I recently completed an interview with Life University, the largest chiropractic college in the world. They were founded on a health based philosophy, so I was excited when they asked me to do an interview for their blog. If you are considering making the switch to a vegan lifestyle, reading my experience may help make the transition a little easier!
How long have you been a vegan?
I’ve been a vegan for 5 years
How/why did you become a vegan?
In college, I was hospitalized due to an excruciating pain in my lower abdomen. After weeks of testing, hospitalization and a few visits with a nutritionist, I was told I could not digest animal protein properly, causing infections, fatigue, malnutrition, problems with my internal organs and a host of other issues. The only solution I was given was a complete transition to a vegan diet with no exceptions or time for a soft transition. When many people read my story, they automatically assume I was either incredibly overweight or unhealthy, hence the need for a drastic and immediate change in my diet. On the contrary, I have always been a healthy weight and very active. However, I had no idea what I was putting my body through on a daily basis because of food I was consuming.
Since your vegan journey began out of necessity did you have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that you had to change your eating habits?
Prior to my hospitalization, I didn’t really understand what eating vegan was and I certainly didn’t understand why anyone would ever choose to limit his or her diet in such a drastic way. I questioned the protein source and malnutrition of any vegetarian or vegan in which I came in contact. I was raised most of life in South Carolina, eating throughout my childhood as most do their entire lives…meals filled with meat, processed foods and vegetables. Even the vegetables I consumed growing up were cooked in cheese or butter. I believed that foods derived from an animal were necessary to a healthy diet. When I was told the vegan diet was necessary for me to live a healthy life, I was ignorant to what I would eat, how I would get enough nutrients, and certainly how I would survive inSouth Carolinanot eating anything from an animal.
Was it a difficult transition?
I wish I could say the transition to a vegan diet was a painless and easy process for me, but it was quite the opposite. I struggled for months, if not years, on grasping the new lifestyle. At first, I felt restricted and lost. What you put into your body is the one thing you can control each day and I felt I had lost complete control. I wandered around the grocery store aimlessly, desperately searching for food to fill the void I felt inside. I had no friends or family living locally that were interested or educated on the vegan lifestyle. Most were just as I was before my sudden change in lifestyle, ignorant and misinformed about veganism.
One day I decided I had to take it upon myself to better my education on veganism and what the health benefits to eating a plant-based diet were. I was hoping that if I understood veganism better, mealtime would be easier for me. I began reading as many books and scientific studies as I could. When this educational process began, I was shocked at the facts. I could not believe how wrong my perception of “healthy” was. Educating myself on the facts of a healthy, plant-based diet was the key to an easier transition.
Any advice for people who are considering a vegan lifestyle?
Educate yourself and try it! I’m a big believer that if our society knew the scientific facts about health, nutrition and disease, many of them would choose to make a change to their diet. I know that I certainly would have made changes to my diet had I understood what I was doing to my body with the food I was consuming. Additionally, I think the best way to learn anything is through your own personal experience. Try the vegan lifestyle for a few months or even just for 30 days. You will see drastic improvements in how you feel, your attitude, your skin, your digestion, your energy level and a host of other great changes. This is not to say the transition will be easy for everyone, especially if your diet was anything like mine prior to my transition. My recommendation for those people is, for the first week or several weeks, keep your meals as similar to what you eat now as possible. You can find vegan alternatives to virtually anything and most of them taste great! This should make the transition easier. Once you get past the initial transition, try to focus on eating more whole fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, etc. This is where you will see the most health benefits.