A friend of mine put out a challenge to me a couple of months ago: consider trying a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Our families have grown in our friendship over the past few years and this pastor and former NFL athlete had just written the foreword to my latest book, Chronic Healing.
“I just want to challenge you to take a look at it, Courtney,” he said.
This girl who’s grown up the carnivore, loving her steaks grilled medium, bacon, and chicken of all cooked varieties. This girl who’s leaned on dairy to feel full and comforted, who buys no less than three dozen eggs at nearly every grocery trip. What?
I had a terrible migraine one afternoon. My husband was to be away for a men’s retreat overnight. So the kids and I grabbed some Chinese takeout, ate an early dinner, and retired to bed incredibly early. I ate my crab rangoons, despite how I know the way they make my blood sugar go haywire for hours. And I felt terrible.
Sitting in the dark to ease the migraine, I still wasn’t tired, so after my nutrient-void meal, I found a couple of documentaries on eating a plant-based diet. (It could also be called veganism, but since that label comes with additional stereotypes I don’t feel fit me personally, I’ll stick with “plant-based.”)
My understanding was challenged. I wanted to feel good and healthy and whole in my body. I wanted to be fit, ready for whatever calling God placed on me.
After glancing at the calendar, I saw that my next checkup was 2 months away. What a perfect time for an experiment! I could handle eating plant-based for 2 months to see what changes came along the way. The next morning became my Day One.
It’s been 2 months now that I’ve eaten a plant-based diet and I’m amazed at the changes I’ve seen. So far, I’m 13 pounds lighter (without even trying), I’ve been able to lower my daily insulin requirements by about 20%, my LDL (bad) cholesterol has dropped 46 points, I feel lighter, more agile (as opposed to more lethargic, that had become my norm), and what amazes me most is that my ever-present cravings have all but ceased! I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t overwhelmed during a day with some kind of food craving.
After meals I feel satiated, yet not stuffed. I feel like I’ve fed my body nutrients rather than merely fed the beast in my belly which is never satisfied. More often, I’m seeing a few bites left on my plate because I’m able to better sense when I’m full. Smelling cooked meat or cheesy dishes may ignite my taste buds for a moment, but the moment has quickly been passing me by.
Many times, when I’ve mentioned to others throughout these past weeks what I’m doing, their response is a mixture of admiration and a certainty that they could never do that because they “love” their food too much. They could never give up ranch dressing or cream in their coffee or their seasoned steak or breakfast eggs or bacon. It’s inconceivable!
And, more than ever before, I’m seeing how tethered we as a society have become to food to comfort us. That was me! A whole life spent tied to food, idolizing food, unwilling to part with my favorites.
I’m not a dietician, and I’m not telling you to eat (or not eat) anything in particular. I’m simply sharing a piece of my story with you. My story is still developing. I’m still researching the ins and outs of this particular way of eating. But I do want to place a challenge out to you – are you eating to live or are you living to eat?
Are you selecting your food based on its nutrient density, its ability to feed your body’s cells? Or, are you selecting your food based on the cravings of your taste buds and the groaning of the beast in your belly?
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Philippians 3:19
A few final thoughts:
- What about protein? – We’re all concerned with this one and it’s the primary question I am asked. Plants are abundant in protein. My main sources include hemp-based protein powder, hemp hearts, sprouted pumpkin seeds, nuts, and protein-heavy veggies.
- What about refined grains and sugar? – Simply put, I’m avoiding them. They’ve been stripped of nutrients. I’ll have the occasional dinner roll or side of pasta when eating out, but generally, I’m seeking to eat whole foods.
- What about gut health? – Remember, I’m still learning, still experimenting. I do know how un-sprouted grains and legumes can negatively impact gut health, so my goal is to eat sprouted grains and legumes wherever possible, getting more comprehensive over time.
- Are you using a specific plan? – No I’m not. I created a list of meals and snacks I knew I already liked that fit within the parameters of a plant-based diet (vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, whole grains, tubers, legumes). And when I meal-plan or grocery shop, I simply refer to my list. I don’t count calories or points.
- Is this for everyone? – I don’t know and I won’t presume to say one way or the other. For me, this is making huge differences in my life and in the way I approach food. (My husband eats what I eat, plus high-quality meats, organic and grass-fed wherever possible. With his diet and regular CrossFit training, he’s leaner and stronger than he’s been in quite a while.) Talk with your trusted health practitioner, consider your specific situation, and try different methods to see what works best for you!
- What does this have to do with God? – This blog space is dedicated to finding God in our everyday circumstances. So why am I writing about food? Because food has been an idol in my life since childhood. The enemy has used food to control me and provide false comfort. Yet God is the One who created food and designed our bodies. He often used food in the Bible (a physical substance) to speak to a deeper reality, a spiritual issue within the hearts of His people. For the first time in my life, I no longer feel dominated or consumed by food. I feel fueled by it, better equipped to move forward in God’s calling on my life.
May I pray for you? Lord, thank You for the person reading these words. Thank You for Your perfect design and purposes on our lives. Thank You for creating food to bring us back to remembrance of our need for You. Help us honor You with our choices and steward these bodies well. Guide us in wisdom to Your very best for our individual needs and circumstances. Reveal to us Your next steps and give us boldness to move forward, forsaking anything in our lives that does not honor You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.