It has been a long time since I did another post in my Road To Health series. Eleven months to be exact! I’m sure you were starting to wonder if I fell off the cliff? ;)
Start your engines folks!
My Road To Health: Part VI
- My Road To Health: Part 1
- My Road To Health: Part II
- My Road To Health: Part III
- My Road To Health: Part IV
- My Road To Health: Part Va
- My Road To Health: Part Vb
One factor that helped me beat my eating disorder was that I learned how to channel my negative thoughts into something positive.
Eating Disordered Thought #1: “Food will make me fat; therefore, I should avoid it at all costs.”
—> Negative thought changed into positive thought —>
New Positive thought #1: “Food can be healthy and energizing; therefore I will learn about what foods will make me feel the best.”
So as you can see, part of my recovery involved looking at food, and myself, in a new light. It is not a surprise that we get into negative thinking patterns and can’t get out of them. After all, we are inside our heads all day long! For the longest time, I didn’t even recognize that my thoughts were problematic. I would estimate that 95% of my thoughts used to be negative. How draining and tiresome that got…
So I had to first recognize that this was not healthy and secondly decide that I was going to change. Then I took action.
The Goal: Negative thoughts about food were turned into positive thoughts. Negative thoughts about myself were turned into positive, or at least neutral, thoughts. A tall order but I was not willing to accept the alternative.
I was a walking-contradiction. I had a huge passion for health, but I neglected to treat myself in a healthy manner. Something was missing. I had to start practicing what I preached. I decided to learn about health and nutrition and apply it to myself. I was my own guinea pig in a sense. My ‘control group’ or ‘baseline measure’ was how I felt while starving- unhappy, depressed, and irritable. Surely it could only go up from there…!?
The question became: How would I feel when I started to eat wholesome and nutritious foods?
I took those nutrition courses in university and I rocked them. I started to buy nutrition books for pleasure reading when I wasn’t studying for my course work. I discovered many things along the way:
1) I soaked up health and nutrition information like a sponge.
2) I started to appreciate my body for everything that it does for me instead of loathing it.
As I learned more, I started to apply it to myself…very gradually. I realized that the iceburg lettuce I was eating, while low in calories, gave my body almost zero nutrients. Same with many of the foods I was eating. Instead of focusing on how much I could eat with the fewest amount of calories, I started to focus on what foods I could eat that would have the most amount of nutrients in them. I swapped the iceburg lettuce for romaine and spinach. I swapped microwave popcorn for veggie and cracker trays with hummus and avocado. While the calories really didn’t differ too greatly, my energy levels sure did.
During high school and also in my 1st year of university, I went vegetarian for several months at a time. It was extremely hard being a vegetarian while living off cafeteria food in university. I found that my options were limited because I didn’t have a kitchen to cook my own foods. So that didn’t last too long.
In 2008, Eric and I started to save money for our wedding. Prior to this, we hadn’t been paying much attention to our grocery bills. Once we examined them, we realized that we had been spending about $25-30 on meat a week. We both ate meat twice a day. We decided that we could easily cut back our meat consumption and swap a few dinners for lentils, beans, or grains. We discovered that lentils, grains, and beans were cheap. This made our wallets thicker, or should I say, the wallets of the wedding industry.
This is when something started to click inside me. I started to experiment with new foods (also thanks to many food blogs I was reading at the time!) and I realized that I didn’t need meat like I thought I did. There were all of these wonderful foods out there that I had not even given a chance because we were taught that a meal should consist of meat, potatoes, and veggies.
Gradually over 2008, meat lost its’ appeal in my life. Sometimes I would cook meat for Eric and then just have something else for myself because I found that I didn’t crave it anymore. I decided that I would eat a meat-free diet and I continued to consume dairy, eggs, fish, and other animal products. As I educated myself about the food industry, my love for animals and the environment swayed my choices in my diet. Watching Food Inc. really opened my eyes and I realized that I could never go back to eating animal products again. I asked myself, ‘Why eat an animal when I can obtain my diet from plants?’
In 2009, I continued to eat fish occasionally up until around the early summer when I decided to eat a vegan diet. I would have fish once a every two weeks or so. While some vegetarians would gasp at the idea of having fish occasionally, I just did what was best for me at the time. I listened to my body. For me, it was never about being ‘perfect’ according to a certain label or what people say I should eat.
Over 2009, I started to experiment with new products. I tried Tofurkey, soy yogurt, soy cheese, and non-dairy ice cream. Some of these products tasted good and some of them tasted horrible. The obvious downside with these products is the price and the processed mystery ingredients that they contain. I was a fan of neither. These imitation products are a big reason why many people think it is more expensive to eat a vegan diet. They are super expensive. Because we were cutting costs in our lives, I had to learn how to eat a vegan diet without the use of these products. And let me tell you, it was the best thing I ever did.
I think these vegan products are ok for that transition period when you are freaking out and wondering how in the world you are going to survive without your yogurt, but I have found that I can’t even be bothered with them anymore. I used them as a crutch at first because I thought that is what I was supposed to eat as a vegan. Now I would rather eat the unprocessed stuff because I find it tastes better and I feel better when I don’t eat them. However, on occasion I will have a vegan pizza or something to that effect when I want one.
