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You guys…I am SO excited to finally share one other huge adventure I am starting in 2018. As of 1/1/18, I have officially gone 100% Vegan. At first, I was going to just do this for the month of January, but then a few things happened (details below :)) and I decided…WHY NOT do a FULL year or maybe even more and SHARE it like I did for my run streak?!?!? Now, before I say anymore in this post-I need to lay a few things out there:
I am NOT an anti-meat activist in any way shape or form and DO NOT and WILL NOT cast judgement on anyone who enjoys animal products…to each his/her own!
I am NOT going to try to turn you all into Vegans, but…I would LOVE to have you guys try a “Meatless Monday” once a week and maybe just become a little bit more “mindful” of the foods you are eating and where they came from.
I welcome ANYONE to jump in and try this with me. Vegan foods have been AMAZING so far and I am loving this so much-seriously, JOIN ME and don’t worry about what anyone else may say or think. If you are at all curious…JUST DO IT!
I am NO expert. Everything I am doing with this is completely NEW to me. I have dabbled with a lot of different nutrition plans…especially ones made for athletes and guess what?!?!? They all relied heavily on MEAT and EGGS….so this is going to be uncharted territory for me, and I am not sure how it is going to work with my fitness routines. I also DO plan on picking back up on my lifting (weights) regime since I had pretty much put that on pause during the run streak, and will have to learn all about fueling my body vegan style to build muscle.
I am going to likely have a lot of trial and error (recipes, proper fuel, how I feel, energy levels etc.) with this life change…all of which I plan to share with you-both here and on my Instagram-so FUN!
Now…for my very long WHY?!?!?!
Well, to be honest there are several reasons. First, is overall health, both inside and out (for me and animals :)). Second, is I love trying fun, new, challenging things. Third, I personally have never “loved” meat and have always been a little (no, actually a LOT :)) grossed out by seeing raw meat and all of the veins, parts etc. of meat. And…finally, Why not?!?! What is the worst thing that can happen and who knows I may LOVE it…right?!?!?!? RIGHT!
I think my feelings of weariness-avoidance towards consuming animal products actually subconsciously started when I was younger. I remember struggling with an internal nagging conflict/dislike towards meat as a kiddo, and I never could figure out why. Meat was kind of just a regular part of our life, so I never really thought there was any “different” ways of eating and ate meat/animal products daily. Our family dinners always included meat, family parties were centered around meat and animal products were just a “main staple” in my life. We certainly didn’t have any vegetarians in the family and no one even talked about “Vegan” back in the 70’s-80’s. If they did, we assumed they were just crazy “hippies” who were a bit unconventional, wore Birkenstocks, and were all total animal rights activists. NOT that I am saying there was anything wrong with Vegans in the 70’s and 80’s, that was all just our uneducated judgement/assumption back in the day. My brother and I often drank cow’s milk with breakfast and dinner while growing up, because milk has “calcium” and that is what you are supposed to drink in order to grow big and strong, and feed your bones…right?!?!?!? Well, that is what most parents are led to believe (I even thought it was true-until I started researching it when we had our own kids). I learned that really, cow’s milk is meant for baby cows, just like breast milk is meant for infants. Kind of crazy when you think about that…but it does make so much sense to me now and we have cut way back on dairy with our kids in the last few years.
The word “vegetarian” never really entered my mind until my freshman year of college at the University of San Diego in 1996. I was 18 years old, living away from home for the first time, and ordering my own foods, cooking and navigating life on my own. I remember I was eating a salami sandwich in the school deli one day and my sando was stacked full of meat. It also had swiss cheese and an awesome top layer of fresh veggies on it. After two bites, I opened the sandwich and removed all of the salami. I don’t exactly know why, but that day, I simply liked the way the veggies and cheese tasted and felt the salami over powered my sandwich and I just didn’t want it. It got me thinking…why exactly do I put meat on all of my sandwiches? Then I started thinking about why I added chicken or beef to my veggie rice bowls, and shrimp to my stir fry dishes, and so on. I realized, it was because that’s what I had ALWAYS done…but it was not necessarily because I actually enjoyed it! From that day forward, I spent the majority of my freshman year of college a Vegetarian. I still ate other animal products like cheese, eggs and milk…but cut out all meat. It felt great. I actually enjoyed this lifestyle and dabbled with vegetarianism, off and on for years. Yet, I never fully committed to it, likely because meat and the “importance of protein” always stayed so mainstream and I just felt like it was annoying to be the “vegetarian” in a group when we ate out or went to friends houses for dinner. I also was worried that I wasn’t providing my body enough nutrients if I didn’t eat meat. Finally, I just wasn’t in tune with my body like I am now, and simply didn’t really understand much about nutrition at that stage of my life.
