5 weeks ago today I woke up. I literally woke up and decided I would no longer eat meat, dairy, or eggs.
The reasons are plentiful but I will stick with my own personal health to start. Nothing specific, just an all around feeling of blah. It's been a year full of loss and change, and diet and exercise have taken a back seat. I needed to get back in the driver's seat and take care of myself.
As with many changes I’ve made, I've found reflecting back to my childhood and connecting the dots throughout my life generally steers me in the right direction. My childhood intuition was strong!
Reflecting back, my body has nudged me toward a plant based diet since I was very small. My mom used to tell me I turned orange as a baby because I loved carrots so much. As a child I hated meat, I would chew and chew and chew but could not swallow it. Fruit and cereal were my absolute favorite foods. Milk grossed me out, I would only drink it if it contained loads of chocolate Quick (which I was rarely allowed to have). When salad bars became a thing I was thrilled!
I was the only kid I knew who hated McDonald’s.
At 17 I became a vegetarian. I ate no meat throughout college, but my diet was not exactly the epitome of health (cheese pizza and french fries!). For me, nothing was better on Thanksgiving than a grilled cheese. Everyone thought I was crazy but I could have cared less, it was least favorite holiday. I couldn't understand how obsessed people got and how much they stuffed themselves over one meal.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” ~ Proverb
After 5 years of vegetarianism I randomly decided to eat meat again, mostly chicken with some occasional red meat. Even then, at restaurants I would request only half the normal amount of chicken in my burritos, chose marinara over meat sauce, and I preferred very thin patties in my burger but lots of toppings.
I was at a stable healthy weight, ate what I wanted, knew when to stop and generally didn’t give it much thought. It was intuitive.
Somewhere along the way things shifted, I stopped listening to my body and my instinctual way of eating. I started dieting like my friends did, it screwed me up. I yo-yo'd and gained weight.
Managing 2 kids and a full time job, life got crazy.
The next 20 years I went on and off every fad diet - Summersizing, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Slimfast, cabbage soup, Paleo, Whole 30, Keto, clean eating, intermittent fasting, even a short stint at veganism. On and on and up and down. I would lose weight and feel great then gradually put it all back on plus some.
I believed I needed protein to stay satiated. Sugar, flour, and carbs where the enemy. Meat, cheese, eggs, and dairy were the solution. I read studies, I researched. Folks, you can find research to support just about anything.
“Eating crappy food isn’t a reward, it’s a punishment” ~ Drew Cary
My cholesterol soared, my joints and tendons ached. This past summer I turned 51 and I noticed my waist had disappeared. I joked I was becoming Mrs. Claus. None of my usual weight loss methods worked anymore. I had to stop walking in my neighborhood, the hills were too much on my Achilles’ tendon and I could feel the beginnings of plantar fasciitis. I gave up running years ago because I was plagued with injuries.
Was this my fate? Is this just what happens to middle aged women? I felt invisible. My brain was foggy, I was not as sharp or quick thinking as I used to be. I struggled to remember things. I wasn't as concerned about the number on the scale as I was about my health. What was happening?
Then on Monday October 21st I woke up.
Literally I woke up in the morning with clarity. I decided to give up all meat, cheese, dairy, and eggs and focus on eating whole plant based foods. I decided to listen to my body and just see what happened. I started that day.
I do not believe one lifestyle fits everyone, I am not trying to convince anyone to change their diet. We all have different genetics and body chemistry. I am simply sharing my story, connecting the dots of my lifetime and they all led me here.
In 5 short weeks the fog has lifted. It’s the only way I can describe it, I feel clearer and lighter inside my body. I thought it was going to be super hard and I would be really hungry. I kept a journal for a few weeks to track my progress, here is a recap:
Week 1 – A few days in I experienced serious moodiness lasting 2 days. I cried...a lot. I believe it was an emotional detox and release. The persistent and ongoing pain and swelling in Achilles’ tendon was completely gone by the end of the week. I mean completely gone!
Week 2 - No cravings, not even remotely tempted by all the Halloween candy everywhere. Still in disbelief by how good my joints feel. No bloating or weird side effects. Mood stable. Very deep sleep, and sleep was not even an issue for me before. Checked Fitbit data, resting heart rate down considerably from day 1 and continues to drop. Sleep score up from an average in the mid 80s to the 90s.
Week 3 - Business travel and hubby’s birthday. Was concerned about airports and business dinners. No issues, was even able to find a suitable option at a steak restaurant without calling attention to myself.
Week 4 - Cholesterol check and son’s 18th birthday. Not even a bite of birthday cake and honestly was not even tempted.
After 4 weeks my cholesterol was down 25 points. I lost 10 lbs and 2 inches off my waist. My BMI is back in the normal range.
Thanksgiving is in a few days. No turkey or grilled cheese for me this year, but I sure will be giving thanks!
I plan on enjoying my favorites - roasted sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts. I will tweak my stuffing recipe and top it with mushroom gravy and follow it up with some vegan pumpkin or apple pie!
After that I will enjoy a nice long, pain free walk in my hilly neighborhood.
I feel great about the changes I've made for my health and for the planet. I've learned to never say never but I do hope to continue on this path for the rest of my life.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
If you are curious about switching to a plant based lifestyle I would be happy to share some resources that helped me make the switch.
"The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure disease with nutrition” ~ Thomas Edison