My Health Journey
My lifestyle has changed drastically over the past two years, and I wanted to share my story of how I got to where I am today.
Growing up I was what most people considered to be healthy. I consumed almost anything my parents gave me (except milk, I hated milk), and I was active and played with my little brother and my friends every day. When I was old enough to figure out how to work my mom's video camera, I spent my afternoons writing my own scripts and making my own movies.
It wasn't until I reached the ages of 10/11 (around the time that puberty begins for most girls) that I started to develop serious self-esteem issues. I began to compare myself to the other girls at the dance studio. I wasn't as tall and my legs weren't as long and lean because I simply wasn't built that way. I developed a really bad relationship with food because I didn't look like other girls and it turned into a binge eating disorder. Some days I would be really picky about what I ate and skipped meals to "detox" or "cleanse" in an attempt to lose weight, but it would only be a matter of time until I binged again. I would eat until I felt so sick and so disgusted with myself that I felt the need to skip meals and "cleanse" again. It was a vicious cycle. My anxiety was through the roof and it eventually led to depression.
I thought playing competitive sports like soccer, volleyball and track and field in middle school would help break the cycle and it did help a bit. I got into much better shape and that itself boosted my confidence. I fell in love with working out, but my relationship with food didn't change. I knew I was eating more to compensate for the calories I burnt during my workout, but I still felt guilty.
I began seeing an acupuncturist to help with my anxiety when I was 15, and she told me that our diet has a lot to do with our mood. She suggested I cut gluten from my diet, and I noticed I had much better quality of sleep. I was still eating meat and dairy, but I was beginning to feel a little bit better. Later on that year I saw a nutritionist, and she suggested I started cutting down on red meat and limit my intake of sweets. I had no problem giving up the red meat, but because she said the only fruits I could eat were apples and berries, I was pretty miserable. I was eating a lot more veggies and superfoods, so I did lose quite a bit of weight and my skin looked better, but I wasn't happy.
Junior year of high school was a rough time for me. My anxiety was at an all-time high due to the unhealthy relationship I was in and stress from school. This really took a toll on my body. I wasn't sleeping well again, my skin looked dull, the dark circles under my eyes had gotten even worse, and my hair was breaking and falling out. I decided to try the Paleolithic Diet (or "paleo") to see how much better I would feel. The paleo diet consisted of meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. I cut out dairy and other processed foods which was good, but because I wasn't eating grains I found myself very lethargic. I usually never felt the need to nap, but I was napping for an hour or two every day after school, so I knew I needed to do something different.
I discovered veganism through a close friend of mine that was vegan and had nothing but good things to say about it, so of course I wanted to try it. What did I have to lose at that point?
I didn't quit cold turkey because I knew myself and I knew I would be setting myself up for failure. For the first four weeks I was vegan until dinner time. Breakfast, lunch, and any of my snacks were 100% plant-based. At dinner time, I gave myself a little more flexibility to consume animal products if I felt I was really craving them. Even then, I found myself making better choices when it came to dinner time. I didn't miss meat, dairy, or eggs much because I realized that I didn't enjoy them as much as I thought I did. I was just used to animal products being a part of my diet.
Within the first month of eating a plant-based diet, I noticed drastic changes in my energy level, my mood, my skin, and my sleeping habits. I felt like I was glowing! I had the energy to go out and run multiple miles a day whereas before I was lucky if I could huff and puff my way through two miles! I felt inspired again. I was choreographing my own dances and writing more. I felt like a new person!
Of course, with veganism comes criticism. There were a lot of people in my life that didn't exactly understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. They thought I was extreme and expected me to fail. One person even told me she "felt bad for me." Fortunately, I had the support of my family. I watched lots of documentaries, read countless articles, and my Instagram feed was flooded with other young vegans just like me.
I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this lifestyle and I finally feel healthy! Veganism is about what feeds my tummy AND my soul. I always get the question, "How have you been vegan for so long?" and the answer is that I found a reason to stick with it that is bigger than myself. I have chosen compassion and kindness not only towards my self, but also to the animals and the environment. I have chosen not to contribute to the violence and cruelty against innocent animals that leads to the destruction of the very planet we live on.
(P.S. I'll make another post just on vegan resources!)
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19. Vegan. Daydreamer.