*Disclaimer* None of the following parts of my testimony should be taken as a substitution for medical advice.*
Hi friends, let’s chat! A new recipe will be up tomorrow, but for today, I wanted to share a special post with you.
I have actually been wanting to write this post for about a month but honestly, things got busy and the timing just never felt right. I’ve always believed in writing from the heart when it feels right in a way that will hopefully inspire others in some small way, or at least provide some thought-provoking points. I also believe everyone has positive and negative experiences so they can learn from them and possibly share them with others, even if that’s just through writing online about them as I do.
My motivation with all my content has always been to add value, insight, and honesty to every thing I produce–that’s at the heart of everything I aim to do. In essence, I want The Soulful Spoon to be meaningful and helpful to anyone who reads it, and I also want it to be positive and uplifting!
Even when it comes to my recipes, I always try to include nutrition information, create excitement around food, and hopefully, share new ways to make something or use new ingredients. Nothing I write is any longer “just about me,” but it’s also to help others that read this blog (YOU!) in hopes of inspiring people to embrace health and plant-based foods a little bit easier. And it’s about what I want my message to the world to convey around food, health, and wellness.
The Main Reason I Began a Plant-Based Vegan Diet Aside: Awareness and Understanding:
In my experience, the number one reason that individuals struggle to make any positive changes in their life is that they don’t have a “why” or enough of a “why” to make a true change. There’s no awareness or true understanding of health or what it means for them in the long run. Which is totally understandable. I felt this same way years ago before I adopted a healthy lifestyle over a decade ago.
I remember being 19 years old and thinking, “Why on earth would I give up my favorite foods (cookies, bread, donuts, fried chicken, traditional ice cream, etc.) just to eat healthy? What a waste of time and money!” Honestly, I didn’t have a clue. Until I HAD to make a change when my health pretty much plummeted to the ground right before my eyes.
Now I know because of firsthand experience that food is nourishment, not a diet where you eat whatever on the weekend and then eat “good” during the week. That cycle kept me in the dieting madness for years. It wasn’t until I realized that the food we eat also affects the way we think and feel every single day, and it also affects the environment, animals, and other human beings.
That awareness is what led me to go vegan and pursue plant-based nutrition. I believe that our choices matter and that animals matter. I believe if we could just open our hearts to that kind of understanding, that everything would be as plain as day and black as night. I have always felt very connected to animals and nature and have always believed that our choices matter on this earth. I believe we were put on this earth to care for animals, not treat them with cruelty–no matter if they’re a cow, pig, chicken, dog, or cat–they’re all the same and deserve the same love.
That understanding and awareness are what brought me here 5 years ago, and they’re what I know will keep me here as a vegan for the rest of my life despite the challenges I faced to get here. It’s a daily choice, yes, and it’s also one that I believe was made for me the first time I ever looked into an animal’s eyes and saw more than just an animal–I saw another living soul.
I also believe in cruelty-free living all the way around, so for me, I don’t believe it’s right to buy any animal-based clothing, shoes, jewelry, or buy home and beauty products that are made with animal products or tested on animals. Shopping for cruelty-free makeup and hair products are also important to me. I’m not preachy about my choices to others (or try very hard not to be), but I do believe in them and they’re extremely important to me on a personal level.
Living this way makes my heart feel good and that’s all thanks to this form of awareness and understanding of how my daily choices either do or don’t contribute to unnecessary cruelty. It’s a beautiful, freeing choice and one I never take for granted.
My journey here hasn’t been easy at all, though, which I share openly because I hope it inspires other people that anyone can do this if they have their heart in the right place.
I struggled with the transitioning period from vegetarian to vegan, not because of my ethics, but because I’ve dealt with several health issues I had to work through, mainly with digestion. Most people transition quite easily, but I’ve had digestive issues since I was a child and knew my story would be a bit different.
However, I have been vegetarian since I was 20 (12 years now), so I didn’t have it too hard. Giving up yogurt, the occasional piece of fish, and eggs (the only animal products I even ate as a vegetarian) weren’t that bad at all, especially when I knew how they were produced. But because I had digestive issues with several forms of vegan proteins, I had to take some time to help my body adjust.
Still, I have always known I was meant to be vegan since the first documentary I ever saw about animal cruelty and the truth about how animals are produced. I made a vow in 2012 to do whatever I had to do in order to get my body to a healthier, happier place–no longer how long it took–because I knew in my heart it was right for me.
So the 5 years, I’ve been dedicated to a vegan lifestyle for the long run because I know it’s not just right for me ethically, but also an excellent choice for health as well. And I’m happy to say that the last 3 years, I’ve been successfully eating a plant-based vegan diet and have finally gotten to a point where my body is thriving, despite a few hiccups along the way. Which brings me to today’s post!
