The Goal of Going Plant-Based is NOT Insulin Sensitivity
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
I’ve wanted to write about this for a while because it’s important to understand if you are looking to go whole food plant-based (or for that matter— any lifestyle changes) in order to improve your health.
Here’s my main point: the goal is not insulin sensitivity.
The goal is also not to get a better a1c or time in range, although both of those things will probably happen.
Instead, insulin sensitivity is a tool to achieve your life goals.
Life goals are those things that you are really passionate about. Things that make you joyful and happy and make life worth it. Things like running, raising your kids, acting, painting, golfing, fishing, whatever! Maybe it's just being extremely present in your life. For me it's having the energy to juggle school, work, marathon training, and being a good friend/wife/daughter!
(Don’t have something your passionate about? It can help with that too. Honestly, I didn’t have a ton of motivation about where my life was going or what I loved do when I started plant-based. Since, I have gained so much energy and love and appreciation for my life that I took a career change and now am chasing my dreams!)
The actual goal that we are trying to achieve is more energy so that we can spend more time paying attention to the things that bring us joy and less time worrying about blood sugars and feeling blah.
It’s a shift in energy that makes a ripple effect. You put effort in, in this case by starting a plant based diet. That makes your blood sugars easier to manage. And then you have more energy to spend on the things you love.
That proactive energy that you spend on eating a certain way ripples out to create more energy overall in your life. It saves so much reactive energy spent chasing highs and lows.
And while it may seem like a lot of energy at the start when you transition to plant-based, trust me when I say that it becomes second nature once you get the hang of it.
Okay now that we have that understood, it’s time to talk about plant-based in the light of restriction. It's directly related.
This is a topic that I am really passionate about because when I first went plant-based, I was scared I was falling into the diet culture trap. Even though my transition did not feel restrictive, I was under the impression that manipulating my food in any way was taking a step toward an unhealthy relationship with food.
But let’s go back to that energy shift concept from earlier. If you’re approaching plant-based in a restrictive way, it’s going to feel like you’re putting in a lot more energy than you’re getting out. It will feel forced. You may feel stagnant and frustrated. You don’t want to see you friends because you don’t want to get “off-track”. These are all signs that you’re approaching it with restriction.
Instead, it should feel easy. Effortless. Dare I say FUN??
It's a spectrum, and you don't have to be on the extreme in order to see the incredible benefits of a plant-based diet. You can be, if that's your jam. But it's not necessary. And with that in mind, it comes down to making your own definition!
I like to define my eating style as totally plant-based, with a major focus on whole foods. Most of the time, especially during the week and on busy days, I am eating whole food plant based and relatively low fat. This makes my blood sugars super predicable and gives me so much energy to focus on work, running, school, and everything in between.
But if I’m going out to eat out or have friends over or celebrate something? I relax the reigns and maybe order a veggie burger with fries! Or after long runs I always crave avocado toast, so I eat it! Sure it’s higher fat and “refined” bread, but I know that I’m still putting enough energy into eating WFPB the rest of the time that it’s going to balance out.
In other words, you gotta find what works for you.
A lot of people DM me with the same question. It’s along the lines of “Do you ever cheat?” And the short answer is no, because I don’t have any rigid rules! Going plant-based has completely changed my relationship with food because I am able to eat intuitively without ever feeling like I’m cheating. Food isn’t good or bad. It’s just food. And I choose to eat foods that make me feel good (mentally and physically!).