Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Secret Revealed

I'm not good at keeping secrets.  And this "secret" isn't really a big deal, but it's just something I needed to keep to myself for a while so I could think, process, and develop a language to talk about it.

As most of you know, I have really struggled with losing the pregnancy weight.  I wasn't just making bad food choices (although I was--out of convenience), but I also wasn't getting much activity.  But I finally realized that the lack of activity wasn't because I was lazy--it was because I was exhausted.  I felt unnaturally tired most of the time.  Yes, Aurora still wakes up maybe once or twice in the night, but it was more than that.

I went to the doctor (but only saw my PA) to talk to her and hopefully get a remedy.  She pretty much made me feel stupid, like, "You're just overweight, that's why you're tired." I told her I had started doing Zumba 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes, and she said, "You really need to step it up. You should be getting at least 300 minutes of exercise in a week."  I almost cried.  I almost needed to triple my exercise?! I felt more energetic after working out, most of the time, but it took a lot of effort ot get moving and motivated to work out in the first place.  The PA (who I will NEVER see again) humored me with a blood test.  The results revealed my iron was low, but she said that wouldn't be a reason I'm so tired all the time.

I've had mild acne since I was 18, with bouts of clear skin here and there (mostly thanks to medication/birth control), but since Aurora, my skin has gotten worse.  Many people think acne is not a big deal, but it can be debilitating and embarrassing.

So here I was, feeling like the fat, pimply girl...at age 29! I wasn't a teenager with some blossoming to do. I was unhappy, not just with how I looked, but how I felt.

There was a moment of clarity for me when a bunch of different blogs and sites I read or people I would run into mentioned "veganism."  I did some research, and here I am, over a month later, eating a purely plant-based diet.  Yes, that's my little secret.

I am reticent to call myself a vegan for many reasons, the largest being that in the past, I have met a lot of vegans I didn't like, people who have been militant about their choices and seemed to care more about animal rights than real people.  I know this is a common complaint, but I have to say it's been true for me.  I think that the way we treat animals and our planet is a travesty, and something that needs to changed.  But that change starts in the human heart.  Until we learn to treat our own species better, I'm not sure we'll learn to treat other species with respect and dignity. And then, of course, Oprah and staff went vegan for a month and Bill Clinton went vegan, and it became sort of trendy--not to mention the association of the vegan lifestyle with hipster culture.  It all made me feel a little uneasy about giving myself a label.

Then I discovered Alicia Silverstone's book (and blog!), The Kind Life, and realized there was a way to talk about these choices that was just that:  kind. No one listens when you shout and throw red paint all over the place (looking at you, PETA). And I watched the film Food, Inc., which made me think a lot about the food choices I make, not just for me, but for my entire family! The animal industry has a huge impact on our lives. It's not about unethical treatment of animals (though it is about that too):  it's about abuse of power, ignorance, and a scary, growing trend in our country where healthy foods are almost prohibitively expensive and fast food and processed meals full of chemicals, fats, and other unhealthy elements are so easily accessible.

Something just clicked.

What does it mean to be vegan?  I don't eat animals (meat) or animal products (dairy, eggs, etc.) and try my best to avoid anything overly processed (this is a more RAW element of the diet. I occasionally have tofu, tempeh, or veggie burgers, but I try to avoid chemicals or any words on labels that I don't really know.) I eat a lot of veggies, fruits and whole grains. Yummy stuff, like this:

black beans and tomato corn salad

steamed artichokes w/ garlic "butter"

roasted Italian veggie pizza (cheese free!)
I made a decision for my health, and it's pretty much changed my life.  I have an amazing amount of energy--Q and I have been biking 20 miles or more a week (I used to have trouble biking 5 miles).  My skin as we speak is almost completely clear (though it did get worse in the first 2 weeks before it got better, which I read is pretty common).  I've lost a little over 6 pounds in a month, pretty effortlessly. I feel healthy. I'm not on a diet, so I don't feel deprived. I love the food I eat. I love cooking new recipes. And all of that no-chemical stuff has become important to me as well..I switched my skincare products to all natural, and have been slowly replacing items in our house with natural  products.  Even Q is pretty much eating what I eat, except for the occasional milk/cheese or lunch item.

I think about cooking, but I don't think about "food" all the time. I feel good about my body, even though I'm nowhere near my goal weight.  I love having the energy to do all the things I want to do and feeling my body getting healthier from the inside out. 

Think I'm a little crazy for going veg?  Q sent me this great article when I told him I was first considering the idea.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I'm hoping to share a little bit of my journey here, including a family-friendly vegan recipe each week and some more posts/giveaways/etc. about eco-friendly living. You know what is really eco-friendly too?  Buying vintage! :) 

Thanks for letting me share with you.  Do you have questions? Comments? Concerns?  Share them below!