Have I done it perfectly?
No. Not at all. And not for a second will I ever say I have.
But I have consistently pursued this lifestyle for many reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight which I want to discuss because I know many people think that eating a vegan plant-based diet is “just another ways of dieting,” but it’s totally not. In fact, pursuing this lifestyle has helped me greatly with past body and self-image issues (which I’ll discuss below).
A plant-based diet made me more aware as a person, more compassionate, and it made me more intuitive with my body. And something about not sharing that if it may help others simply doesn’t sit well with me, so here we are.
What a Plant-Based Diet is Not (for Me): A Diet of Deprivation
I know many people believe it is, but a plant-based diet (and veganism) is definitely not a diet or course of deprivation. I understand some people may think it is at first (no meat pizza or dairy ice cream?!), but it’s truly not when you understand the benefits of living this way and all the wonderful foods you eat on a plant-based diet.
In fact, I just got four emails this week about people sharing with me that they switched to a plant-based diet (two of them adults in their 40’s and 50’s and another two in their 20’s) and they can’t believe how much better they feel–and how much they love the food! And I definitely agree.
While ethics were the initial reason I adopted a vegan, plant-based lifestyle, ethics aren’t the only thing that’s kept me here. I truly do love eating this way and don’t ever miss foods I used to eat because of how I feel now and how delicious the food really is.
But aside from loving the food, there are five other main reasons I choose this lifestyle, which I hope will be helpful and insightful to all of you, or maybe even clarify some questions you might have about me and this blog and why I choose to create recipes the way I do. I’ve also included some links to my favorite resources at the bottom of the post that I hope will also serve useful, informational, and inspirational purposes too. 🙂
5 Reasons Why I Eat a Plant-Based Diet That Have Nothing to Do with Dieting
1. It Has Completely Changed the Way I Approach Health in General
Like many women, I have a history with disordered eating that I suffered from most of my teens and early 20’s. My views on health were completely skewed until I found this lifestyle, along with my relationship with myself. My dad also died very suddenly when I was 26 years old which left me in a state of depression I’ve never experienced before for a solid two years. That changed me forever and left me numb for a long time, but it also made me stronger, more compassionate, and more in tune with myself due to the healing required from that.
So in 2013, I turned a corner with myself. This was the same time I really started to pursue veganism, and not just veganism, but plant-based living as a way to heal my body and mind like never before. The entire idea of it seemed so freeing and fit so much with what I believed about compassion and health.
Instead of thinking about what I wasn’t eating, I began thinking about all the foods I could eat. Plant-based made sense to me ethically, holistically, nutritionally-speaking, and honestly, it has helped me more than anything else surrounding my attempts at recovering from disordered thoughts around food.
Since 2013, I’ve felt completely different about food and my health than I ever have in my life. I still have personal struggles like anyone else, and I’m far from perfect and know that. However, I’ve come a long way in my health journey and the journey with myself when it comes to health and healing.
I’ve not only been open to trying all the foods in the plant-based kingdom, but I’ve also been open to embracing more ideas around food, something that it’s very difficult–if not impossible– to do when you’re struggling with disordered eating.
In essence, eating plant-based has healed me in so many ways. It’s opened my heart and mind up to a NEW way to approach health, and I no longer think feel imprisoned by “perfect” eating anymore (which doesn’t exist). I started learning to eat different plant-based foods depending on what foods feel good in my body, not what I “should” be eating according to popular dieting trends.
With a lot of prayer and help from God, I truly began to believe that I could heal my long-term health issues and relationship with food through a plant-based diet. And I have begun to do just that.
I don’t count calories, don’t own a scale, and I’m constantly open to embracing new foods, meal ideas, and more. I can’t say that would have ever happened to me before I found a plant-based lifestyle. One, because it made me consider that food is MUCH more than a way to eat; it can change your life and it can change the world.
Having compassion for others who produce my food, the environment, and most importantly, animals, has completed altered the way I shop for food, beauty products, and it’s changed how I plan my meals. I not only eat more simply now, but also more frugally, with more awareness, and more in tune with my environment by eating seasonally and locally whenever I can. Other ways include buying fair-trade certified as much as possible, purchasing organic foods as much as possible, and exclusively buying cruelty-free beauty products.
Am I perfect? No, and no one is. But my mindset has shifted in a compassionate way and I have a state of awareness now I am truly grateful for.
The point is, I WANT to eat plants because they not only feel good in my body, but they keep me mentally “clear” and have opened me up to a new way of living–not because I’m on a “diet” that I see as limiting or restricting.
My body and mind even feel lighter because I feel more open to change and awareness.
