What going vegan taught me about overcoming procrastination
Going vegan was one of the easiest things I ever did. And – it took me about two years.
Not because I missed some food and went back and forth.
Not because I didn’t know what to do. I binge-watched vegan recipes on Youtube. Then I got a vegan cookbook, enjoyed the pictures, but I did not cook.
But I ended up buying what I bought before and eating what I always ate.
What was going on? And how did I succeed at overcoming procrastination and went vegan?
This is what this article is about. I tell you about the four things I wish I had done differently right from the beginning.
Overcoming procrastination: The “fear-approach” to get ahead
There are many reasons we dread things we should do or even want to do. But some things never feel hard.
Binge-watching our favorite Netflix series. We eat out at our favorite restaurant and pet our cat (or dog, spouse, kid, or …).
So, the question is: Why are some things hard(er) to do?
Answer: Because they do not feel safe.
And this feeling of unsafety or unease brings us to a time in history when things were different for us humans.
Because back in the days, the number of things that could happen to us daily was threatening. Often life-threatening.
Not watching close enough behind this bush with the beautiful berries? Ouch, that snake was giant. And hungry.
And the berries? Um … one of us tried, unfortunately.
Wasting time also was dangerous because it meant wasting resources like energy. People had to watch every calorie consumed because they possibly needed it to run quickly enough from a tiger.
Our brain needs calories to warn us from danger – and it is a calorie-burning wolverine.
Or as the Times put it:
While the brain represents just 2% of a person’s total body weight, it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use, Raichle’s research has found. That means during a typical day, a person uses about 320 calories just to think. Different mental states and tasks can subtly affect the way the brain consumes energy.
Each time we sit down to write a blog post (or something that makes us feel unease or fearful), we feel the breath of the saber-toothed tiger in our neck, and we must decide if we take the risk.
Where is the fear in the thing I want to do?
With ADHD, it is essential to understand the mechanics of procrastination. But understanding the fears for a specific thing can be a shortcut to moving forward. Because then we can find a solution.
At least, this was my experience.
I had four fears about going vegan.
Fear No. 1 was about gaining weight.
Gaining weight is no option for me, as my eating disorder would come back as quickly as I could say: Yummy. But the first recipes I looked up were loaded with calories.
They looked delicious, don’t get me wrong.
But the model-like 20-year-old woman presenting them needs 80% fewer calories than my menopausal-me. So, what is suitable for her, is not right for me.
At this point, I realized something important: My fears are reasonable because they help me move in the right direction.
The internet is full of advice from people who are not necessarily wrong. But they are not me. They are in different situations, and they need other things. Maybe they can show me some things.
But copycatting their strategy without making the necessary adjustments is the wrong approach.
(Hint: Same goes for business.)
I decided to go for a more “whole food plant-based” eating method. There is little to no oil or sugar, no vegan replacements like sausages, pasta, bread from whole grain, etc.
I like bread, pizza, and pasta, but I watch my carb intake closely.
Fear No. 2 was about time.
And this was a biggie for me.
I’m not patient enough to cut vegetables for an hour before I can put them in my mouth. Not to speak from the cooking – and the cleaning up afterward.
My research experience taught me there is something for everybody. Or at least I thought so.
I searched Youtube for quick, easy vegan recipes. And, of course, you can find dozens.
A lot of the recipes we cook at the moment are from Happy Pears.
Some take 10 minutes. Maybe not the first time, but at least after the third time.
We started with this Thai Red Curry Ramen Bowl, which we love.
Second fear – done.
Fear No. 3 was about missing a lot of food.
I start craving things I never even considered food the minute you tell me I can’t have them. On the other hand, going vegan/whole food plant-based was nothing someone asked me to do.
So, I got clear on my motives. We already morphed into eating less and less meat and fish but still had a lot of non-vegan food. I had some health issues I hoped going vegan would help. So, this was that.
The next issue was some food in Cyprus, where we live. Think of natural Greek yogurt (10%). You can buy in 1 kg packaging (the little mugs are for tourists ;)).
We have gorgeous Feta cheese.
From both, we rarely had less than 3 kg in our fridge. Next up was Souvla, the traditional Barbecue meat. Or salami. Or … at this point, I realized I could go on and on, and it was not possible to think myself out of wanting this.
I began to educate myself about certain foods. One video alone about dairy made us stop eating it immediately. And Mike and I decided one thing:
We permitted ourselves to try the new eating style without pressure. If we crave something badly, we can eat it.
Fear number three – gone.
Fear No. 4 was not knowing where to start.
I knew for sure that trying to figure out what to eat when hungry would not work. We already had our “dynamic eating plan,” and I thought: Let’s do this vegan-style.
So, we decided on five to eight meals we know/like and went from there.
My first two weeks going vegan were experimental. I came up with food we already liked, like hummus (which we already made ourselves). We like chili and ramen noodles. We like curries and pizza.
I came up with several recipes that I tried. Some didn’t make it to our best list. Here are the ones that we regularly have:
- Oatmeal or porridge with almond milk and fruits (frozen or fresh)
- Sweet potato with fruits (banana, apple, berries), chia seeds, cinnamon. (My first own recipe, I never thought I would like that, but I do.)
- Salad with black beans and peppers, tomatoes, carrots, nuts or seeds, and some bread with avocado.
- Whole-wheat toast with hummus, avocado, or cilantro-pesto topped with cherry tomatoes (or any other vegetable) or fried mushrooms.
- Burrito, find the recipe here.
- I could die for this pan pizza, so I made dough for two days and put it in the fridge.
- Chickpea Curry, I don’t even need fresh vegetables. And even the herbs can come from the fridge.
- And this recipe, loaded with veggie fried rice. This quick recipe is from the lovely Food with Feeling.
Critical was I could change ingredients because we live on an island, and I don’t get everything. At least not all of the time. (Green salad in summer? Nada.)
Up to date, I have never seen tofu, tempeh, or plant-based yogurt, which is fine. We have other things and don’t starve.
So, this is it.
When I understood why going vegan was so hard, I changed my eating habits quickly. I’m lucky that Mike is pulling together with me, making it fun.
This approach tremendously helps with overcoming procrastination. It is about finding the root cause for not doing something instead of beating myself up. Then tweaking these things and moving on.
Doing hard things is totally o.k. But often, the “hard part” is in our brain. So, the question is: Where are we shooting ourselves in the foot instead of having fun along the way?
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