I am definitely a healthier person. I’ve never felt more energized, happier or confident in my entire life. Pursuing this life change has helped me grow into a person I admire. Two years ago now I was diagnosed with gallstones after suffering from the pain for nearly 6 years (since I was in high school). I knew the pain was a direct result of what I ate but never pursued it because I thought it was normal and most of the people around me felt the pain, lack of energy, and unhappiness that I was describing. After the diagnosis I slowly eliminated fatty foods, processed foods and then meat in that order and over about 6 months. As I made small changes I felt my body getting stronger. I began exercising (something I never did before) and being a generally active person. Then I took the Northern Vegans’ Becoming Vegan class (that NV founding member Natasha Lantz taught) on a whim with a friend who was much more interested than me. I had once made fun of her for being vegetarian and described her choices of spaghetti squash, grain salads and tea as “weird”. She took me to the Co-op once and I had never been more uncomfortable. But still I attended the class in January of 2012 with her. Afterwards I watched Forks Over Knives and within a week I had made the full change. My roommate and best friend stopped talking to me. She thought I was the weird one now. My mom screamed at me and told me I was ruining my body, but I stuck with it.
Now a year later anyone who had a problem with my switch to a vegan diet has come to terms with it and while my mom and grandma still take every chance they have to tell me I’m unhealthy, they respect my choice. My boyfriend who I began dating just days before attending your workshop has been the biggest source of support. While he is still an “omnivore” he gladly eats the three vegan meals (plus a green smoothie) I make daily, using the times we eat out to order chicken or seafood.. Our switch to a plant-based, organic diet has led to a 50 pound weight loss for me and a 75 pound weight loss for him on top of the many other benefits including being happier, having more energy, confidence, focus, etc. Cooking is now my favorite thing to do and we often spend the weekend preparing meals and making special treats like avocado pudding pie, oatmeal banana cookies, etc. I’ve also given up caffeine in the last month which has improved my mental health tremendously.
I would say that the biggest problem I’ve faced with my switch is social gatherings, specifically potlucks, holidays and eating out. I usually choose to make a few dishes for events such as these just so that I know I have enough for a meal for myself and everyone usually loves my dishes but going out to eat can be a problem when it’s not just me and my boyfriend (the restaurants in the area that offer good vegan fare a few of my family members will, unfortunately, refuse to go to).
For Thanksgiving I decided to host the dinner at my small apartment that doesn’t even have a dining room table just so no one had to worry about what I was going to eat and as a way to get my family to embrace a plant-based diet if only for one meal. Everyone said they enjoyed it.
A few weeks later I had not been feeling so great. I feared it may be the flu or gallstones again. I went to the doctors and they assured me it was not my gallstone and most likely a bug I had been fighting off. When the doctor asked me why I never had my gallbladder removed my mom said, “Well, tell him what you did Jess. Tell him how you’ve ‘cured’ your gallstones.” I told him about my switch to a plant-based diet, ready to hear about how stupid I was. Instead he said, “That’s excellent, Jessica. I’m so proud of you. More people need to take their health seriously the way you are.” My mom’s jaw fell open and she said, “You mean to tell me she’s healthy?” The doctor said, “Your daughter is the healthiest person I’ve ever seen.” And just last week the doctor’s wife told my mom she should “do what your daughter did” in order to help her with the health issues she is facing. My mom puts her foot down, refusing to give up her soda because water is boring, her beef in almost every meal because she doesn’t know what else to make, and processed junk foods because they’re cheaper. It’s extremely hard for me to watch the people I love make the choices they make regarding the food they put in their bodies but I’m more proud of myself for breaking that cycle.