Monday, October 7, 2013

Living authentically

I figured the best way to share my story is by sharing a blog post from my other blog Life at the Lake in which I talk about what brought me to change my lifestyle and become vegan. I hope it tells you a little bit about the beginning of my journey.  Enjoy!

Living authentically

If you look back on my New Year's Resolution post of earlier this year, you'll see I resolved to adapt to an entirely plant-based diet by the end of 2013.  I had been a vegetarian since early 2011 after watching the movie Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives.  To be more concise, I was a ovo-lacto-pescetarian consuming eggs, dairy and fish.

By the middle of 2013, I assumed my resolution to become a vegan would go by the wayside as so many resolutions do (see the one I made about writing in this blog more often) and I was okay with that.  After all, I was still sticking to not eating meat and it seemed to be working for me.

But was it working?  In March of 2013, my cholesterol was 274 and my doctor was being patient with me.  He gave me another six months to get it under control threatening to put me on medication if it didn't happen.  The thought of having a stroke lingered in the back of my mind but it wasn't enough of a threat to give up the eggplant parm pizza I adored or the cream cheese on a bagel I'd treat myself to now and then.  I resigned myself to having to add another pill to my pill sorter and was assured by many friends who had also resigned themselves to the medication that it really wasn't that bad.  One simple pill a day and you could eat whatever you wanted.

Then I got sick.  Really sick.

I'm never sick.  In almost 9 years of employment at my current job, I had only taken two sick days.  The company would hand over a big check every year to pay me back for the personal/sick time I hadn't used.  With this illness, I depleted my sick time from 33 hours to only 30 minutes.

I had a fever, body aches and extreme fatigue.  I went to the doctor but the strep and flu tests both came back negative.  On top of this, I developed thrush which resulted in painful mouth blisters that made it almost impossible to eat or drink.  I couldn't even brush my teeth.  I stayed in bed for five days.

During this time, I thought about how I had been neglecting my health and I thought about my relationship with food.  I came to the conclusion I had been heading down a bad path of overeating and worse yet, overeating unhealthy foods.  I knew going to a completely plant-based diet was how I wanted to live but I just didn't make the commitment to do it.  I also knew that the dairy and egg industries were just as cruel to animals as those that slaughter them for their meat.  Yet, I didn't make the change.  My beliefs and my actions didn't match up.  

I wasn't living authentically and I believe my body knew this.  It was time to put my money where my mouth was and live what I believed.

When I was finally feeling well enough to eat, I made the decision to go completely vegan.  My brother and sister-in-law had been vegan for over a year and I knew I'd have their support and advice.  I had every Happy Herbivore cookbook Lindsay Shay Nixon had written but I hadn't made an effort to actually incorporate any of the recipes in them but now I took them off the shelf and pored over them for meal ideas.

My brother started a blog this summer which has been very useful to me.  Meaty Vegan is his story of going from a gravy lovin', chicken wing eatin' omnivore to a committed gluten-free vegan.  His blog led me to a book I cannot recommend highly enough.  Victoria Moran's Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World not only tells you why you should be plant-based but how to do it easily!  It even includes recipes which make it so simple to made this huge lifestyle change.

After only three weeks of being vegan, my cholesterol went from 274 to 169!  My HDL (the good cholesterol) went up and my LDL (the bad cholesterol) went down.  My pants fit better and my overall health has improved.  Most importantly, I feel like I'm finally living authentically.  My belief in cruelty-free eating is in line with what I choose to put in my mouth.  I did it for the environment, the animals, for myself as well as for those I love.

It's not always easy.  Eating in restaurants is a challenge.  No more stopping for a Filet O' Fish at McDonald's when I'm in a hurry.  Now I'll stop at Moe's and get a vegan burrito or better yet saute greens in olive oil and throw in a can of black-eyed peas.  Vegan fast food, baby!  And even though he's an omnivore, my boyfriend has been an amazing supporter of my decision and loves to create delicious vegan meals which he enjoys as well.

The unexpected bonus to all this is that I feel my life is finally in balance.  I'm living what I believe and it feels good.

169 feels real good too.

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