self-aware and make good decisions for yourself and others around you. Mediation helps to change perspective and focus on what is important and has been shown to promote habit change through self-awareness to unhealthy behaviors.
4. Open your awareness to options: For centuries other cultures have been plant-based such as in Southern Asia and the Mediterranean. Expanding your mind and palate to learn from other cultures and their people affords you an entirely new world of options. Not all plant-based foods in the US are good for you, as many include processed ingredients. So, step outside of your current boundaries and be open to trying other cultures plant-based foods.
5. Do. Or do not. There is no try. My personal quote is “One must live in the future in order to recognize the impact of present actions.” Yes, you can use that. If you think of these steps as doing your part to preserve our culture, then micro-stepping your way to plant-based begins today. At the most basic level, trying plant-based one meal per day will drive change.
I wish you and our planet great health in this journey.