The plan was to eat a whole-food, reduced-oil, plant-based diet for a year and chronicle how it affected me. Sounds simple enough. So why, eight months on, did I find myself sitting on the couch beside an empty bag of Ruffles, eating chocolate icing out of a tub with a spoon (you know what I’m talking about), when instead I thought I’d be jogging jauntily along the seawall, feeling great and looking radiant and svelte in my new Lululemons? What the hell happened? Where did it all go so wrong?
I’ve been plant-based for a few years now so the vegan part of this experiment was not the issue. But after a couple months of “healthy”—aka oil-free, whole food—plant-based eating, things began to unravel. I grew tired of making different, often inconvenient, choices than everyone around me. I grappled with the discomfort of planning every meal, being organized enough to have ingredients on hand, and taking the time to cook when I was hungry and impatient to fill my belly. I craved the perceived comfort of cookies and doughnuts and French fries.
And so I went into avoidance mode. I stopped writing my blog. I stopped planning my meals. I made poor choices in restaurants. I let processed vegan foods sneak back into my diet. I let my exercise routine slide. It was a slippery slope that led to me sitting on the couch with the aforementioned tub of icing and an extra 15 pounds to deal with.
I could point to a myriad of factors—lack of planning, laziness, erratic hormones, feelings of deprivation—but what it really comes down to is fear. Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding, strangely enough. Fear of change. Fear of always being the weird one who can’t eat at everyone’s favourite restaurant. Fear of being judged – for what I eat and for what I look like. Fear of not making a difference. Fear of letting my readers down. Fear of not having any readers.
Fear can be crippling. And going into avoidance mode and retreating to a comfortable place – a place with ginger snaps and coconut milk ice cream – seemed like the answer, a way to make the fear go away. But I was wrong.
“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.”
— Harriet Learner, The Dance of Fear
So no, as it turns out, choosing to be comfortable is not the answer – at least not the way I was doing it. Cynthia Pasquella, a champion of transformational nutrition, says, “If you want to transform, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Which scares the shit out of me.
In her book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, Susan Jeffers suggests that the only real fear is the one that belies all our other perceived fears: the fear that we won’t be able to handle what comes. But when examined up close, this fear has no legs. I have lived through the illnesses and untimely deaths of both my parents; uprooting of my life to move house, city, and country countless times; crushing, unnerving heartbreak; and the uncertainty and risk that accompanies self-employment. And I survived. Thrived even. So why am I so afraid that I can’t handle this? Why do I find the idea of changing the way I eat so scary?
What if I try living this healthy, plant-based lifestyle and fail? What will people say? What if I succeed and have to constantly live up to people’s expectations of me? How hard will that be? The judgement of others—even the perceived judgement, what we assume other people must be thinking—can make us feel inadequate, like we are not enough. But we are all enough. Just showing up and putting myself out there is enough—a huge accomplishment worthy of accolades, frankly. So I am willing to step into a place of discomfort until it stops feeling so bloody uncomfortable. I can handle it. I am enough, damnit. Bring on the green smoothies.
So let’s try this again. Time to step back into the kitchen and re-embrace the whole food, oil-free, plant-based lifestyle – for the good of the environment, my health, and the animals. Wish me luck!