My Journey to Becoming Healthier

2 Feb

Over the past year or so, I’ve slowly been phasing out meat and any sort of packaged foods. Although many people probably haven’t noticed, I often get the question of “why?” or a quizzical look from a family member when I turn down eating a hot dog, which was a favorite treat of mine as a kid. Alas, I feel the need to explain why I’ve moved in this direction…

First and foremost, I’m hypoglyemic. I didn’t find out that I was until I was 16, and was told to just keep snacks on me. Well, ok! So I kept miniature sized candy bars, cereal, granola bars, crackers, chips – whatever I could get my hands on with me at all times and ate when I’d feel like I was going to start getting shakey. As you can imagine, this had a substantial impact on my weight and did nothing for my hypoglycemia other than make the next blood sugar drop come even faster than the last one, which only led me to eat more (a vicious cycle, let me tell you). Finally, in the summer of 2008 I had had enough. I couldn’t take planning my day around food, and I knew eating like this wasn’t healthy so I put my foot down. I started reading up on managing it through diet, and began cutting back on sugar and all refined carbohydrates (crackers, white bread, white rice, etc.) and started incorporating more fruits, veggies and meat into my diet. Now, this wasn’t as easy or quick as it may seem – it was a gradual progression over a couple of months. But, I felt the effects almost immediately – I could go longer than 2 hours without feeling shakey! And, what was this? Is this stomach growling thing, but without the feeling of passing out, hunger?! I was beyond thrilled that I had finally found a way of eating that worked for me and my body.

While I still have to avoid foods with a lot of sugar or refined carbohydrates (although I find I no longer crave it, and I actually feel sick when I do eat it), over the past year or so I started thinking about just how much meat I had been eating. Not due to any PETA activism or other holier than thou moral issues, but as a result of various pathophysiology and nutrition courses I had been taking. Breakfast frequently had turkey bacon or sausage links, pepperoni or cheese for snacks, chicken or tuna for lunch, and chicken, beef or pork for dinner. That’s a lot of meat for one day! Added up over time, I knew that it couldn’t be good for my body so I started trying to find alternative protein sources to eat so that I wasn’t eating it at every meal. One of my friends introduced me to the vegan blog Oh She Glows for recipe ideas, and I immediately fell in love with the variety I found in her recipes. Her blog also led me to other healthy living blogs Edible Perspective and Never Home Maker that also had fabulous vegan and vegetarian recipes! Gradually, when faced with eating a dish with meat in it I actually found myself not wanting it. Why? It could be because I got used to not eating it, or that I found the alternatives being offered much more preferable but to be honest, I have no idea! I began realizing that looking back at my childhood, I have never had a particularly strong taste for meat; I guess I just kind of ate it because that’s what I was raised with and avoided the parts that grossed me out. Now, however, my diet has never been so diverse and so delicious I don’t think I could ever go back to meat taking center stage! Eating meals that aren’t centered around meat forces you to think outside of the box and explore new foods that not only are delicious, but that are incredibly healthy for you. I never thought that I would eat kale, but now I spritz it with olive oil, some salt and pepper and throw it in the oven to make kale chips 🙂

Cutting out premade and packaged foods has just kind of come along with eating more of a vegetarian diet but also with knowing what is actually in the product. If an ingredient is on the package that you wouldn’t add if you made it homemade, chances are it shouldn’t be in there or in your body (Trust me, having been present for multiple autopsies the effects of a poor diet on your organs are not pretty by any scope of the imagination. Gross, but true.) I also can’t eat a lot of sugar or refined carbohydrates like I said before, so that cuts out about 95% of all premade and packaged foods. That’s ok though – I think my homemade crackers taste much better anyway!

Now that I eat a pretty clean, plant based diet I have noticed even more changes in my body other than a more stable blood sugar. First, I have way more energy than I ever did before and my hypoglycemia is even less of an issue now. Second, my grocery bills are actually lower than they were before and my skin has cleared up significantly – these are all things I can definitely live with! Does this mean that I will never again eat meat or anything that comes out of a box? No. If I feel like eating meat I will, if I feel like eating a few Cheez-Its (my family knows my childhood addiction to them) I will – it just means that I’ve chosen to make those types of foods a very insignificant part of my lifestyle 🙂

Disclaimer: As always, consult a physician or other health care professional before embarking on any sort of diet or physical activity change.

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