Aug 24, 2010

my life in food.

good morning friends!

for those of you who started back at school yesterday, how was it?!? i start thursday, and am nervous as junk... it's been a while since i was in school!


just wanted to give you guys a little transparency on my journey through food. i had been toying with the idea of posting on why i went animal-free for a few weeks now, but didn't. honestly, i was afraid to.

diet is so personal, especially when ethics are involved. i didn't, and still don't, want anyone to feel like i am judging them for whatever they eat, be it french fries, cake, lettuce, meat, or green smoothies. i don't see you as a better or worse human being because of what you eat.

i feel accountable for how my actions effect others and responsible for my own health, so i took my lifestyle in my own hands. this was my choice, and doesn't mean i know everything or think i am the ultimate authority. my only goal is to help someone else through my story... just so we're clear, ok?

this is an email i wrote to the beautiful ashley of nourishing the soul in response to learning patience through my food journey. enjoy!

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hey beautiful - thanks for your comment! so glad you decided to stop by :)
about going vegan - it's really been an interesting evolution for me. i grew up a normal american teenager - chips, hot dogs, mac n cheese, etc. it wasn't until i watched my mom battle with breast cancer that i started to realize my lifestyle DOES effect me!

since then, i haven't really stopped researching health, nutrition, and wellness. i am completely convinced of the ties between what we consume and our health. health is more than food, but food is a HUGE factor, for sure. i started to struggle with what i now know is fibromyalgia since late 2006, and during that struggle for answers, i started to realize my food not only effects my health for the long term, but how i live/feel day to day.

i've since realized that i could ease many of my fibro symptoms by changing my diet - praise god! at the same time, i began to uncover many things about the animal-product industry i wasn't thrilled about, to say the least. i spent a lot of time (about 2 years) researching the industry because i knew if i changed something so dramatic, it would need to be for a DARN good reason. i'm an all or nothing sorta chick, i guess. i went vegetarian in march of '10.

after going vegetarian, i slipped into the habit of getting most of my calories from cheese and greek yogurt... not a terrible habit unless you LIVE on them as i did at almost every meal. i realized i was getting more animal products eating vegetarian than i was as an omnivore! and i don't know about you, but i don't dig hormones and antibiotics in my chow. i also started to see more exaggerated symptoms of issues i was only mildly concerned about when i was eating meat - eggs seemed to make me queasy, and dairy always left me a " brain fog." i started to pay more attention to what i ate, getting more in tune with my body, and realized i felt much better eating mostly plants - veggies, lots of fruits, some grains, etc.

once again, i started reading. i decided to inform myself with books/medical studies on the dairy industry, and everything seemed to fall into place. after what i had discovered, i couldn't eat animal products again, for myself or for the world we live in. i mourned the "loss" of my beloved greek yogurt, sure, but after a few days of feeling better, i knew it would never be worth it again... i mean, for the first time in years, i had found something i could ACTUALLY HELP my health with! cheesy, yes, but i was frustrated to tears almost daily for years.

my transition to veganism was health-driven FIRST, and backed up by my complete disdain for the dollar-driven practices exercised by the poultry/dairy/egg industry. i am not a meat-hating, tree-hugging, natural born animal-lover, but i absolutely detest abuse, torture, and unnecessary displays of aggression (towards humans or otherwise), so i felt like it was a no-brainer.

i've had my share of struggles along the way, sure. there are many facets of health, and sorting through all the trendy diets has been challenging. i've dabbled a bit with the raw foods and macro movements, but for the most part, i just eat simple, natural foods and don't label myself. i don't think there's anything shocking that an orange is healthy - so i eat it! i don't care if you call it raw, magic, superfood, or crazy... it's just food to me. god made it, i eat it. awesome.

since my transition, i am managing my fibromyalgia pain better than i could have ever imagined. it's still a daily struggle for sure, but i'm seeing pain i've lived with for years finally show a sign of change! i also have found a few surprises along the way... better skin and nails? way fewer headaches? YES PLEASE! i won't say it's effortless, but when something is so crucial to your health and others, it's an easy decision. i also am realizing how ignorant i am about the products i mindlessly use - i mean, windex is tested in rabbits eyes? seriously? how is that completely necessary to see if it cleans windows?

