The Future of My Health
The food I eat is one of the most important choices I make – every day. I do not take it lightly. It effects me deeply. I believe that my entire day, my entire life and the future of my health depends upon what I choose to eat. I also know and am very passionate about the fact that the food I choose to eat has an enormous impact on the lives of billions of animals — as well as the life and vitality of this planet.
This choice, this one simple choice, effects every single area of our lives and our world. Heavy, right? I choose to call it POWERFUL! Within these food choices lies so much POWER! My power.
Where It all Began
So, where did it begin?
Well, I grew up in the midwest in a small town just outside of Detroit, Michigan. We were a meat and potatoes, American family. My mom made dinner ever single night and we ate as a family around the table. We said grace and we asked to be excused once we were all finished eating. We carried our plates over to the sink and we helped do the dishes. Our meals were well balanced and always contained grains, greens and salads. Balance at this time also meant that we included dairy and meat. It was never excessive and it was never the only thing on the plate. But it was always present. I was allowed to have either water or skim milk for dinner. We were allowed a small dessert after the dishes were done and I never overindulged.
My mom’s relationship to food, as far as I could tell, was relatively normal. She was born in the late 40’s, raised in the 50’s and 60’s at a time when women were thought to not eat or not go to the bathroom (a bit sarcastic here, but true to a degree!) . She always kept a very ‘trim figure’, as they called it back then.
My dad, on the other hand, struggled. He struggled with everything really. As we grew from childhood into our teenage years, his awkward and dysfunctional relationship with – just about everything – started to reveal itself. I suppose his behavior had always been present and perhaps I only noticed it because I was growing up myself, but he was clearly a binger. He binged with everything, so it seemed to me. Work, exercise, money, food and unfortunately, alcohol. His life and his choices were always swaying fiercely from one end to the other. He could never find balance. He never did find balance and passed away in 2002 of alcoholism at only 54 years old. I was 22.
Free, Pretty and Skinny
For me, I can remember the exact moment that my relationship to food changed. It was a Friday night and I was about 12. There was a community dance that night at the local community center and I simply could not wait to go. I was in my second year of middle school and my mom had made me wait out the first year because she said I was too young to go to the dances. So, finally, a whole year of waiting and I was about to go. I was beyond thrilled. I was ecstatic. I felt free, pretty and so grown up! I tried on various outfits in my room waiting for my best friend, Melanie, to arrive. I heard my mom call me from downstairs, “The pizza is here! And so is Melanie!”. I rushed downstairs to greet Melanie and grabbed the serving of pizza that my mom had doled out for me, 2 pieces. Melanie and I walked back up to my room chatting about her outfit and what other shirts I should try on. When we arrived in my room, I grabbed one of the pieces of pizza and brought it to my lips. “You’re actually going to eat that?”, Melanie said, with utter disgust on her face. I was innocently confused. “Why? What’s wrong with it?”. I inspected it as if maybe it had bugs on it that I hadn’t seen. “Well, eat it if you want. But I don’t eat on the days that there is a dance”, she said as she tried on a pair of my earrings. “Wait, what do you mean you don’t eat? Like ALL day?”, I asked, shocked. “Um, yeah, like all day, dummy. It makes you skinnier”. And that was that. That was all it took. I actually truly did lose my appetite in that moment because the shame was so deep and overwhelming. It coursed through my veins like lava. I set the pizza down, finished getting ready and proceeded to my first dance ever. I was thrilled, ecstatic, free, pretty, grown up and now… SKINNY.
Not eating became a great tool for me from then on out. It came and went and never seemed too severe on the outside to raise any alarms with family, friends or school. That was until I was 17. My dad’s drinking had progressed and everything in my world began to spin faster than a tornado with pieces of it separating and flying off in a million different directions. My foundation was rocked. There were no more family dinners, no more grace. No more balance. I was on my own. And so, among several other bad habits, I picked up anorexia and bulimia. I don’t remember exactly how it progressed. I don’t remember the first time I threw up. What I do remember though, is that my world had spun around in circles so fast that I found myself hanging out with people who didn’t bother me about it. They didn’t call me out. The didn’t shame me or try to change me. Maybe that was helpful, maybe not. Some recovery concepts teach that trying to force someone never helps anyway, so, sometimes it’s best to let behaviors run their course and when the person is ready they will ask for help. I don’t know. I do not study eating disorder recover. But I know for myself, in my experience, my issues were behaviors that driven by circumstance and eventually, they ran their course.
A New Life
By the time I was 18, I knew I needed a new life. So, one week after graduation I hopped on an Amtrak and headed east. I had intended to leave behind all the unhealthy behaviors and I definitely started to. But the thing about so-called unhealthy behaviors is that they help. They actually help us live, day to day. They manifest in the first place because we don’t have other ways of dealing with the things that are causing us pain. So, we dive into these “unhealthy” behaviors as a way to release the pressure of the pain. The actual action of seeking out these behaviors is not actually unhealthy. It actually IS healthy and self-supportive because our fundamental intention is to help ourselves! We just have the tools to make healthier choices. And we don’t get better tools until, well, until we get better tools. So, I did what I knew how to do. I did what I had to do to relieve the pressure of all the pain. I wanted so badly to be healthy. To be TRULY healthy. But I had no idea how to get there. Absolutely no idea.
