Ever felt like you needed to hit the reset button? Sometimes, our bodies just don’t work the way they should. There’s where Kim-Julie Hansen’s new book Vegan Reset: The 28-Day Plan to Kickstart Your Healthy Lifestyle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018) comes in extra handy.
Step one: Set a realistic goal. This is far and away the book’s most impressive takeaway. As Hansen puts it, you get to decide what you’re ready for. For new vegans, this can be as simple as paying attention to the food you eat (and your body’s response). Four weeks later, you’ll have all these new tools to help you succeed in long-term. And they’re not just recipes.
Part of going vegan is navigating the social situations you’ll inevitably find yourself in–when you might have said yes to meat in the past–as you’re learning what it takes to maintain a vegan lifestyle.
Remember, it’s one step at a time. “That’s not so scary,” she writes.
What is a vegan reset?
Honestly, a vegan reset can be whatever you want it to be. According to Hansen, most people shy away from a vegan diet because they feel pressured to meet goals that are completely out of reach. For new vegans, a lifelong commitment to plant-based foods is scary! What am I supposed to tell my 90-year-old grandma about her meatballs?
Because we are creatures of habit, Hansen says, we have to create new ones. Challenges can be small—actually, they should—have to be small. There is no dumbfounded look on your face when you hit the reset button. There’s no moment after you hit the reset button that says, “Oh, everything makes sense now.” Despite all Hansen’s common sense advice, the lack of accord between new vegan and their diets is a little less expected. How can someone so motivated to change have such a hard time changing? Ask any animal rights activist and they’ll point the industrial food system. Animal food producers have a foot on the pedal of your addiction to animal products, and they’re not going to let up anytime soon.
For most people, so-called vegan amnesia is unrealistic. Sudden change is also scary. But there are so many hours in the day. Start there. What will you eat for breakfast today? Can it be vegan? Incremental change is the key to success for new vegans, especially those susceptible to their old ways. With enough practice, incremental change leads to incremental success.
Small wins for veganism one day can lead to big weeks and huge years and eventually, a lifetime of plant-based eating. Now that’s a vegan reset. This plan will walk you through the first 28 days.
Ready, set, detox…
You know how it goes. Anytime you overhaul your entire lifestyle, you really feel the change. Often times in the short term, those changes don’t feel so good. This type of change is often referred to as a “detox symptom.” Which symptoms you might experience from resetting your eating habits will vary, but the important thing to remember is that they will pass.
New vegans often experience fatigue, headaches, and changes in digestion. The severity of detox symptoms depends entirely on your current diet and the consistency of your new diet. Gradually, changes to your diet like exposing your body to less processed foods can make digestion easier. Here’s Hansen’s practical approach to detox symptoms.
- Fatigue. Detoxification requires a lot of energy. Imagine all the random junk from processed food trying to leave your body over the course of a week. It’s tiring! Listen to your body. It needs more rest and fewer animal products. Be kind to yourself.
- Headaches. Heavily processed foods hurt our bodies. One of the most common additives to animal products and other processed foods is sugar, and we all know how addictive sugar is. The addictive qualities may cause withdrawal-like symptoms. Drink lots of water.
- Digestion. Now that you’re trying a plant-based, you’ll be eating a lot more fiber than you used to. With the kick of fiber from your brand new plant-based diet, those heavy animal proteins will start leaving your body quickly. You might be using the bathroom a lot. Go easy.
Adopting a plant-based diet has its obstacles. But given time and a little reframing, these detox symptoms are really just signs that your body is getting healthier. Enjoy it.
Life after your 28-day vegan reset
There is something to be said for those first 28 days. They’re hard, but it gets easier, given time and practice. Like Hansen says, we’re not perfect at anything we do in life. No matter what diet you start with, a vegan reset requires a complete and total overhaul. There are animal products everywhere.
Twenty-eight recipes accompany Hansen’s 28-day plan, plus a few extra thrown in for added flavor. The book is full of absolutely stunning photography. They’re the kind of photos only a professional Instagrammer could dream up. Inside, you’ll find pages so stunning you’ll want to rip out and stick on your wall. Go for it! Sounds like great motivation to carry your vegan reset beyond the first 28 days.
Health and wellbeing should be the center of our lives, but it’s easy to get distracted. There’s nothing wrong with that. It happens to literally everyone. The only way around it, as Hansen’s cleverly points out, is to form new habits specifically around health and wellbeing. Healthy vegans are happy vegans, especially when the hard part—meal plans, prep, shopping lists, and recipes—are done for you.
Bottom line: Set realistic goals. Be kind to yourself. Drinks lots of water. Vegan Reset should be in every vegan’s back pocket.
Matt is an award-winning independent journalist. His reporting has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, HuffPost, Vox, PBS, and NPR, among others.