Every time the New Year rolls around, my husband and I set healthy goals that are attainable, fun, and something we can do together (aw). For 2021, our primary goal is to eat healthier. For me, the focus is on getting more vegetables into my diet. My husband is committing to conquering his habit of eating sweets late at night. So…. I am overhauling completely, and maybe he just goes to bed earlier? If that sounds familiar, you are likely a married, working mother like me. This is my story of making it work for every day of January and how it all turned out after the fact.
40 Changes Everything, For Real
I’ve heard different sources swear by the 80% nutrition and 20% exercise rule for staying in shape my whole life. Quite honestly, I wasn’t really listening because I never had to worry about what I put in my mouth. Before all of you, haters start moaning about the skinny girl, you need to know that the situation has recently drastically changed. My younger metabolism hummed right along on high from a combination of genetics and my level of activity. I know I’m one of ‘the lucky females’ when it comes to a smaller build and less fat overall due to that dice toss of passed-down genes, but I also boosted that bonus with exercise at least five days a week. Working out is therapeutic for me, and I’ve always been up for the next challenge involving pushing my body and embracing movement.
Let’s just say I’ve been less than thrilled that my active lifestyle hasn’t been doing the trick of keeping me thin and energized! Without changing my typical diet or exercise routines, for the first time ever, I’m experiencing weight gain, visible cellulite, fatigue, and a constant bloated feeling. Yuck! This simply isn’t acceptable, so I had to look into changing my eating habits to turn things around (or at least get back to normal). I started researching the benefits of eating a plant-based diet based on curiosity from other success stories of women in a similar place. This method sounded exactly like what I needed, stat. It’s been proven to improve gut health and digestion with the plus of reducing inflammation. Nix the bloating and the blubber? Sign me up! I decided that I would eat a completely plant-based diet for the entire month of January (no cheating). My thoughts were if a crazy-busy mom like Carrie Underwood can do it, then so could I. Right? You betcha!
Overcoming Obstacles in Advance
They say failing to plan is the same thing as planning to fail so I wasn’t going to fall into that trap of using excuses to stray from my goal. I knew going vegetarian wasn’t going to be an easy feat. I live in a house of dedicated meat-eaters (all males, by the way). Family dinners with our sons always revolve around ‘growing boy’ meat-based proteins like hamburgers, meatballs, rotisserie chicken, tacos, and salmon. I do always shop for lean and organic offerings, of course, but all veggie is a whole other level of clean. I knew I would be tempted to dive into those taco night temptations if I wasn’t properly prepared. Based on me knowing myself, I needed to enlist some outside help for meal prep, or I wouldn’t last a week before being back on the gravy train with the guys. So, I fired up the search engines and went down the rabbit hole featuring countless meal delivery services that service the area where we live. Ultimately, I chose The Purple Carrot to be my prep partner, planner, and pro-veggie pusher for four weeks.
Ordering a meal delivery service lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. Meal planning and grocery shopping were done for me. I could choose from various meal options under the plant-eating plans — Quick & Easy, High-Protein, Gluten-Free, or Chef’s Choice. All I had to do was open my front door and carry the box inside. Well, that was after opening my wallet to pull out the credit card. I was actually on a bit of a high at the thought of avoiding the mile-long line outside of the Trader Joe’s (I am a devoted TJ shopper, but man, that place is crowded). That euphoric feeling didn’t last long once I realized how much time the Purple Carrot meals took to make ready from door to table. The prep instructions and chopping up of all the veggies took way longer than I expected. This was true even when I chose the Quick & Easy meals.
As much I love a salad when going out, especially North Italia’s Tuscan Kale Salad or the Kale Caesar from Chopt, it was a lot of fun to discover utilizing ingredients that I’d never cooked or served at home in the past. All of these new flavors and textures made me incredibly grateful that all of the ingredients were guaranteed to be fresh and seasonal. My personal favorites were the Beluga Lentil Tacos with Quick Guacamole & Radish Jalapeño Slaw and the Sweet Potato Flatbread with Roasted Grapes & Cashew Cheese. Their vegan cheese options were pretty tasty — liking fake cheese is not something I ever thought I’d endorse. A skeptic no more, I was crushing it on this plan, even with all of the kitchen work.
The tree-hugger in me (I seek out the recycle bin for my trash at other people’s houses, devoted to the core) really liked that there were no wasted ingredients due to pre-measured portions. A huge bonus was the idea that I was helping the planet – when you can’t eat burgers with the kids, you’ve got to get your happiness where you can, people! The Purple Carrot meal kits save gallons of water with each meal and have a smaller carbon footprint than grocery store meals. Overall, the dishes were yummy. Of course, my family wouldn’t eat this way, so I basically had to make two meals every night. Different menus plus my extensive ingredient lists resulted in lots of dirty dishes. That wasn’t one of my favorite aspects of the plan, as I like minimal cleanup and pre-January consider myself a sheet pan cook.
When I just couldn’t pick up another knife, I didn’t give in and get a pizza but counted on select orders from takeout spots favored for similar (mindful, fresh, plant-based) menu options. A few favorites for effortless or on the go eating without cheating for me are:
30-Day Results and Next Steps
At the end of the dish-washing month, I’d lost a total of 3 pounds. It’s not quite the number I’d hoped for, but not that bad, considering winter often equals weight gain. In terms of bloat, the first two weeks were rough (as in actual roughage). By the third week, my system had adjusted, and this situation was much improved. Finally! Definite positives that made it worth the effort were improved energy that I could truly feel in a big way. I could just say no to that second cup of coffee. My skin also looked noticeably clearer and felt smoother, and even my rosacea calmed down.
As much as I enjoyed Purple Carrot dropping on my doorstep, I didn’t love that it’s not locally based. My environmental heart sought out sources nearby and a friend recommended to me a local caterer that I’m now ordering vegan meals from regularly (post 30-day restricted plan). She sends me meal options to choose from, prepares the meals (thank goodness), delivers them in covered glassware, and provides heating/storing instructions. The best part with this addition to my eating plan for the year is no cooking and only a fork to wash– Hallelujah! My time on this plant-based diet inspired me to give ‘No Dairy February’ a try next. I’m still planning to incorporate vegetarian meals into my diet weekly, but the elimination of one of the common culprits for inflammation is hopefully going to make me feel and look even better. Watch out 2021… I’m coming for you!