I was born May 3, 1984. I was a chunky baby, as all babies are. However, unlike other babies, I never seemed to lose that “baby fat.” In fact I gained more and more weight.
Although a generally happy child, school was not fun. I was constantly called all the fat names in the book: fat-so, hippo, and so on. I became depressed and desperate to lose weight in order to look “normal.” I started my first diet in third grade.
My family was not much in help with this. The remarks of how I “wouldn’t be able to fit through the door” because I was so big and how I’d be as “big as a house” if I keep eating only made me eat more. Every time I would go for a snack, these comments were made. However, at meal time it became a different story. I was made to “finish my plate” and often pushed into a second helping. This was very confusing to the young me and again only made the situation worse.
By the time I was in fifth grade I was over 100 pounds! My parents were divorced at this point and kids only get meaner with age, so all of this kept adding up. By high school I had tried Weight Watchers, anorexia, bulimia, Slim Fast, plain old-fashioned pyramid style dieting, and more weight loss pills than I can recall. I also became very sexual active, longing for the feeling of being wanted because I was pretty.
When I was 17 I met a guy, older than me, who I thought would be “the one.” I got comfortable and gained more weight. We decided to have a baby and I panicked so much about gaining more weight that I didn’t really eat during most of my pregnancy which made me start to lose weight. By my last trimester my doctor told me that if I didn’t start to gain weight she would have to put me on bed rest. I didn’t like the sound of that and started to gorge myself with food. I quickly gained 20 pounds.
I had a healthy baby boy! But I felt bigger than ever. I felt uncomfortable wearing jeans and would only wear the biggest clothing ever so I felt more comfortable. (Little did I realize that only made me look even bigger!) Babies are expensive and we started eating a lot of convenience foods. More weight gain.
When my son was three, things between me and his father had gone sour and we split up. I became depressed and I ate. Then it was like an epiphany, I wasn’t happy and I was going to change myself for the better. And thus my journey started.
First I worked hard and got my financial life up to par. Then was my weight. I worked very closely with my Aunt Sue, who was working as a surgical nurse at the time and had also struggled to stay thin her whole life. She put me in touch with a gastric bypass surgeon she worked with. Although a long process, I went through with it and had the surgery along with having my gallbladder removed due to stones. The surgery was very comparable to giving birth, but if I had to choose which was more painful, hands down, it would be gastric bypass surgery.
I was miserable! Did I lose weight? Oh yeah, I did—it melted off like nothing. I was also not tolerating any food and I just threw up whatever (animal) proteins I tried to eat. Yeah, of course I lost weight.
I decided to try my own approach after dodging the doctor’s wishes of attaching a food bag to me. I was going to reduce my red meat consumption to one day a week, eat poultry one day, seafood one day, pork one day, and vegetarian one day. (The last days were reserved for leftovers). I wanted to see which days I felt better.
Well it was Christmas, and my sister bought me a cookbook (I love cooking/baking). She told me, “It’s all that healthy, organic crap you’re into.” Oh my little sister —such a sweetheart! She also told me it was the name of the cookbook that caught her attention, The Skinny Bitch Cookbook.
I was excited about my new cookbook and started to skim through it. But as I’m skimming through I start to notice something. Where’s the chicken? Where’s the fish and the pork? I went to the front to actually read the introduction and asked my sister if she knew she had bought me a vegan cookbook. She, of course, was oblivious to it. But it worked out since I wanted to cut down on my meat consumption anyways because I was starting to believe that it was making me sick.
The next day I started segregating my meats into certain days of the week. It didn’t take very long to figure out that my assumption was correct; I was not tolerating animal proteins at all. But not only was I able to hold down my food on the days I ate plant-based meals, I also had more energy and just felt better overall.
What a better time to make a New Year’s Resolution? So it became my 2011 New Year’s Resolution to eat a plant-based diet. This has been my one and only resolution actually kept past February! It was very easy to give up meat as my body just didn’t want it. When my family sat down for a steak dinner, I thought I’d be tempted to eat it, but I wasn’t. In fact, I was more like, “eww.”
Milk was already not a friend and hadn’t been for a while since I seemed to be lactose intolerant. Cheese, on the other hand, was hard! I craved cheese. A few times, I’ll admit, I gave in. However, I was persistent and determined to find an alternative cheese I would enjoy. Then I tried Dayia. It was delicious. I actually think it tastes better than cow cheese.
I hadn’t had much experience with a vegan lifestyle—in fact, I remember asking a girl what a vegan was when she told me she was one, and after she explained it to me I looked at her like she was crazy—so I started to research. I had all the questions that annoy most vegans. How will I get my protein? What do I eat? The more research I did the more questions I had.
I came across all sorts of articles and books and movies; I read The China Study and whatever I could get my hands on. I watched Earthlings and I was horrified. Why didn’t I know where my food came from before? Why didn’t I know what kind of illnesses develop from eating the American diet? Why didn’t I know there were alternative ways to cooking where I could still get all my essential nutrients and not have to take other risks or promote animal abuse in the process?
I was actually mad that I wasn’t educated about any of this before I took it upon myself to learn. I started telling everyone with ears about all I had learned. I also have my son well educated and on a plant-based diet as well. This has become my new passion in life. So much so, that after over 14 years of being in my current trade, I am going back to school to take a new career path in health and wellness. Where this step in this journey will take me…we’ll just have to see.