My Path to Plant-Based
At the end of the year, I mapped out what I wanted my 2013 to look like, and set a number of goals. Although I had goals set in the spiritual, health & fitness, financial, creative and personal realms, there were 2 health goals that stuck out to me that I was eager to take action on:
1) to get off both my medications by the end of the year;
2) to take on at least a 75% plant-based diet.
Starting January 1st, I took some beginning steps.
I had been studying and dabbling with a plant-based diet for years, and would easily integrate vegetarian and vegan days into my week, but I never felt ready to fully commit to a vegan diet and give up all the foods I grew up on and loved. After years of studying veganism, and trying out a number of vegan and raw restaurants, I realized that ANY food I want to eat can be veganized…it would just take some education on plant-based alternatives to animal products, and some creativity. I have watched MANY documentaries in the past year on plant-based nutrition, the obesity epidemic and the link between cancer & heart disease with eating animal foods; documentaries like ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’, ‘Food Matters’, ‘Food Inc’, ‘The China Study’, “The Gerson Miracle’, ‘Hungry for Change’, ‘Food Fight’, ‘Chew on This’, ‘Supersize Me’, ‘Vegucated’ (all available on Netflix for those of you who are interested)…I can keep going. After watching so many documentarties, reading through many books, and talking with many vegetarian and vegan friends, I felt compelled and equipped to make the transition. Getting off my meds and FINALLY healing completely after over 2 years of chronic hives and angiedema was the nudging motivation for me. I have made a ton of progress on my healing journey over the past 2 years and I made the decision and intention to be 100% in balance in my physical health in 2013. I have intuitively felt that a committment to a vegan diet would be just what my body needed to release whatever residual imbalance was still lingering in my body and mind. I also have some residual hyperpigmentation on my face from the severe swelling I used to experience, as well as vitiligo…I know in my heart that the power of living foods and plants would ultimately be the right path to heal my body, clear the disruptions in my skin, and help my body return to balance.
As I am making my transition one day at a time, I continue to study new foods, plant-based alternatives, plant-proteins, the power of plants, vegan recipes, and how to ensure I am feeding my body everything it needs on a plant-based diet. Obviously, with all this vegan and nutrition education, I am learning so much about animal cruelty, disgusting treatment of animals for food, truths about the meat industry, and the impact of raising & killing animals for food has on the enviornment. Even if I wanted to go back to eating animals regularly, I would have a really hard time doing it. At the end of last year, something shifted in my feelings towards chicken. I would get nauseated walking through the meat section at the sight of raw chicken. I felt that my body was genuinely done with chicken. Now, this feeling continues, but become aware of how sadly chickens are treated, their horrific living conditions, explosure to bacteria & diseases, and cruel killing chickens (and all animals experience), it hurts my heart when i see chicken, and other meat. I feel like the longer I eat only plants, the easier it becomes as I develop a deeper compassion for animals, improve my health and support greater mental and energetic clarity.
A lot of people ask me how I am doing eating vegan, if I miss anything, how I am feeling, what I am eating, etc. Surprisingly, the transition has been smooth, easy and graceful. I was already eating very clean and healthy when i was eating animals. I was already eating a ton of veggies everyday, I had lots of green in my diet. I had dramatically cut back on dairy and had been using dairy alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk and soy milk for years prior. I knew that giving up all animal products overnight would not work for me, and I knew that it would not be realistic for me to be 100% vegan right away. This is why i set a goal to be 75% vegan by the end of the year. I also made a committment to myself to be gentle and forgivng with myself through the transition. I have been eating meat my entire life, and I come from a meat-eating family. I chose upfront to not make myself wrong if I “cheated” and ate something non-vegan.
I gradually started cutting back on animal products. I was only eating red meat a few times a month, and didn’t want chicken anymore. I was eating a lot of turkey (ground turkey and lean turkey bacon), lots of fish and lots of egg whites. Although I had cut back on dairy, and rarely kept cheese in the house (I love it so much it was dangerous to buy it LOL), I did frequently eat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. I just slowly cut back and went from eating animal products 3-4x a day, to once a day to 1-2x a week. I also started integrating way more raw veggies to get the full nutritional benefit. As I started cutting back on animals, integrating more plant-based foods, and eating more raw veggies (which meant significantly less micorwaving at work), I started to feel really good. I felt more clear minded, I felt inspired, I felt more energized in my workouts, and I noticed I would recover SO much faster after intense workouts. On Feb. 28th I started working with a vegan coach, and started following his prescribed vegan meal plan specifically designed for fitness and fat loss. Since then, going vegan has been way easier than I thought. By that point I was just down to fish and egg whites, and I’ll admit, I was nervous about giving them up, becuase I loved them so much and there were my main sources of protein. My coach introduced me to some new plant-proteins I didn’t know about and since then, it’s been easy!
I know you are probably thinking this right now…where do I get my protein. This is probably the most commonly asked questions to vegans. I am getting plenty of protein from all the veggies I eat, tofu, seitan, tempeh, oats, nuts, seeds, beans and raw plant protein powders. Actually, I am getting just as much protein as I was when I was eating meat.
I have been eating a fully plant-based diet for the last 3 months now.. Since starting my path to veganism, I have had one major test…Easter weekend with my family. I allowed myself to indulge in a number of non-vegan foods. Although it all tasted delcious, my stomach was not happy for days after. Right now, I am taking it one day at a time with a goal to eat as much plant-based foods as possible. I am not into lables that limit and restrict us to only 1 way of life. I have no desire to be 100% anything, 100% of the time. I know how to listen to my body and feed it what it needs. I also just LOVE food. I want to be healthy and vibrant and lean, and I also want to be able to enjoy big arabic feasts with my family, and try new exotic foods when I travel. Throughout this transition has brought up some concerns about times or situations where ‘being’ vegan would be a challenge…why create the stress? I don’t need to ‘be’ vegan. I want to eat as many plant-based foods as possible, that is my goal. I consider myself more of a plant-based flexitarian. I may enjoy a non-vegan meal once a week to keep balance in my life and digestive tract, offer my body other nutrients it may be lacking from a plant-based diet, satisfy cravings to prevent unhealthy binges, and simply, to enjoy myself every once in a while.
Food and health is all about balance. Listen to your body, trust your gut, honor your needs, and do/eat what brings you peace and helps you to feel good.
I am happy to say that I stopped taking one of my medications on Feb. 28th when I really transitioned to a plant-based diet…no symptoms, no problems. My body adjusted well. I am so grateful! One down and one more to go!
and the journey continues…