Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Thinking About Going Vegan

DEAR NATALIE: I have been thinking about becoming vegan for a while for health reasons. I am overweight, and my doctor said to me that I am pre-diabetic. I want to avoid future health complications. What are your thoughts on this as a lifestyle option? -- Fresh Start

DEAR FRESH START: Let me start by saying how exciting it is to hear that you want to take control of your health with a plant-based diet. Before you begin any diet regimen, talk to your doctor first about whether you have any health issues that would be incompatible with this type of diet. I have been practicing a vegan lifestyle for almost seven years, but it's all about baby steps. Start small with just one plant-based meal every few days to get the feel for it. Then try "meat-free Mondays" or "dairy-free Thursdays" and go from there. Learn a few recipes from blogs like my favorite, "Oh She Glows." A vegan diet can be incredibly healthful (and yes, you can get all the protein you need). Check out the book, "The China Study" to learn more. Try new foods at least twice before you make a decision about whether you like them or not. Be kind to yourself, and remember, it's just food. Every meal is a chance to start again. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Networking is not a life or death situation. While we may feel uncomfortable making conversation with people we don't know, remember that everyone is at the event for the same reason. So, take a deep breath, focus on a positive outcome, find common ground and start connecting! 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)