Growing up I ate the same processed foods daily: bagels, chicken nuggets, pizza, or pasta (but no veggies). I was what people called “skinny” as a kid and I played sports throughout school so I didn’t have to worry about my weight.
After college I began gaining some weight but pretended it wasn’t happening until I saw some pictures of me from a family vacation. I started having feeling of insecurity and stress and these thoughts affected my eating habits. I took advice from magazines, read loads of diet books and was on and off numerous fad diets for years. I ate fat free and sugar free foods while drinking diet soda. I became obsessed with counting calories that some days I only ate diet frozen microwave meals so I knew exactly how many calories I ingested. Food took over my life leaving me feeling depressed and having terrible digestive problems.
My Compassionate Change
I knew I needed to do something to relieve some of the issues I was having with food. I was anxious all the time about what to eat and very unhappy but I didn’t know where to start.
One day my sister showed me a video that portrayed the horrors of the meat industry. I was always an animal lover so this really hit me hard. Deep down I kind of always knew it was going against my nature to eat an animal but I put those feelings towards the back of my head for most of my life. After having actual knowledge of what happens to these animals, however, I could no longer feign ignorance. I looked across the room at my 3 little guinea pigs and I realized if my little piggies were such sentient beings, then chickens, cows, and pigs must live the same way.
From that day on I stopped eating meat. It wasn’t as hard for me as I thought because I knew I was doing the right thing for myself and the animals. In the back of my mind though, I knew my beloved cheese would be next because of all terrible stories I heard about the dairy and egg industry. After about a year I finally said goodbye to my cheese and became vegan because I could no longer live with the cognitive dissonance. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult at first but knowing I was doing the right thing for myself and the animals helped me through it and now live a vegan life with relatively little difficulty.
Although I was eating more kindly, that did not mean I was eating much healthier. I lost some weight without all that cheese but I knew I could do better on my path to health. I felt a bit lighter but I replaced most meat and dairy with vegan processed items that resembled those foods. These foods helped me tremendously transitioning to a plant based diet (and I still eat some of these foods because they are really tasty) but I was relying on them too much instead of focusing on an abundance of whole foods and vegetables.
A Healthier Way
Knowing that I still needed to address some of the dietary problems that were causing me digetive stress, I started reading different vegan books and blogs to get some ideas for healthier plant based meals. This opened my eyes to a new way of eating and cooking. By finally adding in veggies and unprocessed plant foods into my diet, I was getting some of the nutrients that I was missing for so many years.
Focusing on whole foods had me feeling like a new person. My digestion problems disappeared and it was not hard to keep a healthy weight. By sticking with a diet full of vegetables and real food most of the time, I could still have some treats without having to worry about my weight like I used to.
Once I was on my way to a healthier lifestyle, it became my passion and I wanted to help others that were struggling as well. I was inspired to learn as much as I could about wellness so I decided to enroll in the health coaching program at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
During my time studying to be a health coach, I learned how all parts of ourselves are intertwined and that if one part of life was out of whack, the body as a whole would not be happy. I now realize digestion affects many parts of our bodies. Eating a diet of mostly whole foods and not focusing on calories, I found foods that work for my unique body. I also realized I needed to have a much more positive attitude and let go of many of the things in my life that were causing me stress. I changed my whole way of thinking and learned techniques that have helped tremendously in dealing with my digestion issues, the anxiety I had about weight loss, and the stresses in other areas of my life.
My New Path
After finishing my certification and seeing how much better I feel and how much more energy I have from eating whole foods, I understood how much of an impact nutrition has on our health. I decided to take my education to the next level and have started a master’s program in Human Nutrition at Bridgeport University. I chose this university because they take a holistic view of health and focus on the underlying causes of disease. As a nutritionist, my focus will be on a client’s whole body wellness and I will approach nutrition from a whole foods perspective. I want to offer people an education to basic nutrition and not focus on all of the misinformation found in fad diets or other inaccuracies from the media.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to start in this new career. Through my wellness journey I have learned what it means for me to lead a healthy and happier life. I now listen to my body and give it what it actually thrives on instead of what diets or others told me to eat. I continue to take care of myself physically and emotionally by eating whole foods, emphasizing the positive, and realizing I am doing the best I can each day.