2012 was chocked full of changes for me. Huge, life altering changes. For starters my son was born and my tiny family was made complete. I finally came to a conclusion about my faith, which to be blunt means that I finally realized I don’t have one. After 4 years together I believe the S.O. and I finally settled into one another and into the concept that we are in this together, no matter what, in spite of the good the bad or the ugly- no quitsies for us. Lastly, I became a Veg Head.
I am the granddaughter of a West Virginia dairy farmer. I spent several summers just out of high school working on my uncle’s dairy farm. My first husband and I (out of two, in case your eye brow went up) owned and ran an Angus beef farm and aspired to run a million dollar dairy operation in up state NY. So when I say that this idea of vegetarianism is a new concept to me, I sincerely mean it. Its as if I were asleep, somehow programed with ideals from early on that I never once questioned. I guess the negative side to my growth this year is that I’ve come to identify myself as a sheep. I spent the first 29 years of my life blindly following the preconceived notions that were already laid out before me. We go to church, we believe in and fear god, we get married… and for gods sake, we eat meat. God created animals to be eaten, my mother said. Vegetarians bruise easily, my mother said, and they are just about as ungodly as the atheists or the gays. (Won’t she be proud of me for turning out to be an anti-meat, pro-gay, and godless woman?) Perhaps her statements weren’t quite that extreme, perhaps to her the explanations she gave to me were just a passing remark, but as an impressionable child who aspired to emulate everything about Mother, I took these things to heart.
Fast forward a few decades, 6 pant sizes, 60 pounds, and most likely some damage to my coronary arteries, I found myself a tad more open to new concepts on health and nutrition. I can honestly say there was a period of time in my life when I didn’t own a scale and never even gave one a thought. Unfortunately these were during the darkest days in my life and I also didn’t give one thought to how many calories were in a 12 pack of beer nor how unhealthy Spaghettios and Ramen noodles were. I ballooned up. I went from 119 pounds and a size 2 in 2003 to at least +175 and a size 12 by 2008. Okay- it was a size 15, but it was only one pair. How does this happen? More importantly, how does a person not notice their own expanding waist line? I was one seriously confident Full Sized Girl because I sincerely, honestly did not realize my own weight gain. I knew I could stand to firm up a bit, but I mostly just made the excuse that some brands just size things differently. Once, right before I married my second husband, I paid notice to my weight. I had bought a pair of size 9 jeans and was weighing in at 145 so decided it was time to take action. I bought into the Herbalife craze and dropped 10 pounds. Trouble is, I didn’t sustain it. The next time I noticed my weight I had raced past 145 and landed closer to 180.
2008 was the last of a string of challenging years in my life. I had participated in a very ugly divorce and I felt I was at rock bottom. I felt that the more I wanted to change, the more my circumstances and social circle made me stay the same. The summer of 2008 a dear friend from my inner circle was being transferred to California and I had the privilege of road tripping with him across the country for his big move. We had days to talk and I had hours to reflect on my train wreck of a life. I needed a change. He proposed I uproot and start over. Maybe a fresh beginning would do me some good. So a few months later I left my home of 26 years and headed west to my dream job and my new beginning where people would judge me by who I was then, not who I was in my past. My decision to move to California was monumental. It was the first domino in a long line of events that would alter the very course of my life and change my family tree. Without transitioning this blog post into the story of my move to California, I must bring this back onto topic here.
My first day of academy for my dream job was January 5, 2009. I had spent the three months prior to my move “eating healthier” and “exercising more”, meaning I had switched to light beer and spent a few hours a weeks pacing around the park. I was the only girl in my academy class and when it was time to be measured and weigh in I was mortified. “Holy shit. There is no way this scale is accurate!” I was determined to lose some weight. My first 4 months in California I focused my attention to healthy eating and I fell in love with jogging. My days off consisted of studying SOP’s and going for runs along the shore of Alameda. I dropped 15 pounds and I felt so great. I got ahold of the Flat Belly Diet book and for the first time I actually required myself an education about my diet. I was able to maintain this lighter weight of about 160 -165 until the S.O. and I decided to try for a baby.