TeenaBugg38 said...

Good for you!! I struggle with a LOT of those same issues only more so....I am extremely overweught and am the mom of 5 boys.....that alone would make anyone tired I guess. I don't eat "that " badly but I have an extremely hard time dropping even a few pounds. I have toyed with this idea too and am interested in seeing waht kind of family friendly recipes you come up with...thats my biggest hurdle. Thank you for sharing your story and continued good luck on your journey!!

Rici said...

I am so excited for you! I can't wait to hear all about your journey and I can't wait to see some yummy new recipies I can try for my family!! Good luck dear!

Anonymous said...

I love this! I was borderline vegan (I ate cheese every once in awhile) for 5 years, and then started eating meat. I'm in the process of cutting out meat (again) and feel great! I'm so happy to hear that you've had such success and new found energy! Congrats.

Rachel @ A Cupcake for Moose said...

What a well written post! Way to take control of your body and find something that works. Your thoughts about changing the human heart and being kind before we can learn to respect animals is so true. Food, Inc. was such an eye opener for me, but it really is about being kind and respecting one another, isn't it? I can't wait to click your links and learn more about veganism and healthy choices in general. Best of luck to you! Thanks for sharing your "secret!" :)

jamie said...

That's great Amanda. I was practically vegan before I became pregnant with Dorian (just ate cheese and egg while out at restaurants) and am headed back to being an ovo-vegetarian pretty quickly. I am actually toying with the idea of keeping chickens right now (as opposed to paying $5/dozen at the farmer's market). Dorian has never had meat and he's as healthy as can be. I became a vegetarian four years ago and it has been a great choice for my body.

I was worried about discrimination, but mostly what I've found is support. I wish you the best!

AParrish said...

Amanda, I was reading your outfit post on the Miskabelle blog the other day and thought you looked great--I've tried--and failed :(--to be a vegetarian before, but I read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals last winter and it really made me reconsider, not just the meat I ate (or didn't), but the low fat blueberry muffin and iced coffee + skim milk combo that had become my on-the-way-to-work breakfast. Lots of love.

Amanda (P)

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

I'm glad to hear you've gotten your energy back! And, um, I'm pretty sure low iron CAN make you tired, regardless of what that crackpot lady told you. Glad you're not going back to her!

I've been a vegetarian for almost 3 years now and wish I'd done it sooner. My main reason was factory farms. It was something I'd been thinking about for a while already, and I met a new friend who kindly and gently told me why she was one - no pressure, no guilt - and it clicked for me, and I've never looked back. It's all in the presentation, people! :) Being judgmental is no way to get someone to listen to you. I think you've presented it beautifully. And you are totally right that making one change towards health in your life leads to others!

I got quite a bit heavier a few years ago, which, for me, was mostly the result of some really horrible things I was dealing with in life at the time. I had zero energy and didn't make great food choices. At some point, I got caught up in wanting to be "skinny" again and failed miserably at losing any weight. When I finally shifted my focus to health and energy (as you have now done), the weight started coming off. I no longer was putting pressure on myself to be a certain size, which is highly overrated anyway, and freed myself up to lose weight with the right mentality. That's why it worked. I did lose my last few stubborn pounds when I stopped eating meat. But I didn't go veg to lose weight. I've never become anemic; I try to make smart choices and get plenty of protein from other sources. I bet your iron is much better now, even not eating meat, because you're consciously taking in other sources and probably a wider variety of foods. For instance, I had never heard of quinoa before and probably never would've touched the stuff if someone had handed it to me on a plate...but when I stopped eating meat, I started trying new foods and found out that not only is it yummy, but it's loaded with protein.

Anyway, it sounds like you've found a lifestyle that really works for YOU, and I'm happy for you! Looking forward to the recipes!

Amanda said...

Thank you SO much, fantastic ladies! I feel so supported and really excited to share these yummy recipes and more about my lifestyle change.

I promise not to preach. ;)


Anonymous said...

Props to you Amanda. About a year or so ago, my husband and I were vegans for a month. We felt wonderful... the energy was amazing. However, it was so difficult for us. Every time we turned around, we had issues at restaurants or while at friends houses, picnics etc. It felt very limiting, and sometimes even stressful when we live a very much "on the go" lifestyle. Not only that, but people are VERY judgemental, we heard all of the comments. I am sure there are ways around all of that, but we ended up caving and going back to meat and dairy. I think being a vegetarian would be much easier than vegan, it seems to the be dairy that is just simply in EVERYTHING... Best of luck on your journey. It really does give you better energy and better skin.