Peña: The results make up for the struggles of sticking to a plant-based diet

We had been eating the same standard American diet for so long that it was deeply engrained in our lives — rather, our habits. It may seem silly, but driving past my favorite fast food restaurant and not stopping took a huge emotional toll on my mind, even though I knew that eating there was not going to help me reach my goal.

There were days when it was a struggle, and peer pressure to go eat out at a place that I knew had few healthy options caused me a lot of anxiety. There were many moments when I wanted to give up and go back to my old ways, momentarily forgetting how bad eating that food made my body and mind feel.

When I went out with friends, when we started talking about where to go eat, my suggestions were often met with raised eyebrows and sarcastic responses. I kept in mind the fact that they didn’t have the same perspective, so instead of crumbling under the fear of what my peers would say, I modified my dishes wherever I went, and helped my father do the same.

Often conversations with my father were about how people just didn’t seem understand why we were eating a plant-based diet. Family events were particularly tough, because there were many traditional dishes that we chose not to eat, and many family members took offense to this.

The bottom line was that there was little acceptance during the early period of our journey. No one wants to feel like the outcast, but I know my father and I did; however, what kept us plant-based was that we were starting to see and feel changes in our health.

Within a few months of going plant-based and eliminating most of the oil in our diets, my father and I had lost roughly 30 pounds, and we’ve kept it off. We both felt a big difference in our energy levels — less brain fog and more mental clarity. We were making trips to the clothes outlets because we were not able to wear our old outfits. We created a garden and started growing our own food.

People around us started to become more open when they saw the real change in our family’s life.

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