My journey to a plant-based lifestyle began in childhood. Growing up, my family didn’t eat pork—not for religious reasons, but for health reasons— but we ate our fair share of beef, chicken, turkey, and seafood. I ate well and had the waistline to prove it! But as I got older, I found an incentive to change my eating habits: I wanted to wear cuter clothes. So I cut beef from my diet and all the corresponding fast food runs to hamburger joints. I lost some weight but still wasn’t as healthy as I needed to be.
In college, I took it a step further and went vegetarian. But as a dorm room living, college student, this diet mostly meant noodles, ice cream, french fries, and canned green beans. I also became more interested in fitness, so I started religiously doing Tae Bo workouts (shout out to my “personal trainer” Billy Blanks). With regular workouts and my vegetarian diet I managed to cut a lot of weight and got to a healthy size. But I I still wasn’t feeling the best. I found out I was Lactose Intolerant early in college after seeing my doctor for severe abdominal pain and gastric distress. Dairy was a no-no, but I didn’t know how to find foods that were dairy free. (And I knew I didn’t want to go back to eating a bunch of meat.) And, once again, as a college student living in the dorm and eating most of my meals on campus, it was easier to eat mac and cheese and ice cream for dessert rather than finding a better option. So I continued through college with my vegetarian diet but did start to include seafood because I was becoming bored with my diet.
Med School Struggles
In medical school, learned how food is composed and the essentials necessary to maintain health. I also met a classmate who was a longtime vegan. I was still mostly vegetarian, eating my fair share of eggs and dairy. I went on eating this way throughout medical school and residency, even adding poultry back into my diet to help deal with the stress of 80-hour work weeks and the need for quick food options. When you’re putting in those kinds of hours, exercise falls by the wayside. Needless to say, it all lead to weight gain.
My last year of residency I became pregnant with my first son. After having him, I was determined to become a better me and decided to take up running. That sport was always a struggle for me as an overweight kid, so I started with the Couch to 5K running program. This plan was great because it taught me to set small goals, start slow, and work my way up to the completion of becoming a 5K runner. I ran my first 5K around 10 months after my son was born, and I. Was. Hooked! The more I ran, the further I wanted to run. Over the years I have run countless 5Ks, 10Ks, several half marathons, and nine full marathons (26.2 miles). I even ran an ultra marathon (50K) in 2015 and enjoyed every step of the way.
In 2013, I had my second son and I continued to find ways to better my health and my diet. Somehow, I stumbled on to Lindsay Nixon’s Happy Herbivore website while looking for recipes. She has a knack for making a vegan lifestyle simple, and I loved that I could create her recipes from everyday ingredients I already had in my kitchen. I continued to delve into a veganism , devouring documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The more I learned, the more I wanted to eat better and live healthier. I stopped eating dairy and realized how much better I felt. My stomach pain and gastric upset resolved. There allure of cheating with a slice of I pizza with dairy cheese or dairy ice cream faded when I realized I would “pay” for it with stomach pain. However, the more vegetables I ate, the better I felt! I continued to seek out vegan recipes and follow vegan blogs. I learned to make vegan Mac and Cheez (my favorite food if you haven’t figured that out by now). My weight was healthy and I began to learn about the sport of triathlon. I completed my first sprint triathlon in 2014 and was hooked on the sport.
Today I now consider myself whole food plant based (WFPB), but for simplicity sake, I often say I’m vegan. There are some occasions when I’ll eat fish, but I avoid dairy, eggs, turkey, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, crab, etc. (you get the idea).
Being WFPB, my diet is made up of fruit, beans, rice, potatoes, leafy greens, tofu, oats, seeds, and nuts. I thrive off of these foods. My stomach pains are gone, I have the energy to compete in the sports I love, I maintain a healthy weight and have avoided common chronic illnesses, and I have the ability to keep up with my three rambunctious sons (my third son was born in 2017).
I am excited to share this healthy way of living with others, so that they may also enjoy eating, yet still feel healthy, happy, and energized. I have found my essence of health an I want to help others find theirs!