My heart (emotions) and my body ( joints) always felt heavy when I ate animal-based foods, even if they were “healthy” by the world’s standards. I found the more I opened myself up to compassionate living, plant-based eating became this massive gateway of opportunities that eliminated all the need for dieting dogma that told me what I should be eating or what I thought I should be eating. This one change alone has been huge for me, even as someone who has eaten healthy as long as I have.
2. It’s Allowed me to Break Through Plateaus in Chronic Health Issues
If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you probably already know I’ve had multiple health issues since I was a child. In my teens and twenties, these issues were mostly candida overgrowth/recovery from candida, autoimmune issues, adrenal fatigue, horrible gut issues, histamine intolerance, and chronic anxiety. All these are manifestations of an unhealthy gut. I had colic as a baby which is a sign the baby is born with a disrupted microbiome, and unfortunately, my childhood and teenage lifestyle full of sugar, animal products, and refined and processed foods only fed the problem further. Repairing that takes a looonnnng time, which I’ve learned the hard way, but I can promise, it’s definitely possible which I now know.
I felt like I had tried everything under the sun for all of these issues, and can I be honest? NOTHING worked like a simple, plant-based lifestyle did. NOTHING.
My body had dealt with so much from a lifetime of extreme choices and years of eating animal products and processed foods that it took some time for my body to detox from all of that. Although I bounced back between vegetarian eating and a vegan diet for years before transitioning into a plant-based lifestyle, I can honestly say that eliminating all animal products and overly processed ingredients were two of the biggest things that made the biggest difference in my health issues and my gut health.
For instance, I can now digest fruit and grains absolutely perfectly, something I used to not be able to do because of my imbalanced gut bacteria. I don’t even have to eat gluten-free anymore (Yay for whole grain barley, rye, and Kamut--my 3 fave gluten-filled foods!). I don’t eat refined sources of gluten like white bread or cookies, obviously, (nor do I recommend them), but real, whole grains like oats, barley, rye, and Kamut wheat are something I’m now able to enjoy, and I just love that!
This alone was something I could have NEVER done just three years ago. I listened to all the hype around gluten online and what I read in reports and ignored the research behind these amazingly healthy foods, but worse, I ignored my body. I tried gluten-free, fruit-free, low-carb, and everything else that’s supposed to be “right” for candida. Nothing worked. Gut issues? Nope, didn’t help that either.
For me, I found that my body just really needed simple, whole plant foods. Yes, it’s true I do still have certain food sensitivities (which I won’t go into great detail about in this post), but I’ve been able to eat so many foods that I used to avoid and that alone means a great deal to me.
This is one reason my recipes are all pretty simple (for the most part) and have changed over the years. My body simply seems to respond really well to real, whole plant-based foods that are balanced and nutritionally sound. So, bring on the fruit and whole grains!
I should also mention that once I eliminated the oil from my diet, (thanks to research from Dr. McDougall about gut health), I really noticed that my digestive issues improved even further beyond eliminating animal products. My skin also looked significantly better once I eliminated oil from my diet.
Finally, I have noticed that I feel more peaceful, calmer, and more balanced since I have adopted a plant-based diet (which is even supported by science!). Not so snippy, not so upset at the small things, just a little happier each day, not so anxious. I’ve struggled with anxiety and fear pretty much my entire life, so this alone has been a huge blessing, even if it hasn’t completely cured everything.
Do I still struggle with occasional issues and personal problems like anyone else? Of course, I’m human! But I can truly say I feel so much differently now eating a plant-based diet because I’ve been able to finally break through many of the lingering health issues that I wasn’t sure would ever go away. It’s almost mind-boggling when I sit back and think about it.
3. It Aligns With My Intuition and Allows Me to Listen to My Gut
Going back to intuitive eating, it’s always made sense to me to eat plant-based… always. The foods and the reasons behind the lifestyle (research/science, animals and the environment, and all the beautiful colors of the food and the life they contain) have always felt incredibly natural to me (hence the name I developed for the blog years ago, The Soulful Spoon).
Pursuing a plant-based diet has also, most importantly, allowed me to live in a way that aligns with my values to not eat animals, which has never ever felt right to me from the get-go. And that has had a profound impact on me mentally and physically.
Listening to our guts is actually very important to our mental health. When we don’t listen to our gut instinct, we get out of balance quickly and lose touch with our true selves. So after I opened myself up to the awareness of the “why” behind this lifestyle, my gut instinct had already made the choice for me; I just chose to listen.
Being vegan and eating a plant-based diet does not make me better than anyone, though, and I want to make it clear that I do not believe it does, nor do I believe it is my religion to live this way.
However, the way I approach food and health do define how I’m able to live according to my values, and I will never be ashamed of that.
4. It Helped Me Stop Believing in Dieting Dogma
Like most women (and even many men), I spent way too many years listening to dieting dogma, mainly because it’s everywhere.
