What is this vegan that you speak of? Netflix documentaries will have you changing your whole life around while simultaneously encouraging you to spend a week on the couch, binge watching TV, in your pajamas, without showering or combing your hair for a week, so I’ve heard…
All my life I have had a love affair with food, I can’t cook well, but I love to eat. All of my friends will cosign to that. More than anything I love junk food: donuts, sugary cereals, rice crispy treats, chips, nachos, cupcakes, a well-cooked cheeseburger, pizza, pizza, and more pizza – I could survive off of cold, greasy pizza. For the longest, I have had the mindset that it was ok for me to have these eating habits…
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I didn’t need to worry about what I eat because I am “skinny”, I’d be rich! So let’s get that out there: yes, my ass is skinny, I have never struggled with needing to lose weight. My father is thin, my daughter is thin, my genetics, blah blah blah. I could be completely sedentary binge watching TV while eating cookies and pizza, and the last thing that I’d be worried about is gaining weight.
I can hear my friends now, “Ugh! Skinny bitches like you make me sick”.
Whelp, in case you believe the hype, let me dispel the rumor…skinny does not equal healthy! The association of skinny and healthy are a misconception due to the societal norms set upon us by mainstream media. Being skinny does not mean physically fit, and being skinny is not an excuse to not be mindful about what I am putting into both me and Charm’s bodies!
I started getting sick
I started to be more mindful of what I was eating around October 2016. This coincided with me running a lot more and also getting a bad case of e. coli (the dumps literally and figuratively). Before the e. coli, I was noticing gastrointestinal (GI) issues after certain runs. Whenever I had a run longer than 5 miles at a swift pace (swift for me at the time was around 8:30/mile) my stomach would be completely disrupted after the run. I would experience sharp cramping sensations and my bowels would be different for hours.
The pain would come in waves, and I didn’t know how to explain it. In October, I got e. coli, and since I ate out a couple times that week I had no way of really pinpointing where I may have picked it up from. It started out one morning as a mild cramping in my abdomen while getting ready to work, and quickly changed to me being in the hospital by that afternoon. After a couple days, multiple trips back to the hospital, several lab tests, and a visit with a GI doctor, they finally decided it was e. coli. Gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way.
His best advice was to change up my diet.
Unfortunately, cramping sensations continued and my digestion never felt the same. My GI doctor couldn’t give me an explanation for the cramping and issues I was having after certain runs. His best advice was to change up my diet. He told me to stay away from too much dairy and to keep a food journal to see if my stomach was worse after eating certain foods. Because of his concerns he scheduled me a colonoscopy.
To be completely transparent, I was really scared that something was wrong. I felt like something was off about my body, and my GI doctor seemed to think there might be something more going on as well. To be even more honest my fear was, “He’s going to perform this colonoscopy and tell me I have cancer or need surgery, I’m going to die, and Charm is going to be raised without a mother…just like me”. Morbid, I know, but that’s where my thoughts were.
The good news
FORTUNATELY, my GI doctor performed the colonoscopy and found absolutely nothing wrong internally. Which made it even more likely that I needed to change my diet. I had just turned 31, I am more active then I have ever been, and I decided it was time to start fueling my body differently.
As I do with most things, I started googling ways to eat healthy. I found a billion articles, reports, blogs, and documentaries. Phrases like processed foods, vegan diets, whole foods, plant based, organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO were showing up all over the place. I learned that everyone had an opinion (and I guess I do now as well) on all the best new diets out there. One can be a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, pollotarian, and on and on. To help you understand those:
Vegan was just for the celebrities, gluten-free and plant based was for the hippies, and organic was the people who didn’t care how much they spent on groceries! Right?
It’s mind-boggling trying to understand all of this! For me I wasn’t looking for the latest diet, I just wanted to be more mindful about what I was feeding Charm and I; I wanted to eat healthy. For the longest I made a point to avoid understanding what GMO meant, or why organic food was more expensive than “regular” food. To me all of that just seemed like the grocery store’s way of charging you a little bit more for your bananas!
Why would I want to give up meat? Bacon people, not my bacon! Vegan was just for the celebrities, gluten-free and plant based was for the hippies, and organic was the people who didn’t care how much they spent on groceries! Right? Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong!
Here comes Netflix
I was at work one day and asked my co-worker what he thought about all of this mumbo jumbo, and he told me to sit down and watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead on Netflix. Whelp we all know Netflix is The Rabbit Hole of all Rabbit Holes – doesn’t matter what it is, you sit down to watch one episode, and a two days later you haven’t left the couch because you just binged watched five seasons of The Flash and now you don’t know how you’re going to go on with life. I digress.
Fat, Sick, and Nearly dead was powerful to me, it never occurred to me how much the food we are consuming can influence, cause, or make worse our ailments, sickness, diseases, etc. Over the last few months I’ve watched Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, GMO OMG, What the Health, and so on. I’m not going to tell you what they were all about, but they definitely got me thinking and made me want to actively seek more information about what I was putting into my body – Charm’s body.