Fast forward to about two months ago in the end of 2017. For many reasons, I became interested in exploring the world of vegetarianism again. This time though, I had already cut out almost all dairy and gluten (this was from when I had competed in an NPC fitness competition in 2015), so I started to think, why not try going fully Vegan this time around? I thought about it, but it just felt “too extreme” and I felt it would be “too hard” because lean meat and eggs are a main staple in my families diet. Yet, I also had a health reason to try it. I had some type of hormonal imbalance going on, and had not gotten a period in almost 3 years. I know you are all likely thinking this is b/c I work out and run so much, but every blood test and body fat test said that was not the case and it was just an unsolved mystery-not that I minded not having a period for awhile-lol :)) After trying several different things to jump-start my period, nothing was working. Hmmm, I thought…maybe I really should cut out ALL animal products (which would remove most (if not all) of the hormones pumped into my body from all of the animal products we eat) and that may re-set my body and do the trick?!?! So, in November, I cut out meat/eggs completely. It was hard at first (especially eggs), but I did it. Admittedly, I was still really uncertain about committing to veganism as a lifestyle, but I wanted to see what would happen. Kind of crazy guys, but guess what?!? That month, 3 weeks later, my period came back…and I was running/exersizing more than ever at this point (as it was the end of #run365withjen). Hmmm, I thought…maybe our food really IS causing more health problems that we all realize.
Then, one night in late December…I found myself scrolling through documentaries on Netflix and randomly came across one called Vegucated. I had heard of it, but never really watched any Vegan documentaries and honestly, don’t watch much TV at all. Yet, for some reason, I was watching TV that night, and this documentary peaked my interest. I had also recently started following vegan Instagram accounts and “Googling” vegan fitness plans and vegan athletes, so I thought this would be interesting. I was really intrigued to know what the vegan hype was about. While I was watching “Vegucated” (a MUST SEE-seriously watch it when you have time- here is a link to the trailer: https://youtu.be/x18h4HYBLUc) that night, SO MUCH started to click in my mind. I started to truly connect to the plant-based lifestyle on a deeper level than just nutrition. That feeling, coupled with my growing curiosity in this lifestyle started to make me realize, I really did want to go full force vegan in 2018 for even more reasons that just overall health. Those same familiar feelings that I subconsciously felt as a child came back out, but with a higher level of understanding and compassion. After the documentary ended, I watched another…”Forks Over Knives” (trailer link: https://youtu.be/O7ijukNzlUg ) and had the same crazy feelings of, “I HAVE TO GO FOR THIS” as I did with Vegucated.
Honestly, I am still not quite sure what the heck to believe about our food. Yet, I can say this…look at what cutting out animal products did for me, (2) periods in 2 months after 3 straight years of absolutely no menstrual cycle (TMI-I know…but have to share as maybe this will help someone else going through the same thing :)). It could have also just been a complete coincidence that it came back when it did, but after reading/watching all of the info about the vegan lifestyle…I think it might have actually done something great to my insides.
So, with all of that rambling…I’m all IN on this vegan idea. I’m ready to make this a new part of my life…a new challenge/goal for 2018, and I am thrilled to share it with all of you. I have not eaten any animal products whatsoever and feel GREAT. This actually doesn’t feel like a short lived phase either, because I am loving how I feel so far…but who knows-I am still in the exploration stage and I am always open to new ideas. For now, I am committed to this goal for 2018 and I could not be more excited. Plus, it was yet another thing that led me start this “lifestyle” blog which will include, food, fitness, fashion, mom life and more. I feel grateful to be on this path and can’t wait to see how this makes me feel after a year. In the last few weeks, I’ve watched a few other documentaries, read books, articles and immersed myself in learning everything I can about plant-based nutrition. The health benefits seem endless and I am loving what I am reading/learning. So far, being vegan isn’t as hard/limiting as society has made it out to be. Sure vegan life is unfamiliar to me, and has been slightly difficult at times-just like anything else you do for the first time, but overall it’s been AWESOME. I feel so good and it hasn’t been about deprivation, dieting or counting calories, it’s been about adding in foods my body loves and recognizes as actual food that it can easily process and use for fuel. Remember, food is fuel, energy, nourishment and YUMMY!!!!
Many people may have a gut reaction to this and think, “Ugh, what exactly is left that you CAN actually eat?” which I totally can relate to (cause I kind of thought that myself when I first started)…but, I have to tell you-I have been eating tons of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and yes, even a little “Enjoy Life” Dairy Free dark chocolate (for all of you chocolate-holics). I have tried SO many new recipes already and am still learning all about this new lifestyle every day.
Whether you want to join me and jump into this 100%, because you have been thinking about it as well…OR take baby steps and incorporate more vegetables into your daily life, do a meatless Monday or simply eat a bit more healthy in 2018, it is completely up to you. There is absolutely no “right” way to eat, simply new and unique ways you can try as you incorporate more health into your diet. You have to find what works for you. Nutrition and health is a constant journey and a learning process. I am still unsure of where this adventure will lead me, but I am SO PUMPED. My family is also excited to start doing “Meatless Monday’s” with me. They do not want to give up meat completely and again THAT IS OK, I want them to do what feels right for them, just like I want you all to do what is right for YOU. Vegan lifestyle, here I come. I look forward to learning more and sharing everything I learn on this journey with all of you.
Cheers to good HEALTH, trying new things and SHARING more in 2018.