In behavioral health, we talk a lot about the importance of becoming more planful and living life with intention and purpose. A couple of years ago I made the commitment to eat a vegan diet of foods made without any animal products, and I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on my behavior.
This is the story of how a vegan diet extended planful actions across my daily living.
The first month…
When my wife and I first made the leap from a vegetarian diet to a vegan one, we were excited and motivated. I replaced my half and half with soy milk, traded in my honey mustard for sweet onion sauce at Subway, and off we went.
After a couple of weeks, we were frustrated, hungry, and tired of cooking. What went wrong?
It was simple. We were unprepared. And we needed to get prepared, and we needed to do it quickly.
The road trip…
How many times can a person eat Subway in a weekend before they would rather starve? Four. The answer is Four.
The regular workweek was going well. We had rounded out our menu. Fruit for breakfast, soymilk for creamer, salads for lunch, and a burgeoning dinner menu of wonderful and tasty meals. Then we took a road trip from Buffalo, New York to Washington D.C.
No problem we figured stopping at Subway on our way out of town for lunch. Then in Williamsport PA for Dinner… After spending the night, we stopped to get gas and coffee. No soy milk…
After an excellent vegan experience in our Nation’s Capital, we began the drive home by skipping breakfast in favor of beating the beltway traffic. The result of no breakfast…an early lunch at Subway in Altoona. Then we passed up a Subway in Pittsburgh holding out hope for something better, only to stop at another one in Erie.
Like I said. The answer is four.
The learning period…
We had a lot of homework to do. We took to the internet to do our research. We soon discovered many foods we assumed couldn’t possibly be vegan, actually were. Oreos! Pillsbury Crescent Rolls! Sofritas from Chipotle! Sweet Spicy Chili Dorito’s!
And, there’s an app for that (Happy Cow), that locates eateries with vegan options wherever you are. We also re-learned a few basics that managed to previously escape us. Coolers are for carrying portable food. Going 5 minutes off course for food is not a big deal. You’re allowed to eat more than one apple a day if you want to. Grocery stores are not off limits to tourists. Etcetera.
Our menu began to widen and we were back on track. But this time we were armed with tools, confidence, and snacks!
Road trip take two…
Later that fall we got in the car again headed to Cape Cod for the weekend. Only this time we had a cooler full of food and a bag full of snacks. I also knew that there were roadside Starbucks’ for coffee with soy milk regularly spaced across I-90, and just to be safe we laid off Subway and Chipotle for a while before the trip in case we found ourselves in a pinch.
We didn’t eat at Subway once.
Planful behavior kicked in…
Being forced to account for your three meals a day in a restaurant environment that doesn’t cater to your dietary preferences takes work. Planful work. Remember to eat before social gatherings that aren’t likely to have options for you, or bring your own. Know that there is a Chipotle in the Baltimore airport when you have a layover there. Be prepared.
After about six months of adjusting to eating a vegan diet and still living in the world, it became second nature to think days, sometimes weeks in advance. We began to find security in planning, and satisfaction when the planning paid off.
Then the planning extended to other areas of our lives. We began to pay for vacations in advance. Got serious about long term financial goals. Planned and executed those house repairs that we kept putting off. Got Christmas shopping done early. Etcetera.
The positive change...
Chaos is a disconnect. Our commitment to a lifestyle that required planful behavior forced us to practice those universal skills that we couldn’t help but apply to other areas of our lives. It brought structure and order to our thought process and created habits with far reaching positive impact.
It wasn’t the original purpose, but I’m glad it happened.