Hey everyone! Put your hands together for our newest contributor Jamie, author of the blog Steps in Stilettos. Her post is about her journey into veganism. Join Jamie on her blog, facebook page, and Twitter account. Welcome Jamie!
A little bit about how I discovered a plant-based lifestyle was when I first decided to become a vegetarian at the age of fifteen and I really started thinking about where my food came from and what I was eating. I was in high school taking biology class and our assignment was to disect different types of insects and animals. Looking at the insides of animals got me thinking about what exactly I was eating. The thought made me nauseaus and I came home to declare to my parents that I was going to become a vegetarian. Of course, they were shocked, as no one we knew ate this way. They had no idea what to feed me and I mostly ate cereal, as I also didn’t really know what to eat. I took a multivitamin every day because I was convinced by others that I couldn’t possible be getting adequate nutrition as a vegetarian. However, this transition for me personally, aside from being controversial, was relatively easy because I didn’t change the way I ate, I really just cut out all forms of meat and replaced them with cheese versions. I could still go to family and friends’ homes for dinner and was always able to eat some part of what was being served. At restaurants, I even still had some variety of choices. I remained vegetarian through college and began discovering the new tofu based meat substitutes that were more actively coming on the market. However, like many Americans, I still had no clue about nutrition and what vitamins and minerals my body needed to thrive. I was really just trying to eat as “normally” as possible while still holding onto my values.
It wasn’t until age 28 that I discovered and opened myself up to the vegan and plant-based worlds. I remember I was stuck in the airport at work and my boss actually recommended that I read “Skinny Bitch,” a new and controversial book that had just come out, since he knew I was vegetarian. Since I was already bored, I immediately went into the airport bookstore and bought the book. Do you ever believe that certain moments happen for a reason? As I get older, I believe in this more and more. I read almost half of the book before I arrived home that night, addicted to the pages and hungry for more information! What this book opened my eyes to was the fact that dairy cows are subjected to huge amounts of pain and suffering and that by consuming milk and dairy, I was still contributing to animal creutly. What’s more is that I learned that animals products were actually bad for us, a completely new idea to me, and that much more nutrition could be obtained from plant-based foods. This revelation sent me on my path to reading more books about plant-based nutrition from authors like Dr. Barnard, Christina Pirello, Dr. Esselstyn, T. Colin, Campbell, Alicia Silverstone, and more! I kept wanting to learn more and more because this paradigm shift in thinking was fascinating to me and so different from anything I was taught growing up. I even took classes through Cornell University in their Plant-Based Nutrition Program to earn a Certificate. The classes and lecturers in that program are amazing and were able to give me detailed answers to everything I ever wanted to know, such as links to animal protein and diseases like cancer, how different vitamins and nutrients act in our bodies and why plant-based eating is the healthiest diet. By surrounding myself with information and different support groups through the classes and online community, it gave me the confidence to stick with the diet and the information I needed to continue on my path of healthy living. I love life and I want to enjoy it as much as I am able. To me, that doesn’t necessarily mean trying to outlive everyone, it means living the days that I have with as much energy to do the things I want to do and to experience life without being sick, stuck on medicine, or in the hospital for treatments.
Becoming plant-based has changed my life for the better! As a child and young adult, I suffered from relatively severe allergies and asthma. I was in the hospital at least once a year for breathing treatments, had to carry an inhaler everywhere with me, and was dependent on taking allergy pills for most days of the year. Being sick as a young child made me believe that I would be dependant on medicine for the rest of my life. When I cut out meat products at the age of fifteen, I noticed an improvement in my asthma and allergies. I was able to play outside and run without having an asthma attack. I see the correlation now, but as a young adult, everyone just told me I was “growing out of my asthma” and that’s what I believed. However, as soon as I cut out dairy products, my allergies and asthma disappeared! I currently have no need for allergy pills and I don’t even own an inhaler! It is so freeing being able to even say that, as I never thought it would be a possibility for me. Asthma attacks and weazing are a distant memory of my past and something I don’t see myself having to deal with again. These days, I feel energetic, vibrant and healthy and can be as active as I want! It’s truly amazing! I have taken control of my health simply by the foods that I choose to put into my mouth everyday!