by Peter Geresdi
PART 1 – Introduction
As a kid, I was always active and never overweight. Growing up in a small town in Hungary definitely had its advantages. We had a vineyard with long rows of grapevines and many fruit trees, and we grew our own vegetables. So my sister and I had the ability to pick a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to munch on whenever they were in season. In addition to our chores and helping our parents with the gardens, we also played, walked, and rode our bikes a lot. Looking back, I can say that we had a healthy and joyful childhood.
Since traditional Hungarian cuisine usually contains some sort of meat, in my youth I regularly ate beef, pork, poultry, and fish. Even though our meals also consisted of a healthy amount of vegetables as sides, garnish, fermented additions, or salads, they would most often involve lots of meat, eggs, dairy, pasta, bread, and unhealthy fats. My mom was an excellent cook and we enjoyed every dish she prepared and every desert she baked.
Back then, we didn’t have to be concerned about hormone-treated meats and dairy, or genetically modified plants. We didn’t have health food stores, vegetarian/vegan restaurants, fancy weight-loss plans, and wide access to information about how food might affect our health. We ate what mom or the school cafeteria served us — and we loved it!
As an adult, living in the States, I continued indulging in my favorite foods and for many years I ate whatever I desired. I didn’t have time to exercise as much as I used to and I found myself caught up in the everyday stresses of my demanding life. As a result, I gained some unwanted weight which in turn had an effect on my general well-being. I knew I needed a complete lifestyle change.
Throughout the years that followed, I had become more conscious about my eating habits and noticed how my diet affected my health, my mood, and my energy. Gradually, I started making changes. I trained myself to make better dietary choices little by little. I cut back or completely gave up many foods I once loved. I have researched and tried many approaches and regimens to lose weight and eat healthier.
I also started exercising more, spending more time outdoors, and limiting stress in my life. I committed myself to finding a healthier way to eat and live. Currently I’m in the process of exploring a strictly plant-based diet. I’m fascinated by its simplicity and its effectiveness. It already has made a positive impact on my health and on my life!
A plant-based diet includes lots of plant foods in their whole, unprocessed form, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and small amounts of healthy fats. It does not include processed foods, sweets, and animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, or animal fats.
In addition to supporting animal rights* and considering possible environmental factors**, going with a strictly plant-based diet can offer many health benefits. Studies show that it may lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar; it could lead to a prolonged life and a healthier weight; it can improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis; and it may slow the progression of certain types of cancer. An article published in Food Technology in October 2012 explains that plant-based diets can either minimize or completely eliminate people’s genetic propensity to developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Besides its positive impact on my health, I found that the best part about this diet for me is that I can still enjoy many of my favorite foods while loosing weight — I just simply replace the unhealthy ingredients with low-fat, whole food, plant-based substitutes!
I invite you to explore this plant-based eating plan with me through a series of articles following my journey to finding a healthier way to live and eat. Stay tuned for tips and more in-depth information on how the plant-based diet can improve your health, too.
*Supporting animal rights: believing in the absolute right of animals to exist freely without human interference (more in Part 2)
**Environmental factors: livestock farming can have a devastating effect on the planet (more in Part 2)
 The Plant-Based Diet. E-Book, Kaiser Permanente, 2013.
 The Chronic Food Remedy by Toni Tarver, published in Food Technology, October 2012.