A couple months back, I shared some specifics on what my self-care routine consists of, and as a result, I received lots of questions about my plant based lifestyle. Today, I wanted to take the time to explain a bit more about my plant-based journey, and answer some of the questions that keep showing up in my DMs, in hopes of shedding some light on my own personal experience and helping you all along in your own self-care journey’s!
Back in November of 2018, the sciatic, lower/mid-back and knee pain I had been experiencing for over 13 years were at an all-time high. My depression and anxiety I’d struggled with since my early teens was through the roof, I was getting sinus infections every other month that were often flared by several food intolerances and allergies my doctor and I had yet to narrow down, and I felt miserable every single day, suffering from headaches, mood-swings and general lethargy by the end of every day. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to shake getting sick, feeling tired, unhappy, and I was fed-up with feeling that way.
Although my husband went plant based a year before I did, which definitely had a big impact on my eatings habits, I was reluctant to fully join him in cutting out meat, diary and eggs completely, as I didn’t think I could be happy or satisfied forgoing my favorite chicken dishes and the occasional cheese pizza and chocolate chip cookies. After experiencing a really bad stretch of food allergies that provoked a gnarly sinus infection and some excruciating lower back pain that left me almost unable to sit for a week, I decided I was going to do everything in my power to change the way I felt, which thanks to my husband’s nutritional research that led him to go plant based the year before, told me I had to start with what I was eating.
To kick things off, I did a deep dive into food and nutritional research, which ultimately led me to watching several documentaries around plant based eating, in order to fully understand what the general health benefits of forgoing meat, dairy and eggs were, and fully understand what I could expect and how it could potentially impact my health and wellness. Hearing countless stories of people who had never felt better in their lives after cutting out these three food groups, I decided I would give myself 3 days to see how I felt after doing the same.
Day 1 was tolerable because I had planned my meals ahead. I ate my usual granola for breakfast, followed by a veggie bowl at Chipotle for lunch and spaghetti marinara for dinner. Day 2 was rough. Major cravings for my typical go-to comfort foods kicked in, and I felt like I was going crazy! By the morning of day 3 though, my usual lower back and sciatic aches and pains were gone, my 2 pm headache never set in, and I had much more energy than usual, so I decided to push the experiment to 3 weeks – after all, your tastebuds typically take 2 weeks to expire and regenerate, so I figured I needed to give myself more time to get over the cravings hump.
By week 2 I felt like a new person – no more daily headaches, sciatic, lower back or knee pain, tons of energy, and I was even getting more restful sleep after struggling with insomnia for years! By week 3 I was convinced this was the lifestyle for me, because I had honestly NEVER FELT BETTER!
But then I got my period on week 4, and the cravings for my favorite junk foods took over, so I gave in, wanting to see if I still enjoyed those foods after eating plant based for over 3 weeks.
Upon taking just one bite of my favorite chicken tortilla soup, I was shocked when the taste wasn’t what I remembered. It tasted completely different – it was oily and bland, but I took a few more bites just to be sure my tastebuds were working! An hour later, my stomach hurt and I felt nauseous. The next day I woke up with all the joint pains I had finally rid myself of. I was frustrated and angry, but that evening I had a craving for panang chicken curry from my favorite local Thai restaurant, so again I gave in, but remembered how I felt after eating chicken tortilla soup the night before, so I got a vegan option as well, just in case I didn’t like the chicken version. The smell of the chicken curry alone made me sick to my stomach, but I took a bite anyway, truly wanting to see if I still liked it. I literally gagged, spit it out, and dove into the vegan curry. That was the last time I had meat, in December of 2018, and I haven’t had it (or dairy or eggs) since.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, when I first went plant based I was determined to find vegan alternatives to lots of my favorites, so while I was technically eating plant based, my diet was still made up of lots of processed foods, which I now know contain inflammatory ingredients like oils and processed sugars, which eventually caused the same aches and pains I was trying to eliminate in the first place. Although I enjoyed my plant based lifestyle over the next year and a half, my joint pains came back, my depression and anxiety returned, and I felt the same as I had before: constantly tired, lethargic and unhappy.
This past June, after coming to terms with the fact that while I was eating plant based, I still wasn’t caring for my body the way it needed to feel its absolute best, I did a deeper dive into nutrition and discovered the benefit of a whole food plant based diet, which meant eliminating processed and refined foods, including oils and processed sugars.
Today, I enjoy a high carb, low fat, whole food plant based diet, fueling my body the way I feel my very best, and I couldn’t be happier or more satisfied with every meal! I’ve even dropped some substantial weight in the process.
Now for some Frequently Asked Questions…