My Vegan Story


First things first, if you aren’t sure you are ready to give up meat, eggs and dairy, watching a few more documentaries will probably help.  I find that once people truly know the source of animal products, and how they’re handled, it’s not difficult to give those things up.  Even if you don’t give a damn about animal cruelty or global warning, the health implications of consuming animal products are a good motivator.  But the gross factor is there too.  Meat, eggs and dairy are produced on such a large scale today in the US and Europe, that sanitation can’t be maintained and bacteria, antibiotics, hormones and blood products, etc. abound. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1817683/)

I’m a true believer that every person should TRULY UNDERSTAND where their food comes from, how it’s handled and processed and the true effects of how CAFO and other large scale meat/egg/dairy producing organizations handle their business from start to finish.  

I was vegetarian for years and was firmly convinced I would have weak bones without dairy (https://nutritionfacts.org/2017/01/31/why-is-milk-consumption-associated-with-more-bone-fractures/) and wouldn’t get enough protein or iron without eggs.  (http://www.vegetarian-nation.com/resources/common-questions/vegetarian-vegan-sources-protein-calcium-iron/)  Wow, was I fooled!

I often would go back to eating meat (mostly chicken and fish as I’ve never cared much for beef and pork) because of some ailment that someone would claim was lingering because I wasn’t eating meat.

Then there were those years I power-ate grassfed meat and dairy and fat and forced myself to forgo most carbs (including all fruits and most veggies) in order to be “keto” (20 grams of carbs or less per day) to try and reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes, which came on after my fourth pregnancy and years of PCOS and insulin resistance.

Did keto reverse my health problems?  No.  I actually saw them worsen.  I was on blood pressure medication for 10 years and needed higher doses on keto.  I lost and gained the same weight over and over.  I felt terrible.  Even when blood tests showed I was in ketosis, I wasn’t seeing the benefits so many touted.  I craved fruits and veggies and experienced blood sugar swings all the time.  I saw my A1C rise to 12.5 over a 5 year period.  I was on insulin for a short time and gained another 40# that took 6 months to lose.  I developed thyroid nodules and often issues with my thyroid function.  I was still on oral diabetes meds (metformin, which I don’t tolerate well, and glimepiride) with that A1C of 12.5.

I saw my doctor in August of 2017 right around my 44th birthday and agreed to two new diabetes meds – Tanzeum and Jardiance (the lower of two suggested doses).  Tanzeum comes with a high risk of thryoid cancer and really isn’t supposed to be taken by people with thyroid nodules (me) or a family history of thyroid cancer (my paternal half sister and paternal uncle).  That drug seemed to help the most out of the two, but I developed worrisome site reactions after my 3rd and 4th weekly injections.  I figured the universe was trying to tell me, that wasn’t the drug for me.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but decided I should probably go on a higher dose of Jardiance, which I was tolerating well.

I was up late one night, unable to sleep due to Tanzeum-induced severe reflux, and stumbled across What the Health on Netflix.  I had been avoiding watching it, or Cowspiracy, and all the other more-recent documentaries because I knew if I watched them, I’d feel compelled to become vegan.  And I didn’t really want to not be “allowed” to eat a “normal” diet.  Not that keto is normal, but it’s more accepted than vegan lately!  And I was tired of eating a special diet…keto, paleo, primal, gluten-free…I’d been on one of them for the better part of the past six years!  And I’ll be honest…I loved cheese with a passion and enjoyed a big greasy burger or filet mignon occasionally.  And crab legs.  Yum.  But, I digress…something compelled me to watch.

I thought I was aware of what goes in on CAFOs (I was a PETA member for years in my teens/20’s and I’ve since joined again) but I still believed that free-range, organic eggs and dairy, and organic grass-fed or free-range meats, were handled differently.  I also was told all my life (I’m of Jewish descent) that kosher meats are raised and slaughtered humanely, and that no “gross” parts went into them.  I wondered why my Hebrew National hot dogs had as much gistle and bone in them as other brands, but you know…they were kosher, so it was ok?  Certainly my people wouldn’t be inhumane to animals (WRONG!).

It was not difficult to go to bed Keto (though choking down very little meat at this point) one night and get out of bed Vegan the next morning.  I felt a little silly telling my husband that I was giving up meat, eggs and dairy and that I wanted the family to follow my new eating habits, because I can barely stay on top of groceries and cooking for one style of eating…and I knew I couldn’t handle doing both.  I also was so sick of handling meat (and usually not eating what I made because I was so disgusted) and I was just done.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  It’d been in me since I was a small child and I was tired of supressing it out of fear.

I understand that switching or transitioning might be more difficult for someone who didn’t start with an aversion to most animal products.  It was not hard for my younger kids, who both had always felt eggs are gross.  They were fine switching from scrambled eggs to a good tofu scramble.  Giving up eggs in baked goods and cookies was harder.  Giving up meat was a no-brainer for my youngest son, who had proclaimed himself veggie for years, but he missed dairy milk and cheese.  My carnivorous daughter was reticent to give up meat and dairy, but I asked her for two weeks to see if it helped her Crohn’s break-through symptoms that she usually had regularly and she agreed.  She used to take Immodium 2-3 times weekly to manage it.  It’s been 8 weeks and she hasn’t had even one bout of diarrhea or constipation, which were usually daily battles for her ~ and she has taken zero Immodium!  After a couple weeks of no tummy pain, less bloating and some weightloss (both kids were moderatly overweight despite eating a predominently “healthy” diet) she was sold on the idea.

My supportive husband said he’d gladly eat what I serve at home, but that he wasn’t ready to commit to remaining vegan while not at home.  I said I’m 100% fine with that…it makes me feel good that the majority of our food dollars no longer support animal agriculture.  He also often WILL choose plant-based options while dining out, particulrly if we are together.  A bonus is that he’s loved basically everything I’ve cooked, and he’s noticed that even with some of the plant-based milk and cheese being priced, we’re spending a LOT less on groceries and have almost eliminated dining out for convenience or lack of planning (it’s easier to eat at home unless it’s a planned occasion).  He also has lost 13 pounds and a total of 9 inches without limiting what he eats.  He’s pretty pleased.  He’s also noticed improvements in inflammation and mental acuity.

I myself have IBS and would deal with attacks 3-4 times a week or more…often related to something I ate or some stressful experience (hey, I’m easily stressed!).  I have only had three attacks in 8 weeks.  I have lost over 20 pounds and finally broke a plateau I hadn’t been able to surpass in over 18 years!  I’ve gone down 2-3 sizes and can now buy clothes  in the misses department and am not stuck in the plus size department!  I still have 25-35 pounds to lose but I feel confident I can do it!  I feel better, my psoriatic arthritis flares less and my blood sugar is steadily improving.  It’s not overnight, but I think healing insulin resistance takes time and I’m ready to give it a year or two.

I also had to stop taking my blood pressure med…even at the lowest possible dose, my blood pressure was dropping too low upon standing up from lying down or squatting (which I do a lot of in the garden or while cleaning…the squatting).  My resting heartrate has dropped from around 115 to 80-90.  Still faster than a lot of people, but slower for me!

I hate the idea of pushy, judgemental vegans…but I feel so called to share my story.  So here I am…I’m 44 and lighter and feeling better than I have in years, just over 8 weeks into a completely vegan lifesyle.

 

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