What I love about being an educator is my ability not only to teach students important academic content, but to help shape their lives. I am thankful that my work habits trickle into my personal life, allowing me to reach those outside of the classroom, too. Since adopting a plant-based lifestyle over three years ago, I’ve had many students, friends, and family members interested in making the switch themselves. They’ve asked me for ideas and recipes, just wanting to live a healthier life.
As I’ve always stressed, I am not an expert in nutrition or dieting; I know what I know from old-fashioned research and experimentation. For me, the proof of my lifestyle and Fresh Formula concept is in how I look, and more importantly, feel, in the day-to-day. While I’ve never been overweight or unhealthy overall, I really believe that we can always improve, which is what I set out to do.
I also believe that the people in my life bring out the best in me, making me want to live as long and as healthy a life as I possibly can. My husband and son in particular are what inspire me to make smart choices (as my mom always says!) each and every day. I don’t want to watch my son ride his bike off to school; I want to ride my bike with him.
The most common question that students (and people in general) ask me once they learn that I don’t typically eat animal products is “What do you eat?” I addressed this in a previous post, so I’m here today to answer the second most popular question: “How do/did you do it?”
I’m an ordinary person with a busy lifestyle and like many people, occasionally make a really unhealthy food choice. As a result, I knew that I would have to take baby steps in transitioning from a traditional, animal-laden American diet to one revolving around plants.
For me, the first step was doing away with cow’s milk. Many varieties contain added sugar, hormones, and more (I’ll let you research that on your own). I gave up cow’s milk over six years ago and should have done it sooner, being that I am mildly lactose-intolerant. Skim milk never irritated my system much, but I knew that it wasn’t the healthiest milk option for me for a number of reasons. So, I have since switched to plant milk. I drink primarily almond, but I also like cashew, hemp, oat, and grain.
Less than two years later was when I was told I had high cholesterol. Ugh! My doctor advised me to give up red meat, pork, eggs, and butter. I went without these for an entire year—not that I previously ate them much anyway—before I kicked all meat and most dairy to the curb. Despite being lactose-intolerant, it’s been more difficult to give up dairy because it is often the staple ingredient in comfort foods: ice cream, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, etc. I am no different than the average person – sometimes, comfort food just sounds damn good.
Now, “comfort food” to me is a big salad or rich smoothie because that’s what I’ve come to crave. I also really look forward to making customary animal-based comfort foods vegan, trying new things, and learning about the latest super foods. That leads me to the next stage in my plant-based journey…
About six months after eliminating animal products, I decided to make it my mission to try new fruits and vegetables. A friend that I used to teach high school with and I would head out to the farmer’s market and while I would buy plenty of familiars, I would also try to grab at least one or two items that I didn’t recognize. While this sometimes wound up in failure (you can’t help what you like and don’t like!), 90% of the time I found some—or a lot of—success with new produce.
The last phase in my journey to plant-based living involved what I call, for no particular reason other than simplicity, “picky vegan things.” I gave up honey, gelatin, white sugar, etc. In other words, I gave up the foods that don’t outwardly say “I’m made with animal products,” or that we commonly associate with chickens cooped in their pens or salmon being fed corn, but foods that contain animals or are made by animals nonetheless.
Today, I am working on becoming even more dedicated to an imperfect model. I am not above grabbing a slice of pizza at a party; I just choose not to eat like the majority 95% of the time. For this, I am healthier than ever, with great blood work, loads of energy, reliable sleep habits, and a normal weight and heart rate.
I hope that taking a look into how I got where I am inspires you to make a healthy change in your lifestyle, however big or small. There’s nothing wrong with baby steps and there is no perfect diet. 🙂 For more inspiration and ideas, read more about me, plant-based living, and my Fresh Formula concept. As always, enjoy!