Wellness Connection

Alicia Marie


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Turning Mirrors into Windows: A Reflection on Veganism

I have been enjoying my ride from vegan train’s caboose for a fresh five months!

I stayed true to this lifestyle through the holidays (minus a few cheat bites here and there-but in all honesty they were far and few between) and I will soon be arriving at my half year mark. As the season transitions into lovely springtime, I see this as a perfect time to reflect on my journey thus far.

I will share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. My honest observations are yours to digest and receive as you will. Enjoy.

Never once have I felt deprived or malnourished.

I think the most challenging aspect of a vegan lifestyle is hands down social. I mean that more in terms of your interactions with others than restaurant selections (which frankly are not usually ideal.)  There are going to be people who think you are crazy and who question your diet. You build a thick skin by overcoming this. Having your view challenged is really quite beneficial. It is good to take the time to research other perspectives and educate yourself as these questions/criticisms come along. It is valuable to have evidence-fact based responses, confidence and acceptance that some people just will not get it or believe it. (Not that it is a matter of belief…it is science 😉 )

As for cravings, I did not experience any uncontrollable or difficult urges to indulge in dairy or animal byproducts. BUT, after eliminating these foods from my diet, a massively negative aspect of my diet became apparent: I had a big sugar addiction. This craving magnified when I cut out dairy. My cravings were not simply for desserts, but for other sugar rich foods such as bread.

Thus for most of the past five months, I indulged freely in vegan cinnamon rolls, tea biscuits, brownies, and many, many more sugar and oil ridden pastries. Visiting my favorite bakery soon became a habit. (I shall reiterate from previous blog posts: it is entirely possible to be a fatty vegan 😉

Eventually I noticed how drastically sugar affected my emotions. As if I don’t have mood swings enough as it is.

My simple solution has been to make smoothies daily. They fill me up, give me more energy, don’t cause a sugar crash, and they are exceptionally wonderful for fueling work outs.

In fact, there were a few days when I drank one of those recently popular green smoothies and let me tell you, the difference was like night and day. I felt light, fit, and excited for chem class—now when does that ever happen!?

The only other negative side effect I observed was a blessing and a curse. My skin went into a somewhat of a detox process and I developed a bit of acne. I have not had pimples since I was probably 13, so that was not too fun, but I felt so happy knowing that my body was getting rid of all of this unnecessary waste that it was definitely worth it. I also noted that when I ate gluten I would develop a small rash around my neck and on my tummy in addition to that uncomfortable heavy feeling I get after eating gluten-rich breads. I decided to try to eliminate gluten as much as possible and eat gluten free breads instead and this experience has been wonderful. Who wants to feel bloated? Not me.

 

A Short List of Positive Changes Derived From 5 Months of Being Vegan:

  1. My gastroesophageal reflux disease & IBS symptoms have been 99% eliminated. (Example: No more heart burn or bloating.)
  2. I have reduced my carbon footprint.
  3. I have significantly reduced my risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and various other health ailments.
  4.  I have learned so much about the food industry, health, and people. (Secret: Sometimes I feel like an undercover cop. There is so much information out there that is hidden from the public, so many business/money driven motives that dictate the way we eat. Great article from the New York Times: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.)
  5. I have more energy.
  6. I feel lighter.
  7. My palette has expanded. I have tried a bazillion different foods I had never even heard of before becoming vegan.
  8.  I have a healthier relationship with food and have developed a deep appreciate for nutrition.
  9.  I am strengthening my culinary and baking skills.
  10. I am better fueled before workouts. Example: I do not feel like I need to grab a protein bar or a glob of peanut butter or egg whites before I go on a run.
  11. I recover faster from my workouts. (I ran 8 miles yesterday for the first time in a couple months and my body did not cramp up or get too sore.)
  12. I have already started to live my dream by inspiring and educating people to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices.

I will add more to the list as they come to me 🙂


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The Balancing Act

Recently I have struggled to decide between a graduate program in nutrition or medical school for naturopathy. To help me determine my calling, I decided to schedule some shadowing and informational interviews. Today I had the wonderful opportunity of shadowing an incredibly, talented and lovingly recognized naturopathic doctor.

As we wrapped up our morning together with some final questions, I opened some discussion regarding the topic of balance.

I think that balance is a struggle for many of us. How do you balance school with friends (let alone medical school?) And how do you balance your career with your family? How do you implement a healthy diet or exercise regime into a chaotic schedule?

At the end of the day, people seek time over money. More time with their kids, to pursue their hobbies, to watch the game with their friends. This quote by the marvelous Brian Andreas truly encompasses that importance of appreciating the little things:

 

And thus my infatuation with nutrition. I find happiness and balance in filling the bellies of the people I care for and pursuing a career that will allow me to heal my peers through a different approach.

I understand that naturopaths often offer supplements as an alternative to prescriptions, but I see so much potential to heal people and reverse illnesses through a proper diet. Diet is so often the underlying problem for so many different health problems. I do not know that I honestly believe that even supplements can always provide the long lasting results of a lifestyle and diet change (granted it is difficult to make long-term lifestyle changes. Therefore counseling is often implemented into nutrition programs).

While a vegan diet may seem radical to some, there are so many testimonies from people who have survived cancer, fought heart disease, improved complicated digestion issues and so forth who have thrived off of this way of living.

I feel a great sense of power in my knowledge of health especially related to nutrition and an enthusiasm to learn more and earn recognition and credibility for the additional knowledge I gain in graduate school.

I dream of designing meal plans in impoverished schools and communities, counseling patients who must change their diet and lifestyle as a result of an illness, inspiring people to build a healthy relationship with food and a loving relationship with their body.

In finding balance in my own life, it is my greatest desire to give it back to those around me.