our journey to a whole food plant based lifestyle
July 19, 2018
In the Fall of 2014, I came across a website called 100 Days of Real Food. After browsing some of Lisa Leake's recipes and reading into her 14 day challenge to cut out processed food, I bought her book. This changed my life. As a wife and mom of two boys, I wanted to be fully aware and educated about everything going into my families bodies. I had a unique challenge, my husband is overweight and my oldest son is underweight. I had fed them thus far, junk. I didn't know it was junk at the time and I didn't really think about it. Freezer lasagna, easy Mac, ramen, etc. I was working full time before my youngest son was born in early 2013 and I didn't really have the time or desire to prepare home cooked meals that required thought and prep. Opening a package and tossing it in the microwave was just easier. Unfortunately, easier isn't better.
So I read 100 Days of Real Food and made changes. I completed the 14 day challenge (as did my family, because mommy buys the food and plans the meals) and I was shocked at how easy it was! The feedback I got from my family was good. We learned so much. What is real food? What is whole food? What does processed really mean? Oh, that's an ingredients list? What are all of those hard to understand ingredients we used to just put into our mouths without question? I truly became an ingredients list master. Shopping took a lot longer, as I would practically sit down in the isle with packaged foods and Google each individual ingredient, most of the time out of sheer curiosity of what my family and I used to consume daily. Often times just doing that research on site made me despise that product all together and just put it back on the shelf, unfortunately for the next unsuspecting consumer.
This new knowledge and way of preparing, shopping, cooking, and eating was so exciting! I felt rejuvenated as a wife and mom, I felt so good about the decisions we were making and the way our bodies were feeling, I just had to share. I told my friend and bought her the book for her birthday and she loved it, too. She made the same change with her family and we became each other's support system. We would share recipes, make large meals to enjoy together, get each other's feedback on new things we would try, and even go peach picking or to the local farmers market together.
Fast forward a few years. June 28th 2017. My friend sends me a text about an interesting documentary with a vegan message that she wants me to watch, and that her and her husband are going to try out a vegan diet for 30 days and see what they think. I shared this with my husband and we both laughed. We said we wouldn't watch it because there is no way we would ever go vegan. We love what we eat: ribs, steak, burgers, cheese, whole milk, eggs and bacon. All organic and cruelty free, grass fed beef and free range eggs, no added hormones whole milk and expensive cheese. I made specific purchasing choices to make sure the animal products I was feeding my family were as healthy as possible, and I felt good about it. After all, we need them in our diet, don't we?
So my husband and I completely disregarded it as a phase, they'll realize how much they want and need animal products and then life will go back to the way it was. Well, a few days later, we hosted a brunch party and I had prepared a beautiful spread. Bacon wrapped cream cheese filled jalapenos, egg casserole, mini sausages, homemade Crock-pot apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, avocado toast and mimosas. My friend and her husband were there, talking about what they're learning and avoiding all the delicious food I have prepared, except the avocado toast. After the party, once everyone else had gone home, she pulls up Netflix on my TV and in a very loving, friendly way, forces my husband and I to watch this documentary, haha. Let me just say, I am so glad that she loves my family enough to drill past my hesitant and stubborn ways to make sure that I had an opportunity to gain this knowledge, so I can make an educated decision about food and health. I did this for her years earlier, and now she's upping the ante. We watched What The Health.
We sat through this documentary, to appease her, with no real intention of making any further changes. But once they started talking about the politics and money being paid out to confuse the public and advertise these animal products as health promoting or necessary or even SAFE, that was it. The science, studies, and expert opinions presented were all the evidence we needed that more research had to be done, we cannot disregard these claims. In fact, my husband was convinced enough at that point to get up right then and there and start throwing stuff away! Two packages of $8/lb grass fed ground beef, at least $10 worth of cheese, two gallons of milk, a carton and a half of eggs, all the bacon! I was very surprised. And if you knew my husband, you would be, too. I pleaded with him to let us go through what we had first, and then start this 30 day trial period my friend and her husband were doing, but he was convinced, we were starting now.
After What The Health ended, we went on a rabbit trail of documentaries and online research. We were hooked. It's like a whole new world was opened up to us that we never knew about. We've heard about veganism, but what's this whole food, plant based thing all about? Looking back, I am very grateful that we didn't go from the traditional American diet high in processed food and junk straight to a whole food plant based lifestyle. I believe that making the change to real food using Lisa Leake's resources, challenges, and books over the course of a couple years first was like a stepping stone for us to make the bigger and better change to whole food plant based nutrition. But this all happened so fast, within a day (so now came the fun part) telling the kids.
My boys were easy. They had a routine. Every day there were a few staples they could rely on. Milk, scrambled or hard boiled eggs, yogurt, string cheese, etc. Mom and Dad are about to change everything. My husband and I prepared ourselves for the conversation. We pulled up a few videos on YouTube, particularly Bite Size Vegan's videos for kids (just say no to milk and 5 reasons why we don't eat meat) and called the boys into the room. We told them, flat out, we won't be eating animals anymore. They didn't seem to care, so we moved on. We also won't be eating anything that comes from animals. This confused them. They didn't understand the concept. So we let them watch the videos (Bite Size Vegan does a really good job explaining, so we let her do it).
They were on board! They didn't realize that their favorite snacks and foods were actually causing harm to animals AND their own bodies. Before this, we never really explained (or even understood) the concept that when we consume dairy, we are in fact stealing from a baby calf, and even more sad, that baby calf (if male) would be killed just so we can consume his mommies milk and eat his body! And if it's a female calf, she will be forced into a life of repeated rape and having her babies kidnapped and milk stolen as well. I do not believe any child would choose to consume dead animal flesh or food retrieved in this way if given a choice, but they aren't given a choice, are they? In a way, parents brainwash their children into believing they need meat, dairy, and eggs without educating them on the facts first, mostly because parents don't actually have the facts in the first place!
My husband and I were learning that the food industry is a scary place. They want us to be confused enough about health and nutrition and diet that we just eat what we want, and we usually want what isn't always best for us. Many food producers have people on staff for the specific purpose of making a food product to be crave-able and addicting. This infuriated us. We made the switch overnight, cold turkey. I went shopping that next day, and we pretty much decided to wing it the first few days. The next few months would be jam packed with research, YouTube videos, more documentaries and an understanding that we may never fully understand it all. But that's ok, because what we do know is enough to make the changes we need.