Princess was born in late 2010 and I rang in her birth day weighing just shy of 190. One’effin’ninety. I spent the first year of her life again battling to drop the weight. My goal was to meet my ideal body weight by her first birthday, and by god, I did. The month she turned one I was proudly weighing 150 pounds… the other shocker on her birthday was that I found out I was pregnant with our Tiny Prince. Awesome. I mean that, it was awesome, but I also mean “awesome…. let me get my effin giant ass wardrobe back out of the garage…”.
Over the course of my second pregnancy I gained appropriate weight. I started to slip up a little during my second trimester, eating Cherry Garcia for desert every evening and enjoying one too many Wendy’s fries. Now enters my Veg-Head work partner. We’ll call him Kyle*. Since we work 24 hour shifts we spend a lot of time in each others space. You either have to really like your partner a lot or else you are going to spend a lot of your working life annoyed and miserable. In our case its a perfect partnership. He rocks. His wife rocks. I lucked out. But Kyle and his wife are some kind of different. They are beach loving, veggie eating, down to earth vegan people who are oh so approachable. Over the weeks and months I watched his eating habits and challenged him with a zillion questions about their choice to go veg. “Well, how do you get your protein? What about calcium, aren’t you afraid of osteoporosis? Don’t you miss meat?!” For every question I had, Kyle had an article of reference or a documentary to suggest. We watch half a dozen films on the subject of nutrition, including films like Super Size Me, Killer at Large, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, Food Inc, Food Matters, Vegucated, and my all time forever fav: Forks Over Knives.
At this point in my life I rarely ate red meat anymore. I loved chicken and had started incorporating more seafood in just a few years prior. I learned that red meat or not, even fish is not a health food. The more I dug into this subject, the more I learned. I was fascinated with this topic because the Princess was starting on solids and I wanted so badly to be feeding her the healthiest foods available. I invested a period of 6 months challenging all of the questions that I had. I started dropping meat out of several meals a week, experimenting with “Meatless Meals”, which at the time just meant I made a bunch of side dishes and served those. The S.O. was not in full support. In fact, he appeared rather concerned and unsettled about the idea of having such a change forced on him. The more committed I became to the idea of vegetarianism, the harder I worked to fix delicious meals sans the animal. It wasn’t the easiest transition period. My resources were relatively limited as I was just delving into the concept of vegetarian cookbooks, and the options that I did try seemed so complicated and took hours to prepare, only to be met with mild criticism. I recall being told several times that this was just a fad, no body actually did this outside of L.A., but I was convinced. The statistics I had read and learned about were irrefutable. Our Western diet is creating chronic food borne illnesses otherwise known as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hyperlipemia, diabetes, and many forms of cancer, and this is just a start to the list. One of the most comprehensive nutritional studies ever done is detailed in The China Study which is authored by Dr Campbell. I heard it described there that genetics loads the gun and diet pulls the trigger. I learned from multiple sources that cardiovascular disease starts by the age of FIVE YEARS OLD on our Western diet. Need I say it again? Evidence of heart disease can be found as early as five years of age. Unbelievable! I does matter what we are feeding our kids. Nutrition is not just for those suffering from heart problems and excessive waist lines. Prevention is key, and its never too early to start establishing healthy habits. In fact, I believe that the earlier one implements a healthier diet, the easier it will be. I think it would be hard to receive if I were to feed my kids hot dogs, lucky charms and soda up to the age of ten before I started removing the sugars and unhealthy fats from their plates.
My transition took a hard shift when I discovered the Happy Herbivore. At the time the author Lindsay Nixon had two cookbooks out and these literally took my journey to a whole other level. Her meal plans were a great starting point for me as well. I can honestly say that I enjoy cooking more now than I ever have but I will save more on this topic for another post.