i am not the gold standard of diet, and i don't know all the answers. i won't tell anyone what to do or judge them, but i would encourage everyone to at least research what they're eating and examine their own diets - are they treating their bodies the way they deserve to be treated? if i had been all along, who knows how my health would have looked, or what i would or wouldn't be dealing with right now. all i can say is use your brains, and remember: you are worth the best, and what you do effects yourself and others!

thanks for asking, girl. i hope this helps shed a bit of light into my crazy life! :) if you have any more questions, criticisms, or whatever, please feel free to email me!
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thanks for letting me share my story! i hope this brings some clarity to my choices concerning food. i've never come out and addressed it head on, but i don't want someone to misconstrue my intentions, either, so it was time.

let me be clear: this blog is not become a peta-thumping, meat-hating, veggie-ranting diary. i am who i am for many reasons, and my decisions at mealtime don't define all that i am. i would love to speak with anyone who wants to take charge of their own health, but i will never pester or badger anyone into changing their lives. my desire is to get you to think about your decisions (food, emotional, and otherwise), not guilt-trip you by eating out of fear.

some huge factors in my decision? earthlings, thrive, the athlete's plate, eating animals, the end of overeating, in defense of food, the china studythe kind diet, countless blogs (both pro- and anti-vegan), scientific research databases, and my own blood work, improving health, stomach, and taste buds!

all that said, mental health and emotional stability always come first. always. veganism is not a quick weight loss program (i've gained!), or a cute, trendy diet: it's a life-altering change! if you are struggling with emotional eating, fear foods, or self-abuse, please don't take on a food challenge just yet. take care of your heart first, ok? doing that will set you up for an amazing life, not just an amazing diet. you are more than what you eat!

also, veganism is NOT a magic bullet, or a cure-all of diseases. i've changed many things about my diet that aren't related to veganism, and am still a work in progress! i don't feel well eating sugar, MSG, fried foods, and am testing how i respond to gluten... so it's not like animals are evil: it's a process to sort through how food responds to YOUR body! and food doesn't heal all things: i still have fibro, i still struggle with body-image, i still have occasional stomach issues, and i still am HUMAN. food isn't magic, we just need to provide our bodies with the right things so food can do it's job: fuel us!

i believe two things: i eat as healthfully as possible because i deserve it, and i absolutely despise greed-based factory farming practices. beyond that, the rest is trial and error, my friends! let's eat up for our health :)

p.s. - if you haven't been over to ashley's blog, please do so! she is an honest, hilarious genius of a girl.

thoughts? questions? disagree? i'd love to hear all opinions, veg-head and omnis alike!
-rebekah

17 comments:

  1. I'm glad school's going well! It's natural to be nervous the first day.

    How we choose our diets is so interesting to me - maybe that's why I'm a psych major. But I love that you chose to become vegan because you believe it is YOUR best choice. I hate when people eat for people other than themselves.

    I don't have a label for myself, but I suppose I eat an 80% vegan diet, because, like you, I have ethical obligations to the planet, focus on my health, as well as personal affinity for those foods.

    I applaud your decision, but I would encourage you to continue to re-evaluate yourself every once and awhile. Ask yourself, "is this what I want?" and "is this best for me?". If you can continually answer that, then you are in business girlfran!

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  2. As you are well aware, I'm an omni and have finally reconciled that by eating meat in the most ethical way that I can. I just want to throw in there that some people just don't thrive on vegan or vegetarian diets, especially folks with type o blood. But, we each have to choose what works for our bodies and what doesn't.

    I actually see most improvement in my fibro when I don't eat any grains, sugar or yeast. We each are different and I think it is awesome that you have found a way of eating that works for you in mind, body and spirit. That is exactly my definition of having a healthy relationship with food.

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  3. Glad school is going well.
    I think doing what works for you and you alone is what everyone should do. Whether it's eating meat, being vegan, or whatever anyone chooses. It's a personal choice.

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  4. So glad that you shared this with all of your readers! As I told you before, I think that your journey to making healthy decisions for YOU (rather than a fad or to avoid emotional crap) is truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing such a balanced version of a major lifestyle change. You rock!

