Why I became a vegan and why you don’t have to

How does a 40-something woman with a hunting license just decide one day to stop eating animal products? And more importantly, why?

For me, it wasn’t something I was planning on doing. Yes, I had been researching cancer prevention for years, and I had eliminated red and processed meats from my diet. I also only occasionally ate dairy, and when I did, it was lactose free. I was already focusing on eating more fruits and veggies. And I had switched to whole grains.

About 2 ½ years ago, I was doing a workout & nutrition program that required timed nutrition. I had to eat every 2-3 hours, and most meals included a protein. At the time, my main protein source was chicken, and sometimes fish. About 3 weeks into this 11 week program, I was SO sick of chicken! I was literally having to force myself to eat. I logged in to the program support group, and asked what everyone else was eating for protein. I said that if I had to look at another piece of chicken, I was going to stab myself in the eye with a fork. Someone suggested I check out the optional vegan meal plan.

The vegan protein options were all things I liked: beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh. I decided to try switching to the vegan plan for the remainder of the program. I found recipes to try, and headed off to the produce department!

Beachbody Coach Tracie BielerThe one thing I was concerned about was whether I would have enough energy to continue my intense workouts without eating meat.

I had this picture in my head of pale, waifish people who couldn’t walk to the corner, let alone lift weights.

I told my husband I was going to experiment with eating vegan for the next 8 weeks. He was on board, as long as I was willing to continue to serve meat to him. So, that’s what I did. I would make meals that could be served with or without meat, and allowed everyone to choose what their plate would look like.

The first week was a little tough. Our bodies can have detox symptoms that feel like drug withdrawal when we decide to make big changes and eat cleaner. I had almost flu-like symptoms for about 2 days. i also had to go to the bathroom a lot more because of all the fiber I was suddenly eating. And my head felt swimmy. I wasn’t exactly dizzy, but it was like my head was in a fog.

But after those first few days, it’s like the fog fully lifted for the first time ever. I felt so CLEAR. I had more energy. I felt lighter, physically & emotionally. I had absolutely no trouble keeping up with my workouts. So, after the program ended, I decided there was no reason to return to eating animal products.

Because I geek out on learning about nutrition, I kept researching and reading books & articles on whole food, plant based eating. I began to follow vegan doctors on Youtube, and looked up scientific studies on health outcomes for vegans.

I also stared to realize that all my chronic illness symptoms were gradually vanishing.

I stopped having severe allergy attacks. My celiac disease symptoms completely disappeared. And my anxiety disorder went away. It wasn’t until I was planning a trip that required me to fly that I realized the anxiety was gone. The night before the trip, I remembered that I hadn’t refilled my Xanax prescription. I always needed a Xanax to fly, along with a glass of wine, or I’d have a panic attack on the plane. In fact, I usually had  to take the drug for a few nights before a trip, or I wouldn’t be able to sleep. The anxiety of an upcoming flight would prevent me from sleeping for days. Now, I was about to fly across the country, and I hadn’t lost a moment of sleep. I was nervous to fly without my prescription, but I decided to try. And amazingly, I actually enjoyed that flight! I haven’t needed to take an anxiety med ever since, and I’ve flown

Of course, since my main goal has always been cancer prevention, I continue to research nutrition for the prevention of cancer. And I am finding more and more scientific evidence that meat and dairy promote cancer. In fact, processed meats are a group 1 human carcinogen. This means they are known to cause cancer in humans. Unprocessed meat is a group 2 carcinogen, meaning it is probable that it causes cancer in humans. Dairy is linked to reproductive cancers. It’s also linked to asthma, allergies, eczema, type 1 diabetes, and a host of other chronic illnesses.

I get asked all the time if I feel deprived, or miss eating cheese or bacon. The short answer is no. When I began concentrating on eating vegetables, I started experimenting with new foods and new flavor profiles. I actually eat more variety now than I did when I was a meat eater.

I DID eat some meat once since going vegan. I was on vacation in the Caribbean, and there was chef making ceviche on the beach from freshly caught fish. I did try a few bites. It was absolutely delicious! I plan to travel the world, and I will certainly be open to trying local cuisines, which may contain animal products. Especially when I get to Japan.

Of course, you can’t go down the vegan rabbit hole without learning about the horrific conditions of factory farmed animals. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. So I now have even more of a reason to avoid animal products.

I have remained vegan because I feel the best I have ever felt, and I know I am healthier than ever, because when I have gone for an annual physical, my doctor actually told me she felt useless.

My blood work is “perfect” and I know far more than she does about nutrition and eliminating symptoms. She thanked me for being refreshingly easy to care for. That was 28 months ago. I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever go back for a “well visit”.

But here’s the thing: 95% of my clients are not vegan. And I don’t try to convince them to become vegan. Why? Because nutrition needs to be individual. If we do an assessment, and they are struggling with diabetes or menstrual symptoms, I will of course suggest eliminating dairy. But, if they have a seizure disorder, properly executed keto may be the answer. I do encourage my clients to pay attention to the source of the meats they are eating. I do encourage no processed meats, and to look for grass-fed, antibiotic free, organic eggs & meats. I provide recipes that focus on whole, single ingredient foods of all types. And I encourage my clients to learn to pay attention to their bodies. To notice any changes in symptoms or body functions when eating certain foods. To recognize when their body is telling them a food is making them feel great, or making them feel like crap.

My body thrives on being vegan. But I’m a vegan who eats mostly veggies, beans and whole grains. Not a vegan who eats Oreos and diet soda. There is a wrong way to eat vegan. Just like there’s a wrong way to eat keto or paleo, or just to eat in general.

If you know that you could change your health with the right nutrition, but you aren’t sure how, let’s chat! I promise I won’t try to recruit you to veganism if you promise to listen to your body and let me teach you how to heal yourself by yourself!

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