To many of Dreena’s regular readers, this will probably be a familiar story. It seems the movement towards healthy, plant based eating is gathering momentum and I am so happy to be part of it. I hope you enjoy this simple tale of our transformation.
I grew up in Australia. Each and every dinner, meat (mostly beef) was the focus on the plate - with a side of iceberg lettuce, a few carrot sticks, or potatoes to complete our “balanced” meal. I never questioned this, or thought there was any other option. Like most, I grew up believing if it wasn’t meat it wasn’t dinner.
When I left home for university at eighteen I had no idea how to cook or how to feed myself. My roommate and I lived on instant coffee and fast food. It was cheap, filling and easy. I felt sluggish, foggy, sick (a lot of colds every year), and suffered from chronic headaches and even bouts of insomnia.
After graduation, I went to Japan to teach English. While there I met my future husband. He was vegetarian. I also met another American couple who were vegan. After many discussions, I decided to take a huge first step by giving up meat - something I never thought about doing before. However, since my husband also had no idea about how to cook, we lived happily on vegetarian Japanese junk food and the frozen “western” meals that made there way over there. I still suffered from feeling tired, sluggish, got sick and had headaches often.
After our year and half in Japan we decided to to move back to America and get married. Since I was unable to work for a while due to visa constraints, with little money I spent many hours a the library. I checked out a few vegetarian cook books and began experimenting with cooking. Many of the meals I made were still dairy and egg laden, but we were eating significantly more and new vegetables than either of us had ever eaten in our lives.
The more I read, the more those conversations with our vegan friends came back and the more I started to see the connections between animals, health, and the food we eat. I started talking about this with my husband and he was open to trying some vegan dishes. More cookbooks checked out from the library, and my first vegan cookbook purchase, Vive le Vegan!, and we were on our way.
Fast forward 7 years.
We now cook almost every meal and snack at home from fresh, whole, real food ingredients. We enjoy a HUGE range of foods and actually look forward to each and every one of our meals. I “discovered” so many delicious new foods that I might never have otherwise tried had I remained a meat eater. Now, some of these are my favorite foods, including kale, puffed amaranth, hemp seeds, tempeh, blueberries, legumes and green tea... and I've gained a new appreciation for the simple beauty of a green salad, tomatoes, stone fruits, cabbage, brown rice, water and all things lemony.
Those feelings of sluggishness, fogginess, insomnia are all gone. My husband and I both sleep so well and have so much energy for our day. I am approaching five years of being cold/flu free, which is all the encouragement and proof I need that this lifestyle change has been the best thing we ever did. More importantly, we recently celebrated our ultimate good fortune when I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I had an easy pregnancy and remained in great health through out. The delivery was smooth and our son was very alert and strong when he was born. At almost seven months old he is a very healthy twenty two pounds and has begun to enjoy solids. His first homemade foods: kale, sweet potato, broccoli and butternut squash, and he eats them with enthusiasm and joy.
Through the years, different jobs, more schooling, parties, shared dinners, lunches and snacks with friends, I have received many compliments about my food (not mention many curious tasters)! People ask, “where do you get that?” only to seem shocked that in fact I made it at home. People ask how I have had the time to make such elaborate meals, between working, and going to night school and at one point, being pregnant. My answer is always the same...
I consider time spent in the kitchen a great trade for time I don’t have to spend feeling sick, popping pills to control headaches, muscle pain and fatigue, waiting at a doctors office or crying because I’m so tired but I can’t sleep at night. I believe the small amount if time I spend each day in the kitchen gives me more free time and energy to enjoy taking hikes with my family, rolling around on the floor with my son, or just relaxing outside in the sunshine.
It makes me feel so happy and peaceful to think that we are giving out son the best possible chance at great health. I also hope to share with him our deep love for nature, compassion and respect for animals and humans who share this earth with us. Even after all these years I am happy to find our food choices not only offer him great health but also mirror these ideals.
I encourage anyone who is considering a switch to a whole foods, plant based style of eating. No matter how difficult, impossible or miserable I thought it might be, nothing can compare to the health and happiness we all enjoy to this day.
Thank you Emma for contributing your story. I know it will benefit others reading, and that is most valuable for anyone needing support on their own journey of eating vegan. My appreciation for your time to write this piece
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