In March 2021, we started a brand new adventure.
We created the Plant-Based Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and empower people to live happier and healthier lives through positive habit change that includes the adoption of a plant-centered diet and the development of daily wellness practices.
Plant-Based Life Foundation is the culmination of my decades-long work in genetics, nutrition, behavioral change and the plant-based lifestyle. And science is at the core of everything we do.
Many of you have been a part of our work for the past 10 years.!
As a community, we have learned a lot along the way.
In this article, we want to share 7 lessons from our work in plant-based nutrition.
Lesson 1: Change Is in the Air (And on Our Plates!)
A decade ago, few people were talking about plant-based diets.
Even doctors and health professionals who understood and endorsed the benefits of preventive and lifestyle medicine considered a plant-based diet to be a ‘tough sell.’
Thankfully, all of that has changed.
The plant-based diet has officially come into its own.
You can see the changes everywhere.
Plant-based is moving from the sidelines into mainstream living.
People are ready and willing to change.
Lesson 2: Being Plant-Based Gets Easier and Easier
Just a few years ago, there were only a handful of companies offering meat and dairy alternatives. Since then, there has been a virtual explosion of plant-based options on the market.
And the expansion has been not only in the quantity of what is offered but the quality of the foods available to us.
“Back in the day” we could only find highly processedanimal-based food substitutes. The taste and texture of this “food” did very little to inspire a diet change.
Now there are products made with 100 percent whole ingredients.
Products that are free of (or have very little) added oils, salt, and sugars.
And they are so delicious that even people who have not yet transitioned to a plant-based diet are eating them up.
They taste amazing. They are nutritious. They are better for the planet. And they do not harm any animals. Win-win-win-win!
Lesson 3: Individual Choice Counts
While many choose a plant-based diet for health reasons, others have been motivated to give up animal products to protect the earth’s creatures or earth itself.
Whatever one’s motive may be, the focus has been shifting from ‘avoiding animal foods’ to ‘embracing plant-based foods.’
This is an exciting development because it changes the accent from what you should avoid to what you should include in your diet.
The increasing popularity of a plant-based lifestyle demonstrates something else too—the power of the individual.
The reality is that no matter what government policies are in place to protect our health and/or our environment, what we do as individuals every day goes a long way in accomplishing our collective goals.
Even if we are few in number, we can still create a big effect.
As Margaret Mead so wisely said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Lesson 4: Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Progress—not perfection—should always be our mantra.
We cannot force people to change.
We can only lead by example, encouragement and inspiration.
To aim for perfection (in ourselves or in others) is a fool’s errand.
It is far better to come from a place of compassion, one that honors our journey and the path our friends and family are on—wherever that might be.
In the end, we all grow and evolve in different ways. The most important thing is to respect and appreciate everyone’s “imperfect” progress, including our own.
Lesson 5: Learn, Learn, Learn
One of the key pillars of changing any lifestyle is the constant, never-ending need for education.
The more we learn, the better we get.
This is just as true for cooking a plant-based meal as it is for living a happier and more fulfilling life.
Furthermore, we must remember that learning is a two-way street.
So while the student learns from her teacher, the teacher also gains great insights from the questions that the student poses.
And over the years, I have learned so much from YOU.
Your inquiries, your concerns, and your interests continue to guide me daily as I seek to share the best possible information with you.
With all the contradictory advice out there, it can sometimes be hard to stay the course.
When we keep learning why our dietary choice is the best one for us (and how to execute it in real life!) it becomes easier and easier to maintain the path we have chosen.
Education is, and always will be, the foundation of our success.
Lesson 6: Let Go of the Need to Be Right
What is it about us human beings?
So many want—and need—to always be ‘right.’
It is a big problem that many of us (including me!) struggle with every day.
The challenge is to find the magic ‘sweet spot’ where we share and support others without forcing them to do it ‘our’ way.
When we fight about what is ‘right,’ we turn the dialogue into a competition with winners and losers.
For us to be right (i.e. ‘win’), others need to lose.
This ‘zero sum game’ is at odds with our goal, which is to improve the quality of life for everyone.
We should look at our encounters with others less as a ‘win-lose’ situation and more as an enormous opportunity to learn from them.
We may see our nutrition needs differently, but every person we meet can teach us something valuable. We just need to learn to listen.
As Stephen Covey so rightly states, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand: they listen with the intent to reply. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.”
Lesson 7: It’s All About Habits
A plant-based diet should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
You can’t separate the two.
As we learned from the Blue Zones research, people who live the longest eat a mostly plant-based diet.
But they have other things in common too.
For example, they engage in regular physical activity (which is not the same as exercise), they maintain low levels of stress, they focus on relationships with family and the community, and they are connected to a life purpose.
This is the healthy lifestyle we all want, and to get there, we must learn to change our habits in an effective and lasting way.
This vision shapes our work and is why we do what we do. .
So there you have it.
7 important lessons we have learned through our work in plant-based nutrition.
Lessons that define our past…and guide our future.
We are looking forward to learning even more in the years to come.
And we invite you to come along with us on the journey!