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  5. That's quite a story, and an excellent one at that. My journey into vegetarianism began as a health / "one of my friends is doing it so I can take on the challenge also" type things. Now, when I see my parents eating meat and I get a craving for it, I can't bring myself to do it, especially not knowing where the meat comes from, how it was raised and treated and what its diet was. If I knew the following and they were as "ethical" as possible, I might consider giving it a try, but the last time I ate chicken at school I felt really... weird (?) after eating it and I haven't had anything (in the US) since.

    While I was in Greece I ate meat but that was knowing that it was part of the cuisine and I wouldn't get a chance to do this again but it was a little better knowing that their animals are fed / raised properly as opposed to our factory farms and other disgusting practices.

    I don't think I could go vegan, especially with parents still trying to figure out how to adapt to me being vegetarian (to them, a meal = meat, potatoes, bread), but I now realize that my desire to restrict my diet to control calories and what I ate has evolved into a love for animals and the environment and being vegetarian is something that I want to do for the right reasons now.

    Thanks for sharing your point-of-view, it's really amazing and eye-opening!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this, Rebekah. It's lovely. :)

    My whole take on the animal products thing is - if it's a product of animal cruelty (besides a swift and quick killing, which, yes, is a little cruel) then you might as well consider me a vegan, because I'm not eating it, for both ethical reasons and the crap that ends up in the meat and eventually in my body.

    Since I grew up without dairy and egg products, it's not hard AT ALL to go without them. I'm not much of a fan of nondairy cheeses so when I do eat cheese, I just get them organic. No biggie. :) The only downside though is that I was intending on expanding my knowledge and taste for cheese this year but that was before I decided I didn't like where the cheese I was getting was coming from, so cheeses that were already super expensive are now even more expensive 'cause I gotta find organic versions of them if I want to try them. =\ But again, I don't really crave cheese or anything so it's not a big deal at all. And eggs have freaked me out for my entire existence, even though I used to bake with them, so now I just make sure my fridge is stocked with flax eggs and I'm good to go. :D

    Something that seems to get overlooked often, though, is that if humans didn't eat animals or animal products, the typical domesticated farm animals that are used for foods would die out. It sucks, but the only reason they're living is because they're all on farms being raised for food. If they're no longer raised for food, the farmers would have no reason to keep them alive or allow them to reproduce (and if they released them into the wild, they wouldn't know how to survive anyway). That's why I choose to continue to take part in animal product industry - I just make sure the animals were raised, cared for and fed ethically now. (Of course, some farms keep animals just to care for them, but there's no denying that they are outnumbered by the number of farms who raise animals for food to make a living.)

    That being said, I mainly eat vegan anyway simply because it's cheaper for me. This is because I don't spend loads of money on mock-meat/dairy/egg products since I already don't enjoy their animal-product counterparts, so why would I spend money on stuff that's just mimicking stuff I don't like that much? :P I think the most non-vegan thing I ingest fairly regularly is honey, and even then some vegans don't consider that an animal product.

    I haven't noticed any real difference in my body when I eat animal products and when I don't - but I stopped eating so much when I started eating healthfully anyway so perhaps it did have some kind of effect on me? No idea. :P

    This is totally unrelated, but a blog I follow is having a giveaway for figs, and I immediately thought of you. :) I'm not even entering because I know I won't be able to eat them that fast (since only I like them in this household) but something tells me you could. ;)
    http://www.stetted.com/index.php/2010/08/23/fig-pizza/

    Hope you're well. <3

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  7. good for you for doing what makes you feel better! it is different for everyone. however, as a person with fibro too, i know how much diet can help. i feel SO much better since giving up dairy. i am working on giving up gluten too and already feel better, but i let doubters influence me too much on that one. i need to work on that and do it for myself.

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  8. I just wanted to mention since you point to the China Study as the basis for going vegan that it is being widely debunked. Apparently the numbers were fudged and the real study points to wheat as our real enemy. Read all about it here by a former vegan. She even claims her eyes have changed color by changing her diet.
    http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

    It's huge on the internet right now. The comments alone are very helpful as well from all over and what it takes to be a truly healthy vegetarian.

