To truly describe my journey towards health, I have to go back to the beginning. I had a wonderful childhood. Aside from a loving and wonderful family, my mother always put wholesome and healthy food on our table—fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy. As far as the typical American diet is concerned, she nailed healthy right on the head–good job mom! In spite of this my weight was always on the… curvy side. I have never been grossly overweight or obese, but I have certainly had my battles with weight loss and weight gain…and weight loss…and weight gain. It got to the point where I was sick of it and decided the only way to stay thin was to starve myself. (great idea huh?)
In high school I developed an eating disorder. It happened so fast I almost didn’t realize what had taken control of me. I stopped eating meat, carbs (oooo—so bad I thought), anything with sugar, anything with fat, or anything with high calories–that pretty much ruled out the majority of food for me. I tried to survive on cereal and fruit for my entire junior year of high school. Well, my parents caught up with my act and got me the treatment I very much needed. (A little more info on my eating disorder.) After seeing a psychologist and nutritionist for over a year I began to learn what my body really did need to function and how I could still maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. This was truly one of the best learning experiences of my young adulthood. I took this information and soaked it up like a sponge. I thrived on it. During and after recovery I turned into a health food and workout nut–I read books on nutrition, I studied healthy living, I became more involved in cooking my own meals and I loved every bit of it.
But then the little birdie got released from its cage. Helloooooo college. My college years were quite the nutritional disaster—mostly from stress and the time constraints with studying and going to classes. My weight jumped up again due to unhealthy eating habits and I became so depressed. I broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years, and blamed it partially on my weight gain. Ugh, did I feel like crap. I also started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I’m not really sure why I turned towards such a dangerous path, perhaps it was simple curiosity coupled with youthful rebellion. After just a short time I started to notice the toll it had all taken on my body–both physically and mentally.
After several years of putting my body through utter abuse, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and change some things. I picked up my nutrition and health books again and I decided I needed to regain control. Mind over body they say, and that was what I needed. It took a lot of introspect for me to come to grips with what I wanted from myself and what I didn’t need to rely on from others. In the end I came out stronger. I finally decided the numbers on the scale were not the deciding factor on what would/would not make me a happy and whole person. It was how I felt on the inside, and how my body felt that mattered, so that is what I worked on changing. I knew the first step was changing what I put into my body, so I began to work on that again. I knew I had a long road ahead of me but I wanted to start somewhere.
In early 2009 I decided to try a cleansing detox diet. I had a few friends that had tried them and swore by how good they felt afterward. I picked up a book, and stuck to the diet 100% for 2 weeks. I felt better than I ever had in my life. My skin cleared up, I lost around 10 lbs. and I had this amazing energy. Like many cleansing diets, it consisted of 2 weeks of organic wholesome foods that are very easy on the digestive system–veggies, fruits, beans and rice. All I could think about was how good I felt and how much I wanted to feel this way all the time. After my cleansing detox I changed my attitude and feelings toward food completely. I completely gave up soda, coffee and caffeine in general (and let me tell you that alone was very difficult!) I started buying more organic foods and whole grains and weaning out processed foods and sugar. I trekked along this path quite stubbornly at times, trying so hard to be good, and when I wasn’t good I felt so lousy. But food and eating were not supposed to be so difficult. I couldn’t understand why I had so much trouble fueling my body. Over the next year I had many ups and downs; I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to stick to it.
About a year later I picked up The Kind Life, by Alicia Silverstone. Her book is amazingly inspiring and educational. I learned so much about what it means to live a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. I learned what it means to live a vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyle and how it can really change a person’s life. I decided to give it a try. In the middle of everything I had a girlfriend ranting and raving about the book Skinny Bitch, and how much the vegetarian diet truly changed her life by giving her tons of energy and helping her to finally maintain her weight and still eat what she wanted. I thought–with so many good reviews why not give this a try? After a few short weeks I realized how good I felt when I eliminated meat and dairy from my diet. I actually functioned better. Since I was little I have suffered from lactose intolerance, so why was it taking me so long to help myself and do something about it?
After a few short weeks of vegetarian eating, I really grew to love it. I admit, my initial reasons were for health benefits and weight loss. But the strange part is, after reading about the amount of hormones and antibiotics given to chickens and farm animals, and the treatment these animals go through to be put on the chopping block, I became sickened just thinking about it. I have always been an animal lover, but in the past I chose to disassociate from the facts I knew to be true–about the cruelty, intolerable housing conditions, and inhumane slaughtering. In addition, I learned what the meat industry actually does to the planet and to our bodies. There is countless scientific research linking animal-based food diets to high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s and cancer. I know that is a big pill to swallow, but the research holds true. If you want a good place to start pick up The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.
These days I follow a whole foods, primarily plant-based diet. After my journey began I noticed some initial changes–increased energy, beautiful and glowing skin, my allergies pretty much disappeared and my digestive system is smiling at all ends! As far as society and our American culture are concerned, it is not always easy. Friends and family can be judgmental and not understand, but in the end this life choice has made me a happier and healthier person. I enjoy sharing the story of my journey, and if it has a positive effect on others–bonus! But, with that said, I do not judge others for their decisions in life. I have just learned what works for me and I enjoy sharing that with others. I try not to label myself and I don’t believe in forcing eating habits on others–whether it be vegetarian, vegan, paleo, or gluten-free. What I do preach is healthier and more wholesome eating–organic foods, unprocessed foods and foods that are kind to our bodies and kind to the planet.
Kitty wants some juice!
With all of that said, most of my friends and family are omnivores. But in the past few years, many of my immediate family members have also made some radical changes towards better health and nutrition. I consider myself blessed to have such an amazing and supportive family. My husband loves all of the plant-based foods I put on our table. I feel so much better about my family knowing that they are trying to be as healthy as possible. Do I think you can be healthy and still eat meat and dairy? YES, I do. But my body functions a lot better without out it. This lifestyle works for me so why not rock it and share with others the fabulous benefits I have received? Just spreadin’ the love folks… spreadin’ the love.
My dad, enjoying his daily green monster smoothie
Me and my brother Matt, the fitness buff!
Me and my brother Jay, enjoying some fresh carrot juice