I have never really believed in diets, despite growing up in a house that went through every dietary fad. My parents cut carbs, busted sugar, counted calories, followed meal plans and purged the pantry several times.
My mom and dad never made my brothers, sister and myself adhere to any diets, and never put any pressure on us about weight and what we were eating. However, we were all very aware of food and the power it can have over people mentally and physically. I was always curious about the subject, but didn’t really know what to make of it all with the rules of the eating game changing so frequently.
The first dietary change that truly made sense to me and that was integrated into our entire family happened when I was in Middle School. My parents told us my mom had developed breast cancer. Our realities were shaken. My mother, who survived cancer and who has been doing well for many years now, was a healthy woman, with no history of breast cancer in her family. She went on walks and rode her stationery bike regularly. She never smoked or drank. In fact she strictly drank water with an occasional tiny glass of orange juice when she felt a little wild. It didn’t make sense to any of us why this was happening to her.
My mom historically did the grocery shopping on her own, but once she was diagnosed my dad started making the trips with her. One day they came home and all the groceries had a new word for our household on them, “Organic.” My dad explained that because it didn’t add up why mom had cancer, it had to have something to do with what we are eating and what we were putting in our bodies. That clicked with me.
The whole idea of looking at ingredients rather than nutritional facts made a lot more sense to me. Checking calories, fat and carbohydrates may depend on what diet you are following, but synthetic trans fat, monosodium glutamate and high fructose corn syrup are not good for anyone no matter who you are or what you’re doing.
I started looking at food less as an indulgence and more as nourishment that allows our bodies to function properly. If the food allows you to grow, be active, and helps make you stronger it must be good for you, if food makes you less mobile and causes cancer and disease, it is probably not so good. I could get on board with that.
My view and knowledge of food and functionality have developed over time. My approach has gone through changes but it has remained on my mind. Despite my revelation while growing up at home, I still went through my “health by packaging” phase in college. Once I was spending my own money on groceries the thought of purchasing all organic food was daunting to my bank account. I reverted back to grabbing every reduced fat, low calorie labeled option I could find no matter what was in it, and called myself healthy.
I was able to reign it back in when I started living with my husband and got back into the routine of planning meals, and moved on from the life of frequent snacking for one. We both believe a healthy balanced diet is important. We ate a balanced diet across the traditional food group spectrum including dairy, chicken and fish with the occasional lean turkey and bison. We tried to buy organic and non GMO as much as possible. We thought we were doing pretty well for ourselves.
The Game Changer
One day in June 2017 I was getting some work done from home and decided to put a documentary on in the background. I scanned through and landed on “What the Health.” I didn’t know much about it, but anything with the word health piques my interest. I pressed play and returned to my work, planning to half-listen. I was only working for a brief amount of time before I had to look up, and was completely enthralled.
This documentary looks into the benefits of a plant based diet and the negative effects of consuming meat and dairy. It explores several subjects, however what caught my interest the most was the relation between the consumption of meat and dairy and the development of breast cancer and diabetes. This hit home for me with my mom being a survivor of breast cancer, and my dad currently battling diabetes.
I was overwhelmed at first. How is this possible? What I thought I knew about “healthy” eating was turned upside down. This is just one documentary I thought. There has to be more information. I have since explored the topic reading articles and books such as How Not to Die and The Engine 2 Diet, and viewing more documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, and Food Choices.
& Here We Are Now…
As I continue to learn more, the facts are pretty undeniable whether you are looking at food from the perspective of personal or environmental health. From what I have discovered, if you are eating food for nourishment, the best source of nutrients come from a plant-based diet.
When people pick on the way I eat I always laugh and tell them this is the future. Not only my future for hopefully living a long, healthy and vibrant life, but for everyone’s future as a whole on this planet. The current average meat and dairy eating habits are not sustainable, if not on a personal level, on a global level.
I am continuously interested in educating myself more about the plant based lifestyle and healthy living in general. If you have any resource recommendations for myself and others, please share below!