What I’ve learned and changes I’ve seen on Dr. Gundry’s health transformation program, the Plant Paradox
I did not wake up one day and decide to start the Plant Paradox Program. While I am very health-conscious now, I was not always concerned with nutrition and a lifestyle with long term health benefits. In high school and college, my “health goals” were a thin toned body, and I did whatever it took to achieve it. This led to unhealthy preoccupations with food, excessive calorie restriction and dieting just to achieve my version of the “ideal body.” It was miserable! Thankfully, with good support and education, I learned the truth about what it means to be healthy, and I am (most days) no longer fixated on those things.
I’ve come to realize that eating healthy is not a means to achieving a thin and culturally attractive body, nor is it a means of punishment for not measuring up in some way. This only leads to misery, not to mention very disordered thinking and eating behaviors. What I came to realize as I matured and gained knowledge about my health is that being healthy is a lifestyle, not a bunch of isolated food choices here and there. Since then, I have made the shift from body image-focused eating and living to physical, mental, and emotional nourishment.
Why I decided to give the Plant Paradox program a try
The past 6 years have been an experiment to discover my truly healthy body and mind, while genuinely enjoying my food. I went from being mostly vegetarian in high school and college, to a fully vegan diet at age 22. Soon after going vegan, I modified my diet a bit to include the occasional consumption of fish and animal products. I really only did this so I could eat desserts like ice cream and cookie dough—sweets are my weakness. Since I didn’t like meat all that much, I cut it out and never looked back. I stuck to this plant based diet and lifestyle for about 5 years, until I started doing more research and came across Dr Steven Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox.
This book blew me away. I had been eating a plant based diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes for over 5 years when I came across Dr. Gundry’s research concerning lectins. I began to realize that some health issues I’d been experiencing could be a result of the “healthy” foods I’d been eating. These included irritated skin, bloating, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety and mood swings. If you know me, you know that I’m the type of person who has to have all the facts before making a decision. Trust me when I say this book provides extensive research that convinced me to give Dr. Gundry’s nutrition plan a try.
The Plant Paradox explained
There are 3 phases of the Plant Paradox Program. Since I didn’t have any major health issues, I began eating at the “yes” foods and eliminating most of the “no” foods (see the lists here). I decided I would wholeheartedly follow the plan six days a week. Then, I would take one day off where I could make an exception for a social situation or special occasion.
Dr. Gundry recommends you go all in on the nutrition plan. However, I decided that I’m not ready or willing to commit to the program 100 percent… yet. As for other aspects of the plan that he highly recommends, I got fully on board. These included eating organic, plant based and lectin-free; intermittent fasting; eating seasonally; and avoiding major hormone disruptors.
What can I eat?
In September 2018, I officially started the PP program. The first challenge was figuring out what the heck I could eat. Friends and family already considered me extreme for being plant based, so now I worried about the restrictions of following an even more structured diet. However, I found that a lot of the “yes” foods are things that I was already eating. I just needed to find some new ways to cook them to make them compliant. So, I scoured the internet and Pinterest to discover Plant Paradox tips and recipes, and cake across multiple blogs dedicated to the program. One of my favorites, Creative in my Kitchen, has been especially helpful.
While I did have to sacrifice some foods, like my beloved grains and potatoes, I discovered new things that I enjoyed as a replacement. Carbs like millet, basmati rice, and sweet potatoes are now staples in my diet. I’ve also added more healthy fats, because I wasn’t consuming enough before. A nutrition plan that recommends I eat avocado every day is alright with me! This pretty much sums up my experience: eliminating one food and finding a whole new food I never knew I enjoyed. It has definitely made me a more adventurous eater, and challenged my creativity!
Plant Paradox grocery shopping
Along these lines, grocery shopping on the PP program was something I had to navigate. Check out my post here for time and money-saving tips for healthy shopping. Through Dr. Gundry’s website, I discovered Thrive Market, an online grocery membership that sells pretty much everything except produce and dairy. Many of the Plant Paradox pantry staples and snacks can be found on this website, and the best part is, everything is on sale. There is a membership fee, but when you compare the initial cost to the savings on clean, organic foods and products, it’s totally worth it.
What about other products?
I also considered for the first time the safety of the products I was using in our home. I scoured the labels of all my household cleaners, makeup, pain relievers/medications, cooking and kitchen storage supplies. This was probably the area of my life that changed the most. I didn’t realize or care previously about the toxicity of my everyday products, the things that, unbeknownst to me, were affecting my physical and mental health.
Sadly, our government’s health standards for household and beauty products are very lax. Toxic chemicals are permissible in such products, even though research shows they are detrimental to our health. Since I wasn’t sure what was toxic in my home, I relied on websites/apps like Think Dirty and Healthy Living. These allow you to research your products to see their level of toxicity. When it came to replacing these products, I shopped at Grove Collaborative. It’s a website that sells only non toxic household and beauty products. It’s awesome because you don’t have to worry about checking labels; they do the leg work for you!
I did not start the Plant Paradox program in order to lose weight, although many people do. Nor did I try it because of an autoimmune disease or other health condition. Rather, I chose to follow the program because the research convinced me. It convinced me that I needed to make a change for my long term gut and brain health.
Benefits I’ve experienced include improved digestion, clearer skin, better sleep, faster recovery from workouts, more energy and a sharper mind. Though I am fit and not trying to lose weight, I have noticed that I am less bloated and generally feel “lighter.” I have less dramatic cravings and mood swings, which is a benefit to my husband more than anyone. I also struggle with pervasive anxiety, and I have noticed that I am more capable to combat anxious thoughts when I stick to the program. I am highly optimistic about the long term benefits, too, like prolonged physical and mental vitality in old age.
Another indirect benefit is to the environment. Eating fewer animal products and reducing the amount of toxic materials and products we use is better for our planet.
While I consider myself a disciplined person and enjoy being that way, the Plant Paradox program has been surprisingly freeing to follow. It absolutely does take research, discipline and commitment. But the benefits make it worth it to me, knowing I can trust that what I’m eating and the products I’m using will lead to a better quality of life and health for the long haul.
Although this is the nutrition plan I choose to follow, it does not mean I’m perfect at doing it. For me it’s a process, and I like to maintain a lifestyle that I believe is realistic for me. Thinking about trying the Plant Paradox plan? Do your research and speak with your doctor to determine if it’s beneficial for you. For tips on how to creating healthy eating habits, check out my blog post here. For Plant Paradox compliant recipes, check out my boards on Pinterest!