My decision to eat a vegan diet was not sudden, just as eating a vegetarian diet was not. It was gradual. You probably saw the slow and gradual change in my diet over the past year. many vegetarians or vegans can tell me the exact date, but for me it was very gradual and something I did over time. While some vegetarians or vegans go cold-turkey, this was not my approach. I slowly transitioned to the diet I eat now. I found this much more manageable. My best advice for those of you who want to change is start slow. Many of us spent our entire lives eating certain foods and it may be unrealistic to just change everything in one day.
When I started to find that my energy increased, I stopped getting colds, and my skin started to really glow, I knew that I was on the right path and my body was finally happy.
To answer all of your questions on Twitter last night, Yes I craved meat, dairy, etc for several months. Occasionally, I will still crave eggs or cheese, but I don’t crave meat anymore. This is quite shocking to me because I used to love meat! It took about 4 months or so of not having these foods. I have always had a big sweet tooth, so for me, giving up cheese or eggs was probably not as hard as it is for others.
I find that I am craving all sorts of foods now like black bean burgers, couscous, hummus, green monsters, and almond butter. When I changed the foods I was eating, my palate also changed over time. I have also seen the same change in Eric. He used to hate all vegetables and now he loves them and craves a big salad for dinner. If you grow up eating meat and dairy, you will probably crave it. If you grow up eating other foods, you will likely crave those foods. It only makes sense to adapt to what you eat.
During the ‘transition’ when I was trying to go without dairy products, I got hooked on almond milk and hemp milk as a replacement for cow’s milk, so this wasn’t a hard sacrifice. I don’t really care for soy milk so I stay away from that mostly. It was really hard giving up cheese and yogurt. I used to have a huge yogurt addiction to the point where I would eat 3 mini yogurts a day. I used to wonder what the heck I would eat if I couldn’t have my morning snack of yogurt! I got creative and I learned about new foods and new recipes. I looked at what other vegans were eating and followed suit. Thank God for vegan food/recipe sites, that is all I can say!
I actually found this trial and error period very fun and liberating.
There are many negative associations with veganism, such as rigid, obsessed, overly-restrictive, etc. However, what I learned while on this journey is that being a vegan is not restrictive when you learn about all of the foods you can eat. As humans it is natural for us to focus on things we can’t have, but what about all the foods we can have? In just the past year or two, I probably eat over 200 new foods that I never ate before.
My diet used to consist of the same three meals every single day. Being a vegan has challenged me to break out of that rut and try new things. I get much more variety now than I ever did, so for me, this experience has been a great thing for my health and overall satisfaction with food.
There is no exact science to going vegetarian or vegan. I have said all along that I am not a perfect vegan, nor do I strive to be one. I will make mistakes and occasionally eat food with dairy in it that I don’t know about. I don’t let myself get bothered by things like that. I don’t believe the point of being a vegan is perfection. I wore the perfectionist mask for several years and I can tell you that it is a mask I will never wear again. I do the best I can each day and that is good enough for me.
And for those of you asking what Eric’s response was to me going vegan:
Here it is from the man himself…
Eric said, “It’s your choice and it doesn’t bother me. The only thing I don’t like is that it is hard for us to find a restaurant where they have vegan options.”
I asked what about me not making meat for dinner?
“It was a drag not having you make meat for dinner, but after a while I got used to it. I have meat a couple times a week now so I don’t really feel like I am missing out. My meat consumption has gone down about 75% and I don’t mind having some vegetarian meals now whereas before I would never have considered it. I probably would never go fully vegetarian though. I’m happy with how things are now.”
It is definitely possible to be a vegan and not have your partner choose the same. It is more work, but it wasn’t a huge deal breaker for us.
The main thing I have learned is to have FUN with whatever your diet may be! For me, food was the enemy for so long. I have never been so excited about food in a long time. I feel like a part of me has woken up and come alive.
Whether you are a Vegan, Vegetarian, Carnivore, Flexitarian or what have you- HAVE FUN with your diet! Experiment, try new foods, and enjoy the experience. :)
More reading for those curious:
1) For specific information on how to make the vegetarian or vegan transition, please see this wonderful article on 20 tips! Love Zen Habits :)
2) For my vegan baking tips, please check out my guest post over at Silly Tater Tot!
3) Want go participate in vegan for a week? Thursday is the official vegan for a day challenge.
You want to take part?
On Thursday, November 19, we are asking that you devote one or all of your meals to being vegan. We just kindly ask if you could link back to either my blog or Michelle’s when you make your posts about Vegan Week. We will be compiling a list of all who participate throughout the day, on our blogs under the ‘VeganWeek’ tabs. If you could make sure to either send us the link and/or leave it in the comment section of the ‘Vegan 4-A- Day’ official post on Thursday then we can give you proper accolades.
If you know of any other friends, bloggers or not, who are up for the challenge…spread it around! Everyone who takes part will have a chance at a really cool prize — details of that to come soon!
THREE GLO BAR GIVEAWAYS:
3) Check out Katy’s Glo bar giveaway as a part of Vegan for a Week!
4) Check out Michelle’s Glo Bar giveaway as part of Vegan for a Week!
5) Check out Julie’s Glo Bar giveaway!
For all of November, Katie has something going called “Operation Chocolate Covered Kindness” where she’s going to donate all of her foodbuzz money to a really great charity called The Enough Project. Please visit her amazing website (she has great recipes too!) and contribute to the cause.
Have a wonderful hump-day!