As a little girl growing up in a small town in Idaho, I had no idea nor any interest in what the world thought about what I ate. No one told me that being a vegetarian was “environmentally responsible” or that it could be a healthy way to nourish my body if done right. Quite the opposite really, I was told it was un-American and I was never going to be healthy. But I was eight (going on twenty-eight). I didn’t like eating meat. And, fortunately for me, in spite of their doubts, my parents eventually gave in and adapted my diet.
Shockingly, 26 years later I have not died an early death due to some supposed lack of nutrients. Quite the opposite, my body is in good shape and I have never struggled with my weight or my health. I rarely watch how much I eat and have only exercised inconsistently at best.
While my weight has never been much of an issue, I have had a few food-inspired challenges over the years. A couple of years out of high school I began getting migraines almost every day. I went to medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists seeking relief. It all helped a little for a little while, but nothing ever “fixed” me. Then I went to a naturopath and my approach to health and interest in food started changing. After some testing, he told me that I needed to avoid wheat and pecans and my headaches would subside. That was it. Ten years of doctor’s appointments and seemingly unending miserable pain came to an end that day. How easy was that? Well, of course adjusting to a gluten free diet didn’t come without some challenges, but it was certainly not as difficult as living every day in a fog of pain and frustration.
Along the way, I married a “carnivore” and happily prepared his meals separately from mine. I had no desire to convert the world to my way of eating, I just didn’t like to eat the same things. Finding a meal plan that fit both of our needs/preferences was difficult and I’ll admit for a long time most meals were not nutritionally ideal. Sometimes I would prepare something that made a balanced meal for me and throw a chunk of meat on the side for him, but most of the time I planned meals around some kind of meat dish and I ate whatever went with it, adding a chunk of cheese to fill me up.
Fast forward a few years and our third son was born. He was a healthy little boy, but he was always red and rashy from head to toe. Allergy testing showed he was allergic to dairy, eggs, and nuts. Preparing food for my family became ever more interesting. As a nursing mom, I had to exclude things from my diet that my son was allergic to in order to help his little body heal and stay healthy. All of a sudden the “easy proteins” I had relied on to fill in the holes in my less than balanced diet were off the menu (i.e., dairy, eggs, and nuts). I had to take meal planning a little more seriously to make sure I was getting the nutrition that I (and the baby) needed. Every day included a complete nut-free vegan meal with a meat-based option for my husband and kids. Of course nursing only lasted about 18 months, but I continued to eat the gluten-free, nut-free, vegan diet I had grown accustomed to.
Then one day, my husband asked me for help in getting his weight back under control. He was actually pretty normal by comparison to his peers. He was not obese, he was just slowly getting heavier and “fluffier” with age. I had helped him on occasion over the years by limiting his caloric intake and encouraging him to exercise, but I didn’t really have time or the desire to be hassled with calorie counting this time around. Then it hit me: “Why don’t you just try eating what I eat?” I knew it wouldn’t be easy for him, because unlike me, he enjoyed eating a hamburger. I wasn’t asking him to limit what he ate but to cut out completely the two food groups that his diet primarily depended on. But, surprisingly, he agreed to a six-week vegan diet.
He had about 30 pounds to lose. In the first two weeks he lost 11 pounds, and aside from some psychological cravings for the excessive protein his body was used to, he suffered very little. He didn’t go hungry every day. He ate as much as he wanted as long as it didn’t have a face or come from something with one. And he realized that food from plants can actually be pretty good and more than a side dish. Among the advantages of a vegan diet are that you naturally lower your caloric intake, increase your fiber consumption, and change the balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that you consume with little effort. My husband’s journey didn’t end there and of course, there’s much to be said for the health benefits of a vegan diet in addition to weight management, but those are different stories…
If you’d like the cold hard facts about why a vegan diet could be the answer to your weight and health issues, keep reading here.
Already convinced that a healthy, vegan lifestyle is the way to go, but don’t know where to start? Start here! Learn more about living a life.unlabeled.
If you are interested in a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle but don’t know where to start, check out the life.unlabeled. 6-week challenge e-book.