Over the next few years, my life would unfold as a series of traumas. From being struck by a car going 45 mph as a pedestrian, to dropping out of school, to falling in love, moving to California, trying to dive into the acting scene in LA to getting arrested for a DUI, contracting a life threatening disease to then finding sobriety and getting sober, to moving back to Detroit and enrolling into college again and finally, to the death of my father, when the tornado finally let up. You know what happens when a tornado finally lets up? Everything that was flying around at record speeds comes crashing to the ground. And that’s exactly what happened. It all came crashing to the ground. And suddenly, everything was silent. And still. And calm. And I knew, I knew I needed to make REAL changes. And so, I did.
The Psychology of Food
The path to health had finally begun. While finishing my degree, I got a job a the local health food store. It was a family owned business and I loved working there. It was a mother, her son and her daughter. Their father had passed away, so, I understood the dynamic. There were three priceless lessons I learned while at this health food store and they all have to do with the psychology of food. I remember one of the owners asking me one day what I thought was the highest selling item in the store. Of course, I guessed some sort of vitamin. She said no. The highest selling items were potato chips and cookies. “Do you know why?”, she asked. “Because,” she continued, “people truly believe that if they buy potato chips and cookies from a health food store then they must be healthy”. This has stuck with me ever since.
The second priceless pieces of information I learned there was when I was drilling the son about which vitamins I should buy. I asked him what vitamins he took. He said he didn’t take any. I was completely shocked. “But you OWN a health food store!”. He went on to explain that most vitamins are expelled by the body and the best way to heal your body was through food. Not vitamins. Food? Really?
The third priceless piece of information I learned was when I read a book there by a man who had cured himself of Crohn’s disease by changing his diet. I had never heard that food was that powerful. Looking back now, I wonder how any of us can ever think that food isn’t just about THE most powerful medicine there is! But we are not taught that. Not by society. And not in school. We have to learn it. And that takes work. A lot of work! And not everyone wants to work for that knowledge! Believe me, I get it. Sometimes I really do understand that term “ignorance is bliss”. But, I also wouldn’t trade hard-earned my knowledge for anything.
Trying a Raw Food Diet
Well, I immediately embarked on a raw food diet. In the dead of Michigan weather, I was eating raw carrots, raw beets, raw cauliflower and raw broccoli. It was amazing. But, I’ll be honest, it didn’t last for me. Mostly because it was a challenge to manage eating that way with my school schedule and frankly, I craved heartier foods in those winter months and truly, I needed them to warm me up!
My journey was in full force. I was on the road. I was learning. I was reading. I was researching. I was trying new things. I was seeing what worked for me. This was 2004-2005 and I was still in the midwest. A plant-based diet was the furthest thing from my mind.
Back to Los Angeles
After graduating from college, I said goodbye to my little local health food store in Michigan and moved back to Los Angeles to be an “adult”. I landed a full-time corporate job and could not have been more miserable. After a couple of years there, I grew to the heaviest I have ever weighed and I was very unhappy. I might say that being unhappy is why I was eating so much. But that’s not necessarily true for me because I can eat all the time! My tendency to overeat is not driven only by low emotions. Sometimes I overeat because I’m super excited or I’m extremely bored. Or maybe I just eat because someone else is eating.
After two years in the corporate world, I quit. My best friend had hunted down the perfect job for me and I jumped at the chance. I was to be the Marketing Assistant for a healthy vegan restaurant company in Santa Monica. I was thrilled. It is no small statement to say, my life completely changed. Real Food Daily was the premiere vegan restaurant in Los Angeles for a long time. The founder was lightyears ahead of her time when she created it in the 90’s. And I got a job there! It was a dream come true.
My little office was right there in Santa Monica just above the restaurant. So, every day, I would order my lunches and dinners from RFD. The food there was superb. The founder was from the south and she had a very deep Macrobiotic influence to her cooking, so her dishes were exactly what I needed. They were filled with warming root vegetables and cooling pickled veggies. Loads of grains and a plethora of leafy greens. I learned to love beans of all kinds. Black beans, aduki beans, navy beans. And the grains! All sorts of grains. From amaranth to quinoa to black rice. My exposure to all the different kinds of earth foods was to become the foundation of my eating for the rest of time.
After two amazing years of immersion into the healthy vegan way of life, my time at RFD came to an end and I found myself in Austin, Texas, which wasn’t exactly the vegan capital of the world. Many will argue with this. But having come from Los Angeles, it paled in comparison.
I wanted so badly to start a vegan restaurant, but after my time at RFD, it was clear to me that running a restaurant was no small feat. It was a timely and expensive endeavor. So, instead, I started writing articles for a local health food column. Around 2015, I finally started my own blog and I was thrilled!
Thankfully, in just the last few years, veganism has skyrocketed in popularity and I couldn’t be MORE excited! The benefits are simply unbeatable:
- Deep health restoration
- Animal welfare
- Envronmental welfare
We can make a difference. YOU can make a difference. A HUGE difference. Our personal health is in our control!
Our entire day, our entire lives and the future of our health depend upon what we choose to eat. Our choices are also catastrophically effecting the lives of billions of animals and rainforests and pollution.
Choose wisely. It matters.