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One of the most wondrous qualities in human beings is we’re infinitely adaptable.

When change comes along and blindsides us–whether it’s the loss of a beloved one or a move or a new job opportunity—we might not know how to react initially but we (almost always) regain our balance.

We adjust.

We adapt.

We even learn to thrive—not just survive—with the new circumstances.

Our ability to adapt to life’s little surprises is really remarkable, isn’t it?

Ironically however, it’s sometimes harder to adapt to the changes we want to make in life than the ones that are simply ‘pushed’ on us.

Changes we choose—like transitioning to a plant-based diet—can be super challenging. It’s tough leaving behind a lifetime of habits and giving up on some of your ‘favorite’ foods.

To help you navigate towards a 100% plant based lifestyle, here are 9 tips to keep you focused and ‘on track’:

  1. Remember your “Why”: There’s a reason you chose whole food, plant-based living. Maybe it was for your health. Or the environment. Or a deep love for all animals. Embrace the reason why you chose the plant-based way; let it motivate and inspire you. If you need help discovering your why, check out this article.
  2. Think about the gains, not the pains: Think about what you’re getting out of a plant-based diet, not what you’re giving up. Keep a written list of everything you gain by being plant-based: better health, better skin, longer life, healthier planet.
  3. Learn more: There’s nothing like constant education to help keep you excited about your plant-based journey. Keep learning. Read books. Subscribe to blogs like this one. Make it really fun and go to cooking classes!
  4. Get some support: Seek out other plant-based eaters and make friends – online and off. Create your own village of like-minded people who want to adapt and thrive.
  5. Think of plant-based as a lifestyle: It’s not really a diet. Meaning that you’re not counting calories in and pounds off. The point isn’t to starve or deprive yourself—but to nourish yourself in the best way possible. Eating a plant-based is a lifestyle and a way of living. This is not a 2 week fad diet but a long-term, permanent shift.
  6. Take it one meal at a time: Don’t try to envision your whole plant-based life at once. You could get discouraged. A better way to approach it is limit your time horizon; just think about what you’re going to eat at the next meal.
  7. Plan ahead: This might seem contradictory to the previous point, but planning for things like holidays and travel will really help. You’ll be faced with questions from the plant-curious and the avowed meat-eaters. You might not have many food options. Bring your own dishes (enough to share of course) to gatherings. Make sure you carry your own food when you travel. Hint: Raw veggies are an excellent traveling companion!
  8. Team up: Besides support from longtime plant-based eaters, it’s also always good to partner with someone who’s roughly at the same place you are when it comes to your plant-based transition. You can share recipes, discover new restaurants and help each other through the really tough moments.
  9. Try new things: Your old diet was limited. How many meats are there, really? But the variety of whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables…it’s virtually unlimited. Try them all. Mix and match.

And one last bonus tip…Have fun! Your transition might require a bit of patience and a dash of perseverance. But the rewards of success are monumental—you will feel better, lighter, cleaner. Good luck as you progress—slowly but surely—to your plant-based destination.

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.