Last week, I was talking with a friend who desperately wants to change her diet but can’t seem to take that first step. According to her doctor, if she doesn’t start making some changes soon, she will be destined for heart disease, stroke, chronic arthritis and/or diabetes as she moves towards her 60s. Over the last few years, she’s gained a few pounds, begun experiencing chronic joint pain, and is battling fatigue as she tries to maintain the high energy her busy lifestyle demands. She went to the doctor thinking her symptoms were signaling the beginning of menopause that hormone therapy might ease, only to learn that she is in the “high risk” category for the most popular illnesses that lead to death and disability in the United States.

My friend is not obese nor is she a junk food addict. Actually, before this wake up call, she thought she was living a pretty healthy lifestyle; she always eats a salad with meals, orders whole grains and organic meat when dining out, avoids all fast-foods, and always declines the pastries and sweets offered at business meetings and parties. However, the hidden fats, carbs, salt and sugar from the foods she has been eating, combined with her limited amount of exercise was starting to take its toll.

The doctor’s warning hit her hard, invoking the fear of a future following in her father’s footsteps; a life filled with drugs, medical procedures and poor quality of life. She knows she needs to make a change, but the overwhelming dread that she just doesn’t have the time or skill to relearn how to feed herself and the anxiety of letting go of some of her favorite comfort foods makes the obstacle seem insurmountable.  She knows a crash diet wont work and with her busy life-style time is of short supply.

Food choices are emotional. Letting go of those foods that we have been brainwashed into thinking make us emotionally feel good is the most difficult part of transitioning to a plant-based diet. The hardest thing to realize is that changing your diet is NOT a form of punishment, but is simply hard work that reaps incredible rewards. Letting go of old eating habits will provide you with more energy, make you feel better inside your body, and be healthier both inside and out.

Changing old habits and replacing them with new ones can be extremely challenging. In order to take that first step, the drive for change (in this case the fear of being sick) needs to feel stronger than the forces holding you back (fear of change and letting go of old habits). Instead of allowing the fear to paralyze you, use it as a tool to motivate your actions and propel you forward.

Each healthy action you take and healthy choice you make is leading you towards reclaiming your health. The power is within you!