It is my honor to introduce my July guest blogger in the Fabulous Women in Food series, Dr. Rosane Oliveira. Dr. Oliveira is the Founding Director of Integrative Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine at the University of California Davis. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she has lived in the U.S. since 2003. With over 20 years of experience as a molecular geneticist, Dr. Oliveira has done studies in fields ranging from the molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases, microorganism resistance to drugs and cancer initiation and progression. She and I became acquainted when Rosane asked if a few of my recipes could be published on the UC Davis Integrative Medicine blog.(Of course, I said YES as I am an avid follower of that blog.) Sometime later we met for dinner at Candle 79 in New York City. I was curious about the development of the Integrative Medicine Department and what led Dr. Rosane to study and promote the benefits of whole foods, as well as her vision for the future. We chatted for hours during our delicious multi-course meal, and I came away from this meeting truly in awe of this brilliant accomplished woman whose determination and clear vision are matched by her vivacity. You are in for a real learning experience today with thanks to Dr. Rosane Oliveira.
The Secret to Permanent Plant-Based Living
(Or Why Your Habits Are Holding You Back)
As the Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of California at Davis, I have the great pleasure of teaching thousands of people each year about the benefits of adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.
And through my lectures, blog posts, community interactions, and annual Food Day Challenge (where people commit to eating plant-based for three weeks)—I have noticed a major GAP in the plant-based conversation.
While the exchange of knowledge is extremely valuable, it is not enough.
Knowledge is only an empty shell if we fail to ACT on it.
We need to go deeper.
We need to go from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing.’
As the adage goes, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
And when we approach our plant-based lifestyle as part of a larger journey in habit change, we open up great possibilities because we learn how to positively change all areas of our lives.
Simply put, when you crack the code of habit change, you can live the life of your dreams.
3 Habit Change Misconceptions
Habits are NOT our destiny.
They are not ‘engrained’ in our DNA—they can be changed.
However, three common beliefs typically hold people back from changing their behavior, and I would like to dispel these misconceptions once and for all.
Misconception #1: You Need a Lot of Willpower
A very popular misconception is that you need a lot of willpower to change a habit.
The reality is that willpower is limited—you can (and will) run out of it. By its sheer nature, willpower fades throughout the day as your energy runs low.
What you need instead is WHY Power.
As Bryant McGill once said, “The secret to permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit.”
Simply put, you need a REASON to change!
Your compelling why must be something that is bigger than you. It could be about giving back to the people you love or becoming part of a community/movement whose goal it is to make the world a better place.
Unlike willpower, WHY Power never runs out.
Misconception #2: You Will Be “Missing Out”
Another challenge with achieving long-lasting habit change is one of perspective.
Too often, people dwell on what they will ‘miss out on’ rather than focusing on what they will gain.
You may hang on to the idea that you will miss eating your favorite food, e.g. cheese.
However, the focus should be on your compelling why and the positive consequences of your daily choices and decisions.
What you get from positive habit change is always worth more than what you ‘lose.’ With habit change, you must think forward not backward.
Misconception #3: You Need to Be Perfect
A final misconception we hold onto is that to master a habit, we must be ‘perfect’ in our behavior.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Perfectionism paralyzes us and leads to inaction.
The only way to attain mastery of a new habit is to take IMPERFECT ACTION—because with each step forward, you learn what works and what needs further tweaking.
This is a journey, not a destination. Progress is what matters, not perfection.
And progress has no specific timetable.
Some people adopt a 100 percent whole-food, plant-based diet in days or weeks while others take months or years.
Honor your journey by doing your absolute best every single day and you will get there.
Letting Go of Habit Change Misconceptions
As I mentioned when I wrote about my plant-based journey, I became a vegetarian about 30 years ago, and then shifted to plant-based about a decade ago after I read The China Study by Drs. T. Colin and Thomas Campbell.
The book drew me in from the first page.
The more I read, the more I was convinced that The China Study message—which included the idea that dairy, not just meat consumption, can promote cancer—was profound, earth-shattering and correct.
It was a message that was timely and VERY personal to me because someone extremely close to me had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Upon finishing The China Study, I vowed I would persuade her to stop eating dairy. But I also knew if I asked her to do that, I should promise to do the same.
So I decided right then and there to banish dairy from my life, and I soon discovered that abstaining from dairy changed EVERYTHING.
My food cravings virtually disappeared overnight. My weight dropped—almost without trying. I felt and looked better than I ever had before.
My plant-based roots took hold, and I never looked back.
My personal story is a great illustration of how you can achieve positive behavior change when you let go of the three misconceptions we just discussed:
- I never relied on willpower to sustain me; instead, I held fast to my WHY Power, which was that I wanted to set an example for someone I really loved who was sick.
- I decided not to dwell on how I was missing out on dairy. I chose instead to focus on the great benefits (and feelings) I enjoyed by no longer eating it.
- I never expected perfection from myself—I just tried to keep making forward progress.
Ten years later since that big decision, I can tell you honestly that becoming plant-based has given me a level of living—physically, emotionally and intellectually—that I never dreamed possible.
What motivates me today is to help others experience the same, which is why we are currently putting the final touches on a new program to help people change habits in a long-lasting way.
Unlock the secret of habit change, and you have the ability to become the absolute BEST YOU that you can be—for yourself, your family and the world.
Let go of the misconceptions that are holding you back.
And let’s change our worlds – THE WORLD – one bite and one habit at a time.
I am in total agreement with everything, Dr. Oliveira! Dear readers, I am very interested in your opinions and personal stories so please do share in the comments.
Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD
Founding Director, University of California Davis Integrative Medicine; Adjunct Assistant Professor,
Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California Davis School of Medicine.
Blending a life-long passion for nutrition with over 20 years of scientific experience in genetic research, Dr. Oliveira is devoted to educating people about how food and other lifestyle choices can affect how our genes are turned on and off to either cause disease or promote health and longevity. She writes about health and nutrition every week on the program’s blog and teaches lifestyle medicine to medical students at UC Davis.