In the mean time, I had gone completely Veg by my third trimester. The Tiny Prince was born in April and I was feeling much stronger than I had in my first experience. I broke medical advice and got into a Boot Camp at a gym which started three weeks after the baby was born. I used my maternity leave to exercise more routinely that I ever have since my full time job consists of rotating shifts. I dropped pounds and inches in the 30 day boot camp. Another thing I dropped was dairy. The baby was a spitter, a big time spitter. The pediatrician’s recommendation was remove all dairy from my diet. We had already done so for our daughter shortly after she turned one. When she transitioned from breast milk to cows milk she immediately started suffering from horrendous constipation. The same trusted pediatrician had advised us then that the number one cause of constipation in children her age is cows milk. Her doctor isn’t vegan, she doesn’t promote the plant based diet, but she does validate the same claims that those behind the Plant Based movement make; dairy is harmful to our bodies. Well over 50% of American’s are treated for lactose intolerance while in truth, those who have the ability to digest lactose are actually categorized as Lactose Persistent. Either way, we were already accustomed to buying almond milk and my only reason for not having made the switch was because I didn’t want to spend the extra money on myself. Since the day we left the pediatricians office however, I have not had one single glass of cows milk, and with the exception of one little-teeny-tiny relapse during a crazy night in San Diego, I haven’t had cheese either.
So here I am, a year after my transition to vegetarian and eight months into my commitment to a dairy free diet, I am feeling better than I have in YEARS. Asides from the fact that I also get less sleep now than I have in my entire life, I genuinely feel healthier and more vibrant than ever. My allergies seem lessened, my skin is at its all time clearest which is amazing to me because I experienced nearly pubescent like acne after my daughter was born. I haven’t had clear skin since I was ten, and I certainly didn’t expect to be blemish free while my hormones were adjusting from Host Being to just me again. I have more stamina for my activities of daily living. And the least important but most welcomed change is that I am down over forty pounds since my move to the West Coast.
Much to my elation and vainglory, I am happily wearing a size four and weigh 132 pounds. I have remained at a stable weight now for 2 months, fluctuating only a few pounds over the holidays. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not had one moment to exercise in over four months, but since my last 5K a weekend before my 30th birthday, I dropped an additional 15 pounds relying on a plan-based diet alone. I religiously used My FItness Pal for 8 months only missing one day in the entire stretch. I can confidently say now that I have a very sound awareness of the nutritional value of my food choices, and I can also reassure anyone concerned that I am not eating enough that I do in fact average 1500 calories a day. I haven’t gotten used to my slimmer self, I still catch my reflection as I walk past the mirror headed to the shower and give myself a confident grin. I could still stand to tone things up a bit, but where I stand now is far healthier than where I began. The S.O. seems to be pleased as well, I am the happy recipient of a little more affection, flirtatious pokes and pinches and flattery. Don’t get me wrong here, my S.O. met me when I weighed my heaviest. We shared a very exciting and sexually satisfying relationship when I was strutting my size 15 jeans. He loves me, he has never complained or indicated that I was in fact a Full Sized Girl… but now that we are no longer in competition for the same triple digits on the scale, he seems totally delighted.
In addition to being supportive of my slight figure, he has also gradually become completely supportive of my vegan cooking here at home. The only animal product that makes it into our refrigerator is his organic milk. He eats meat when we eat out, usually fish, and only about half of the time. I must say, he’s gotten a little trimmer in the process as well. The babies are healthy as can be. We have experienced a few rounds of colds this year and one round of RSV (which, by the way, is torturous for all parties). I have had asthma since I was 5 and there hasn’t been a winter since that I haven’t spent more time sick than not. Its January as I type this and I am currently recovering from my first cold of the entire season, and it only last a few days. For me, this is nothing short of a plant-based miracle. I work in the health care field and I’ve nursed the babies back to health this winter and I have managed to stay well in spite of it.
I could easily go on about the changes I have experienced but this blog has morphed into a long winded autobiography rather than an easy read. If you have stuck with me to this point then I am convinced of your genuine interested in the plant based diet. Over the last six months I have had dozens of questions asked about my transition; how we did it, why we did it, what we eat, what we don’t eat, what the hard parts are, what the best cookbooks are, and on and on. Hopefully this little novel here is a start to answering some of the questions that inquiring minds may have. I look forward to breaking it down into (significantly) smaller posts detailing our plant based journey. Until then, Happy Healthy Eating!