December 4, 2022

Harder Than I Thought!

After my recent attempt at doing the 75 Hard challenge and then subsequently quitting, I really wanted to set a more "doable" goal for December. Just 31 days of something that required effort, but not too challenging. So, I decided to try eating only whole foods for the month.

This nifty little chart from the Forks Over Knives website explains the difference between a vegan diet, a plant-based diet, and a whole-food plant-based diet:

Being vegan, I already don't eat animal products. And I thought I was eating mostly whole foods--everything I was making was so much healthier than the things I used to eat, and I haven't been eating many pre-packaged foods (other than a few things that have only whole food ingredients--like Grape Nuts, which have four simple ingredients). And I have occasional vegan "junk" food, but nowhere near as often as I used to.

Anyway, the day before I started this challenge, I was making a menu for the month and as I was reading about a whole-foods plant-based diet online, I discovered that oils and salt aren't included! (A very small amount of sea salt may be used.) This may not sound like a big deal, but I use oil and salt in almost everything when I cook. I make oil-based marinades for tofu, which is my favorite food; I use sesame oil in a lot of the Asian sauces I make; I sauté and roast vegetables with olive oil; I even use coconut oil when I bake.

Edit: I should have clarified that you can still get plenty of fat in your diet--with whole-food plant-based eating, you're just aiming to get fat from nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, etc., rather than refined oils. I eat a LOT of fat on a vegan diet, mostly from nuts and seeds (but also from oil!).

Still, I wanted to give this a try. I got a new non-stick skillet (which I am going to hide from my family, so it *stays* non-stick! haha) and the Forks Over Knives cookbook (all whole-food plant-based recipes). I felt prepared.

Then the day I started, I felt totally lost! I was realizing that several ingredients I use for various dishes don't actually fit into the whole-food plant-based diet. To do this would require a huge overhaul of most of the recipes I've been enjoying.

I wanted to quit the whole idea, because it was overwhelming; however, I was embarrassed to quit because I'd just quit 75 Hard. I really do want to try to work my way toward eating the healthiest I can, so came up with a compromise: For December, I'll start learning a some different cooking techniques (like cooking without oil, and learning substitutes for foods that aren't whole-food plant-based) and I'll try some new recipes from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.

In January, I'll start with a small goal like like sautéing vegetables in water instead of oil, while still using oil in things like marinades and sauces. Then in February, I can try another small change, like cutting back on salt. Doing it this way, rather than diving right in, will probably work better for me. A lot of times, I *like* jumping right into a big change; but this is just overwhelming. Especially because I was expecting it to be much easier than it is! If not for the salt and oil, I would have no problem with it.

I made tofu a couple of days ago without using the oil-based marinade, and it definitely wasn't as good. It was kind of dry and there wasn't much flavor, since I also didn't add salt. So I'm going to try out some recipes this month that have different techniques (either for marinades or preparation) to avoid the oil and see if I can find something I like. I can also cut back on the amount of oil I use, and maybe I'll start to get used to it.

The Forks Over Knives cookbook looks like a great resource and I think it will be fun trying some new ingredients and techniques for cooking in order to make things whole-food plant-based. While I can certainly see myself being vegan forever, I don't think it's realistic to aim for only eating a strict whole-food vegan diet. Reading "How Not To Die" by Dr. Michael Greger (Amazon affiliate link) has me motivated to make some healthy changes, though. I just learned that I need to do it gradually if I have any shot at making it stick! (or *not* stick, in the case of sautéing without oil, hahaha)

I think something that I have a very hard time with is all-or-nothing thinking. I'm either all-in or not at all. It's something I *know* is a problem, especially when it comes to diet, so I think it'll be good for me to find a good compromise!


  1. You've mentioned that you have low blood pressure and a history of fainting. I do too, and I'd caution against omitting salt. My cardiologist said with low blood pressure you don't want a super low salt diet; it can cause a hypotensive crisis.

    1. Also, if you cut out most processed foods you will be already getting less sodium than in the average North American diet; further cutting salt seems unnecessary. And we need fats to absorb certain vitamins, so while reducing overconsumption of oil is a good thing, I think cutting it out entirely is unwise.

  2. Salt is a basic nutrient that humans need to survive--it seems crazy that it wouldn't be permitted in a whole-foods diet! I'm all for a challenge, but salt and fat (oils) are both necessary for basic survival, plus overall enjoyment of your food...I wouldn't think that you're "quitting" this challenge in the slightest because it just seems miserable and unsustainable!

  3. I don't think restricting fats that aggressively (no animal products or oils) is going to benefit your health in the long run. Olive oil and avocado oil and coconut in moderation are not bad for you and necessary for satiety for most people.

  4. You can do a WFPB diet without restricting the oil. provides some reasons for why you might not want to be so strict with it. If you are really concerned about the calories in oil, then count calories.

  5. I don't understand why you would do this. It sounds unhealthy and really hard to stick to. Your vegan diet seemed healthy, as long as you were taking pains to not eat too much vegan "junk food." Seems like you are setting yourself up for failure.

  6. Soooooooooo, gonna chime in here. You NEED salt and fat. Sorry, not a fan of the "whole-food" trend as you've introduced it here. Your brain NEEDS fat. Your BODY needs salt. Huge red flags going off here for me. Hugs always.

  7. So you've got me down this rabbit hole with me reading (skimming? This is LONG) Greger's How Not To Diet.

    Consider doing his daily dozen? He does a traffic light system, green/yellow/red categories of foods. So you'd add some more healthy foods - but keep your fats and sugars.

    I hadn't even realized this was supposed to be no fat until you called it out! Maybe I am skimming too much lol

  8. I feel there are different versions of whole food diets, because I have always been told that olive oil and avocado oil are essential in a whole foods diet. My doctor even said to make sure I include health fats like olive or avocado oil. Also, salt is essential to our diets, so I am having a hard time with what you showed us up above.

  9. Katie, have you heard of the "Maintenance Phase" podcast? It looks at various health and wellness trends, diet/cook books, and more. There's some swearing but the info is really good and thought-provoking. They don't have an episode specifically on Whole Foods, but reading this post from you brought up several things they've tackled in various episodes.


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