“That’s too many carbs” or “I can’t eat that much food” or “I should eat more protein” or any other dieting dogma has now gone out the window for me. I LOVE THAT! If you’ve ever struggled with this dogma, you know how imprisoning it is. It’s maddening to see food as rules and nothing else, but it’s also hard to ignore when society is against us.
Focusing on living a plant-based, compassionate lifestyle has completely changed for me, and I now eat based on ethics, how I know foods will make me feel, how they’re produced, and not for how many carbs or servings they come in.
A great example of this point is fruit. Just four years ago, I would have never eaten as much fruit as I do now. And guess what? All those fears about fruit being too much sugar were so invalid. My blood sugar levels and insulin levels have dramatically improved since I started eating a plant-based diet (which is not surprising, considering its researched benefits on treating type 2 diabetes and other insulin-related issues). I feel so much better and more satisfied now eating whole plant foods than I ever did eating high-protein animal-based foods. SO much better.
Yes, we need veggies and greens, (and plant protein too!), but we also need denser sources of whole food sources of carbohydrates and natural sugars from fruit, too.
The body requires natural fiber and sugars found in whole plant foods, and it’s no mistake that our bodies are designed to run off glucose, not carb-free meat, eggs, or fish with a small side of veggies like we’re so often taught and misled to believe. Once I wrapped my brain around this, it all made so much sense to me. Finally, all that dieting dogma I had been imprisoned to for years went out the window.
A plant-based diet also helped me realize that fruit feels far better in my body than refined sugar, healthy whole fats like almonds and hemp seeds feel far better in my body than processed fats like oils do, and that fresh, whole grains like oats and barley feel far better in my body than refined wheat flour does because of the way it’s been processed.
See, a great deal of how we feel physically when we eat certain foods is because of the way they are processed, not just because of how many calories, carbs, or fat they contain. Our bodies prefer whole, natural forms of food because they are the easiest for them to process and break down to turn into nutrients. Plant-based living has allowed me to experience that first hand more than anything else and I’m so grateful for that.
5. It’s Based on Science, Not Hype
Despite my deeply rooted ethical beliefs around not eating animals and eating in alignment with my values and intuition, the science doesn’t lie. Eating more plant-based foods has so many researched benefits that it’s the only way proven to show to prevent and reverse heart disease.
Plant-based diets are also the only ones proven to reverse and prevent other major types of disease. Why? Because they’re based on whole, plant foods from the earth. Something about that is so beautiful to me and honestly, so freeing. It takes the guess work out of shopping, preparing food, and even creating recipes.
Speaking of disease, I lost two grandfathers to death in the very same week last year because they both died from heart disease due to complications with diabetes. One of them had severe heart issues from diabetes since I was a child, and he was advised to change his diet over and over again but never did. He died an early death, way too soon, which I truly believe didn’t have to happen so soon if he had led a healthier lifestyle. Cases like his happen all the time, and they don’t have to happen as much because heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes are three of the easiest types of disease to treat with a whole foods plant-based diet.
No, a plant-based diet will not keep you from death; nothing will. But a plant-based diet has been proven to be a massively influential part of living a healthier life free of most complications that require doctors, medications, and constant medical visits.
For more information on this point, I recommend taking a look at NutritionFacts.org, Doctors McDougall’s website, and PCRM.org which are three of my favorite resources for unbiased health research, mainly because they are written by honest, excellent doctors in the plant-based space, and because they publish studies and promote information that is never paid by certain industries (unlike studies you often see on television or the evening news are).
Those are also three of the number one resources that have made the biggest difference for me personally and have allowed me to look at the science and the facts around plant-based nutrition, not listen to the hype around trendy diets.
In short, a plant-based diet is about so much more to me than a way to eat, and it’s definitely not a diet. Although many people can and do lose weight on this lifestyle, that is not the reason I choose it or why I promote it. I truly do believe it can change people’s lives in ways they’d never expect; I know it sure has for me.
And if I do nothing else through this blog at the very least, I want to inspire people to eat more plants—whatever that means to you/them—not to pass judgment in any way.
Last, but not least, I’m working on several special projects for The Soulful Spoon (that are for all of you!) and that I hope to share *very* soon (which also involves more recipes!). I also have several new types of post coming up this summer, so stay tuned for those as well.
Until then, you can check out my Resources page where I share my favorite websites, documentaries and videos, reputable nutrition resources, the top books that I recommend, and more. None of the resources on that page are sponsored by anyone; they’re truly my favorite resources and ones I trust enough to share here. I set up that page solely for all of you to provide other insight besides what I create here.
Thanks for reading my story, and if you have thoughts or questions, feel free to leave them down below!