    I myself am a former semi-vegetarian believing dutifully the report that red meat is bad. Totally not true. I developed severe chronic fatigue not eating hardly any meat. Roller coaster blood sugars and anxiety. Nothing really helped me until I understood the importance of eating lots of animal fats and coconut oil. I now have great brain chemistry. Loads of energy and almost completely cured of fibromyalgia. The science is what finally convinced me. I was a very stubborn sell. But thankfully I am a lot healthier and happier today.

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  9. I just read every single one of the comments and they're all great! Thanks for starting this discussion, Rebekah.

    I'm vegan 98% of the time and when I DO stray from my vegan eating it's to eat wild caught fish or humanely obtained eggs. While I know that I feel SO much better for not consuming dairy, I'm not quite sure if not eating meat has done anything for me. I first gave it up in order to restrict my food options but now I stay away from it because of ethical reasons and I just have no desire for it. It's totally unappealing to me now.

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  10. Interesting post - it's curious how diet choices are both personal and, at the same time, an opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness. I'm a big believer in ethical eating, which means different things to different folks. I've been veggie and a strict vegan, and now my focus is on local...I grow as much as I possibly can, and try to know where the rest of my food comes from. I do have a tendency to get on a bit of a soapbox from time to time, but with the aim of making local, organic and healthy foods accessible to as many people as possible.

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  11. thanks for your comments everyone! it's awesome to read how you guys have had your own transformations!

    Louise - i actually have read that research against the china study. what i took away from the book was not that animals are evil, but that i should simply realize what i eat does effect me. with all books, i took the general wisdom and rejected the hype.

    and i don't think red meat is evil nutritionally, either. and a burger is delicious! i simply don't want to be part of such an industry, and even the small family farms still have to take a part in it (they can't afford their own slaughterhouses, so they use the same ones the factory farms do, etc).

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  12. but p.s. - i will go back and re-read it! thank you for giving your opinion and bringing it back to my attention. i read the china study a while ago, so it's not fresh in my mind..

    and i am glad to hear your fibro is doing better!!!!!!!!!!!

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  13. I totally respect you for this post. It's hard to take a stand for something sometimes. I am exploring this road too, though not at the same level as you are. I stopped drinking cows milk and only drink almond milk now. I'm working on it!

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  14. I love your insight!! I don't eat meat because I think it's gross..and because I think that the tendency is to eat too much and that is unhealthy. BUT reegardless... some of the treatment of animals is unacceptable and as a Christian I can't approve of that treatment of God's creation. But at the same time, I don't judge or look down upon people without the same convictions or even those who don't KNOW about the industry. Plus, I don't think it's a sin to eat it... but I personally don't want to act against my conscience. Other people have other convictions... know what I mean??

    Great post!!

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  15. Awesome post! Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I think I should go wheat free. I have me some stomach issues. I've tried wheat free before and didn't seem to help. :/ I am still working on finding what works for me.

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  16. Very Cool tattoo!!!

    I just read THRIVE! I love the burger and pizza recipes, and the shakes are great too!!!!!

    I am loving the recipes in The Engine 2 Diet...I would of NEVER thought to buy that book until I met the author at the Forks Over Knives premier, he was in the film...has some amazing vegan recipes...really tasty, filling, yet light and practical!

    I bought myself a s*&% load of bookso n AMazon for my bday too! Enjoy and Happy Birthday :-)

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  17. swallow's nest in an edible gel form is supposed be good for the skin too. it gives that clear and pasty skin that we all love.

    it's mad expensive. my brother and i bought some for my mom for her birthday. it was like 400 bucks for like a 6-8 oz jar. Luckily we finally found the one of popular brand online (hongkong-bird-nest.50webs.com/index_e.htm and http://www.euyansang.com/)

    dad said it's really popular in indonesia. that a guy has to climb a high mountain to get the nest. that's why it's so expensive.

    i mean why doesn't the dude just look for the fabled korean swallow king, capture it and let it lay eggs full of gold! then, he wouldn't have to work so hard and climb them high mountains.

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