Disclaimer, do real research
They’re all worth the watch (My favorites were What the Health and GMO OMG). I also think it’s worth noting that you should do your own research and not solely depend on what you get out of these documentaries. Things that stood out to me from watching them:
- Some cow farms and chicken farms can be filthy. Living and feeding conditions for those animals…
- Pollution coming from greenhouse gases and animal waste is ridiculously high…
- GMOs = Genetically Modified Organisms, and unfortunately they seem to be in everything…wheat, soy, corn…
- GMOs = help with faster and bigger growth and resistance to pesticides, insects, and heat…
- My issue with GMOs are the lack of labelling it on our food products, and the lack of data documenting their effects on the human body. It is believed that they are cancer causing. Therefore, I think it should be illegal to not label foods that contain GMOs…(Articles: GMO Facts and Non-GMO Project)
- “Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe,” according to the Non-GMO Project. “In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.”
- Fish can contain high levels of Mercury, which is also bad for us; and fish farms are riddled with bacteria…
- Processed meats and red meats are listed as carcinogens (Check out this article for a brief explanation)…
- Whole food, plant-based diets are supposed to be the healthiest for us…
- You will not develop a protein deficiency by giving up meat…
- Leading health associations, such as the American Diabetes Association & American Heart Association, do not have our best interest in mind…They look out for where their money is coming from – their sponsors, the corporate entities that are stocking grocery stores with meat and dairy products.
- It’s best to do your own research and not rely solely on documentaries and/or certain associations…
The first week of March 2017, I decided to give up meat. I wanted to see what affects changing my diet would have on my stomach issues, and also to see if it had any effects on my running and training. I bought a couple of vegan cookbooks and researched a bunch of vegetarian recipes. And as anyone about to make a huge dietary shift would do – I binged out on all of my favorite foods one last time! I had one last cheeseburger on March 6th!
The last four months have been quite an interesting journey. I’ve been learning and cooking a lot! I eat out way less, I feel more energized, I focus better, I sleep and wake up better, my stomach has felt a lot better and my hair and skin has been healthier!
My goals are to get closer to being vegan.
My initial goal was to give veganism a try. And try I did…for about a week…and then I quit…because CHEESE! I also love eggs, and unfortunately, all animal products and byproducts are against the vegan diet. It was also extremely time consuming for me trying to be vegan. You pretty much cannot use any prepackaged foods or sauces, unless they are labeled vegan or you’ve checked all the ingredients to for lack of animal by-product.
But at the end of the day, these are all just excuses!
I know I need to give up cheese, my stomach reminds me all the time. I predominately stick to a vegetarian lifestyle. Every so often I will incorporate salmon or shrimp into my diet, so I guess, at the moment, you can call me a part-time pescatarian (fish and vegetables only). Here are some changes I made:
- Gave up milk. I’ve bought into the hype of not needing to drink another animals milk. Instead I buy almond or rice milks, and cook with them as well.
- No chicken, pork, beef, turkey, etc.
- I buy products labelled organic when at all possible.
- 75% of my groceries come from the produce section: fruits and veggies.
- I use whole grain breads and pastas.
- I’ve perfected making an awesome black bean burger.
- I mainly grocery shop at places like Trader Joes, Farmers Markets, & Rouses. Walmart is a last option for me.
- I rarely eat out. If I do, I try and find somewhere that has good vegetarian options.
- I found an accountability partner that has been on this journey with me.
- I’ve started a vegetable garden in my backyard.
My support system
Also, most importantly, all of my friends have been uber supportive of the changes I’ve made, and have gone out of their way to accommodate me! As Charm would say, it has not been all sunshine and roses since I started this journey. The first few weeks, I was craving meat and greasy food daily. My crutch has been homemade veggie pizzas, it’s my comfort food.
I’ve had meat a couple of times. Both times I was at my Dad’s house, he cooked, there was meat, and I just didn’t have the courage to say I wasn’t going to eat it! Yup, I’m 31 and I’m scared of my Daddy sometimes lol. Both times Charm sat there looking at me and giggling like “oh so you just going to eat that?” She has not wanted to join me in this journey whatsoever. That will be a post all its own. One thing I can say about the days I ate meat at my Dads: my stomach hated me for it. I got bloated and cramped up for a couple of days. My body wasn’t happy with it at all.
Goals Moving Forward:
- Stop eating cheese – I tend to have more stomach issues when I eat cheese and dairy products.
This is my food journey. Let’s call it my food diary. I am going to chronicle some recipes that I have tried, especially some that Charm likes! She is the biggest critic! I am also going to chronicle my journey trying to get her to eat healthier. She is just not here for it!
I’d love to hear your opinions on your food journeys or diets.
Have you tried being vegan, vegetarian, or another?
Did it work for you?
Could you never give up meat? Why?
Do some research for yourself, then share your thoughts with me!