A few months ago I picked up The Lean by Kathy Freston at the library. I’d seen her on Oprah years ago, and was vaguely aware that she promotes a vegan diet. I checked out the book because I when I flipped through the pages, I loved the book’s layout. It’s a 30-day, one habit at a time blueprint for healthier living. Because the sections are laid out one per day, they looked bite-sized and manageable.
A little background: I’ve been a vegetarian, on and off, for more than 30 years. I had a vegetarian wedding reception (back in 1988 when it was seen as decidedly oddball to do so). Voldemort never really adopted vegetarianism and gradually, meat came back into our diets. Even so, I made an abundance of vegetarian meals and when he left, virtually all our meals were meatless. My kids still eat meat occasionally, but I’ve pretty much dropped it over the past year. So meatless is my preferred diet. But veganism was never my goal. It felt like a bridge too far; it seemed a bit extreme. Even when I was going to animal rights protests back in the day, I still ate cheese. I didn’t buy leather, but I had half and half in my coffee.
So I started The Lean with that bias and absolutely no intention of going vegan. The first few daily habits were simple. Drink more water. Eat an apple every day. Eat a hearty breakfast. Each day a new healthy habit was added to the list, so by day three I was drinking more water, eating an apple, and having a hearty breakfast. Each habit is explained with the scientific or medical reasons clearly laid out. For example, apples have a fair amount of fiber, fiber helps you feel fuller longer, if you feel fuller longer you won’t stuff your face with a bag of chips because you’re starving. (It’s like she looked right at me!)
The main point she makes is to crowd out junk food with healthy food so you’re not starving and vulnerable to making poor choices. I’ve found this to be completely true. In fact, I have trouble eating all the food she has on the daily lists now.
Ms. Freston’s style was so upbeat and positive, I found myself willingly going along with changes I never had any intention of making. One day the new habit was to upgrade your milk and butter. I bought almond milk instead of cow’s milk. I found out my kids really don’t like cow’s milk and now I don’t buy it anymore. Another day was change up your cheese. Ugh, I really didn’t want to, but I bought a couple of non-dairy cheeses and they didn’t taste much different than the dairy cheeses I’d used for the same recipes.
I didn’t do a new habit every day. Some of the habits took more time. And a couple have been hard, like eat six cups of salad a day. That’s a lot of salad. Plus, I like crumbled blue cheese on salad. So instead I try to do deconstructed salads and eat the vegetables separately. I’m calling that good enough.
I’ve been working my way through the book and am up to Day 26. I don’t make a stink about my food when someone else cooks; most people/places have vegetarian options even if they aren’t vegan and I go with that. So I’m mostly vegan at this point. I feel good, my too tight clothes are looser, and it was a lot easier than I ever thought possible. I get my annual blood tests soon (in between attorney appointments and looking at new places to live) and will be fascinated to see if there are positive changes (although my cholesterol, HDL/LDL ratios, and glucose were all in the pretty damn healthy range already). I loved the author’s engaging tone, appreciated her citation of current medical research, and found the suggested changes sensible. If you’ve considered vegetarianism or veganism, this book is highly recommended.
- To vegan or not to vegan? (dailyfoodstruggle.com)
- Get the Facts: The Trouble with Casein (onegreenplanet.org)