My transition to a plant-based lifestyle

by Amy Renee
My transition to a plant-based lifestyle

Those of you who know me well know I am a bit of a control freak. Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to figure things out on my own without help from anyone else. My parents will tell you one of my first sentences was, “I do it myself.” It’s difficult to give up control. Especially over things you want so badly, like losing weight for example. Although I commend anyone taking a step toward a healthier lifestyle it is important to not let that so called “healthier lifestyle” become all consuming either. Balance is key! Unfortunately for me this took almost two decades to figure out.

I first began learning about nutrition when I was in high school. Overweight by more than 30 pounds at only 5’3” I was clinically obese and knew I had to make some changes. Although nutrition science has made incredible advances since then, I wasn’t gaining my nutrition knowledge from medical research or credible sources of any kind. I simply became more aware of the kinds of “unhealthy” foods and beverages I was putting into my body. I became one of those “sugar and fat watchers” who read every label on every product I was planning to consume and/or drink. It was a step in the right direction and I did lose over 30 pounds before my 17th birthday, but it was a far cry from the healthy person I am today.

Me in high school around my heaviest

With my dad in college after losing around 30 pounds

It was during my college years that I discovered my love for fitness. I started exercising at the recreational center at my University and was shocked at how my body started to transform. That was when I picked up my first fitness magazine. I can’t remember which publication it was, but it wasn’t long before I had subscriptions to Oxygen, Women’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers and more. I read every one of those magazines cover to cover and thought I was soaking in some valuable nutrition knowledge. I began eating a high protein, low-carb diet and continued to read every label of everything I ate. I diligently kept a food journal for years. I still think it can be a good idea to record your dietary intake, but the focus of my nutrition goals have changed drastically.

Fast forward ten years and I finally had the opportunity to continue my education. I applied to and was accepted into the ACEND accredited Master’s Program in Nutrition at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. I honestly thought I knew so much about nutrition that grad school would be a piece of cake. What I found out was how little I actually knew and how much misinformation is printed in the popular magazines that I had been “educating” myself with over the past 15 plus years. For example, recall the typical “this one study said eat this and live longer” type of articles. I used to read these small blurbs and take them as absolute truth. But, how valid are they? And what types of studies? One study? Several studies? Did the manufacturers of the food product that is going to supposedly make everyone live longer finance these studies? While I’m not going to go into detail about evaluating research here (maybe in another blog post), I’m just trying to make the point that you can’t believe everything you read. Another point I want to make is that almost all of the information printed in the popular magazines, especially the fitness magazines is related to aesthetics. And lets face it ALL women want to look good. Almost every woman wants to lose at least 5 or 10 pounds if not more and they will do ANYTHING to get there – take any pill, try any fad diet, start a new fitness program, the list goes on. When it comes to weight loss people are desperate for that quick fix. I was no different. I will tell you I have taken tons of different diet pills in my time, tons of supplements, tried several fad diets from the cabbage soup diet (yes I did that – ugh) to the grapefruit diet to the Atkins diet – I’ve tried everything.

So where am I going with this? I want to share with you my “a-ha” moment. That moment when I realized I had to stop all of this craziness and just focus on being healthy. I had gone through 3 years of grad school and my portfolio project (a project I worked on throughout the entire three years of my postgraduate studies) primarily focused on the correlation between animal food consumption and chronic disease. Just before graduation I took a trip to my hometown to visit my parents. My mother was going through aggressive chemo at the time for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). This was her third time having “the chop” (an acronym used for the chemo used to treat aggressive NHL). She has also had thyroid cancer and had to have her thyroid removed. Watching my mother go through this awful procedure made me realize how stupid I had been my whole life. Here I was so focused on what I looked like and was completely ignoring the greatest gift I was given, my health! All of the research I had been studying, the books I had read, everything just hit me all at once and I decided I would no longer eat a specific way to try and fit into a smaller clothing size. I’d fill my glorious, gorgeous body, (YES I SAID GORGEOUS!) with only the most nutritious foods and treat it the way it deserves by exercising my muscles and doing my best to rid myself of stress and inflammation.

And guess what happened! Once I stopped focusing on what my body looked like and started focusing on my health wonderful things happened. I decided to stop eating animal foods. I didn’t miss it like I thought I would. But my acne disappeared, I stopped having night sweats, my anxiety lessened, I had more energy, I didn’t feel bloated, constipated, or gassy (um, yeah). And without even trying I dropped ten pounds. Yep. I thought my body was just set at a certain point (in terms of weight). And I was fine with it. I was at a healthy weight and felt comfortable. But I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t excited about my weight loss. And it seemed to just drop off. Then a few more pounds came off! What? Yeah. Veggies! They are SEXY!!! Being healthy is SEXY!!! Feeling good physically and mentally, having confidence, and enjoying food (yes, I LOVE everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I eat) is SEXY! Now I’m not saying YOU HAVE to become a 100% herbivore to get healthy, I’m just saying TRY to eat LESS animal foods. Just make small changes and see how your body reacts. For me dairy was the most noticeable change. Everyone is different. But the research speaks for itself – the more animal products you consume the more likely you will suffer from chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer and you will die sooner. I don’t know about you, but not only do I want to live a full life, but I want my life to be happy and healthy, NOT crippled by disease and dementia!

So…I have been living a 100% plant-based lifestyle for about a year now and there are several things I have tried (and liked), but not yet learned how to cook. I am excited to try these things (like cooking tempeh for example) and share my experiences with you. On occasion I hope to have guest bloggers who are experts in the areas that I am just a newbie in and create posts with them on my site.

So that’s it. That’s how The Sexy Veggie came about. Because I have a passion for nutrition, I love food, and I want to help YOU find your way to better health and increased confidence so you can live a longer, happier, and SEXIER life!

I hope you enjoy the stories I share with you. And I hope you will join the conversation in the comments section below posts, especially during discussions on current trends in nutrition, fitness, and other topics relating to health and wellness. I am not perfect, I am not a doctor, I am not a photographer, I am most definitely NOT a writer, and I do not claim to know everything. But I promise that I will do my best to gather the most valuable information from the most reputable sources and share what I can to help you reach your nutrition-related goals.

Oh, and I have a MAJOR sweet tooth, so you might see a lot of recipes that include chocolate. Dark chocolate is a super food you know! 😉

Me at age 37, 55 pounds less my age 16 weight

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