Weight-loss. It’s on a lot of people’s minds as we move into a new year, and we start assessing what happened during 2020.

I was reading a study that stated globally, more than 35 percent of people gained weight during the pandemic. Over 71 percent of those packed on more than 5 pounds, and women took the lead, with over 14 percent reporting more weight gain in the double digits.

Welcome to 2021. It’s January, a time when we all start thinking about our health. The exercise equipment shows up at your favorite big box store. You can’t go anywhere without someone pushing supplements, better eating, and weight loss products in your direction. But after a long year of staying in place and dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic, the only thing most of us are asking is:

Now what?

I’m a numbers person. When I see an article touting the latest statistics, I pay attention. While those numbers from above can be disturbing at any age, it’s especially unnerving as women move into midlife.

When you’re already facing all that comes with midlife, throw in the effects of a pandemic, and it can leave you searching for drastic answers.

I was talking with a friend just the other day about options for getting back on track.

And the more we spoke, the more I saw an article forming.

COVID added fuel to the bad-habit fire

Let’s face it, we all have our vices. The things we need to make it through our busy days, overfilled weeks, and less-than-satisfied lives.

The trouble is, these feelings have all been ramped up over the past few months. Sitting at home worrying about the future will do that to you.

So we took our bad habits and made them worse.

Bad Habit #1 – Stress Eating

Whenever stress is involved, we find a vice to fill the void. And for a lot of us – especially women – we fill it with food. We bake bread. We make desserts. We buy pints – gallons – of chunky monkey ice cream. 😉

Bad Habit #2 – Exercise? What Exercise?

The day the gyms closed down was the last day you thought about yoga or lifting weights. If you could talk yourself out of hitting the gym before, it’s ten times worse now that the gym doesn’t exist.

Bad Habit #3 – Lack of Structure

Do you no longer have a schedule? You get up whenever. You eat whenever. You go to bed whenever. Yep, if you have to punch a clock and be online for your Team meetings, that may be the only structure you have. Otherwise, your only decision is how often to change out of your yoga pants.

Bottom line, we now have bigger and better reasons for our excuses.

But here’s the thing: You’re also one year older than you were before.

For me, age really matters. I live today as if I’m feeding the body I want to have when I’m 100. Because I won’t be a strong, healthy one-hundred-year-old if I don’t work on ME every single day leading up to my one-hundredth birthday.

Why Plant-Based Health Matters

I’ve been vegan for a number of years now. I don’t slip up because I know how I’ll feel if I do.

That’s a mindset thing, and it’s taken me twenty-five years to develop it.

It started when my Dad died of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty-four. I immediately asked the question: Why did he die so young? And every road led me to an answer that our food supply was a bulk of the reason.

So I changed. Slowly.

My daughter declared herself a vegetarian at three. I thought she’d outgrow it. She didn’t.

I’ve spent every year since finding ways to ensure she received good nutrition as she grew. And I’ve learned a ton. I talk about it a lot: HereHere – and Here

Food is fuel. Exercise is fuel. Self care is fuel.

If you don’t treat your body like a temple, it will fail you at some point in the future.

The thing that really gets me about this is corporations and organizations, the very ones who develop food, know all about this. In fact, you can readily find information on leading government websites.

The World Health Organization has established cigarette smoking to be bad for your health. They’ve declared it to be carcinogenic to humans. Not only is tobacco harmful, but there’s also sufficient evidence the products used to make cigarettes can be harmful too. It comes with a warning to alert all who buy cigarettes and use the product about its toxicity.

Did you know that? Most of us do.

Now let me ask you another question: Did you know red and processed meat is carcinogenic too?

The World Health Organization classified red meat as a group 2A carcinogenic, showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer. Processed meat moves to a group 1 carcinogenic, with strong evidence showing that eating these products will increase development of cancers.

Yet they aren’t putting warning labels on any of these foods. The American Heart Association even has a variety of red meat recipes right on their website.

The more I learned about this, the madder I got. And the more it impacted the way I live.

The Steps I Take To Move Forward

Take Baby Steps – You can’t make big changes overnight and expect them to stick. Take baby steps instead. If you want to be plant-based, give yourself time. Start small. My first step was to give up red meat. I substituted it with turkey for turkey burgers, chicken instead of beef, and fish instead of steak. When that was easy, I made another substitution until I finally was plant-based. It’s even easier in today’s world, thanks to all the plant-based products on the marketplace. You can participate in things like Meatless Monday, and find your favorite plant-based foodie on Instagram. Trust me, the photos can convert anyone into trying more plant-based meals.

I share plant-based recipes occasionally on my Instagram – you do follow me, don’t you?

Critically Think – Never believe what people say without performing your own level of research. Did it surprise you to think the American Heart Association places red meat recipes on their website? It did me too … until you find out the Beef Association sponsors the organization. That’s another reason I think it’s important to go slow. Slow allows you to learn as you go. And when you come across something that makes you ask questions, it helps you flip your mindset a little further.

Want a few resources?

It’s once again Veganuary! Not sure what that is? Veganuary was started by a non-profit organization to encourage people worldwide to try plant based diets during the month January, and beyond.

I mentioned Meatless Monday – they’re a great organization filled with resources and recipes to help you along. You can start a program in your school, club, or workspace. It’s always easier to take challenges like this with a friend.

Will this be the year you take back your life, and commit to being plant-based for your health?