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Christmas as a New Vegan

Welcome back to Stirring The Pot. Thank you for joining me.

So you're a new vegan heading into your first big holiday season! If you started a plant-based kickstart program at the same time I started this blog, you will be about five weeks into it. Hopefully you will be past the 'windy' bit and will have sailed headlong into the health benefits - putting on clothes that are no longer a little bit tight, waking up feeling somehow light, and having energy you didn't have before. If you want to maintain the health benefits you've already achieved then this is the article for you. There are two angles to consider when maintaining any major lifestyle change during the holidays and they are your mindset and your environment.

Let's start with your environment. I'm not a big believer in willpower as I've never had much of it myself. I admire people who do but I'm not one of those people. If I have junk food in the house, there is a good chance I will eventually eat it. The best way to continue with a desired behaviour is to align your environment with the change you want to see so that you don't have to rely on willpower. For example, don't keep junk food in the house, keep fresh fruit visible on the kitchen counter and when you cook a meal, make a big batch and freeze it so that you have meals available when you're tired or busy. Until now, you've presumably had some control over your environment, but that might be about to change with the holiday season. The Christmas experience is unique for each of us, but one thing most of us have in common is that we are likely to be seeing more of friends and family over the next couple of weeks (within our Covid bubbles), so that temptation will be within our sightline. There is no magic bullet for this. If there were, then there would be no need for an article such as this. There are however strategies to make life easier for you. Start as you mean to continue with a good healthy breakfast such as quick and easy oatmeal, gingerbread granola or a savoury breakfast taco. You will feel full and feel positive about the day ahead. Take some healthy food with you if you are visiting friends. Have a look here for some great holiday recipes which are quick, easy and healthy. Plant-Based Health Professionals UK also has some excellent festive recipes. Not only will you have something delicious to eat if your friends haven't provided a vegan option, but it will engage them in what you are doing which allows you to start building a support network. Mary McDougall, the doyenne of healthy plant-based eating, suggests embracing the Christmas day meal as one of the healthiest selections of roast veg and potatoes that you will enjoy all year. Finally, create your own traditions around healthy plant-based Christmas meals which you can carry on for decades to come.

Next comes mindset, which is something of a back-up for willpower. If temptation strikes and you don't want to succumb, remember how good you feel when you wake up energised. And try to think about healthy eating in a different light. It's not something you have to do, it's something you get to do. You can now eat a ripe pear or satsuma which tastes sweet and delicious because your taste buds have readjusted. See it as the pleasure and privilege that it is. Don't view fresh fruit as simply an absence of chocolate. Instead, think of chocolate as an absence of fresh fruit. When I first became plant-based, it was a promise I had made to my teenage daughter that I would go vegan with her. I had unwittingly pulled out two of the most powerful tools in the mindset toolkit. I immediately thought of myself as a vegan which meant that the Cadbury's I usually ate every evening after dinner was no longer food in my eyes. I had drawn a line in the sand and I wasn't crossing it. I had also promised my daughter to join her in something she cared about and sometimes we're better at keeping promises to others than to ourselves. So if you think that you can't do it for yourself then think of someone else that you want to stay healthy for. Perhaps your best ally in this journey is your initial reason for changing to a plant-based diet. It got you this far, so let it carry you through the holidays.

I'm very conscious of not wanting any of this to sound like a battle that needs to be fought and won. Life is too short for such things. Eating plant-based is a genuine pleasure and feels good on every front. But if you're new to it, there is no denying that it is a major life shift which requires conscious thought until it simply becomes who you are. So good luck with it and I wish you a happy and healthy holiday.


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