I first started experimenting with not eating dairy and eating more whole foods to try and get rid of my acne. I had tried it all — every skin cleanser, toner, lotion — but nothing worked and I still had acne. This one step kicked off my journey with healthy eating.
I had been a fast-food regular, eating my fair share of chicken nuggets, sodas, frozen meals, and endless sweets! It has been a progression of baby steps that has shaped what my diet is like today. This last year I have been learning, editing, and changing my diet and right now I'm at the point where I'm mostly vegan. By no means did I change my diet in one day — it happened slowly but surely.
I learned so much about the meat and dairy industry, and I was upset when I learned about the way many of the animals raised for food are treated. Although things like milk from cows treated with hormones haven't been proven to cause problems for people, I wasn't sure I wanted to put that in my body.
I learned that, once upon a time, all people had was whole foods with no added ingredients or removed nutrients. Now we have grocery stores that have endless aisles of pre-packaged "food" lookalikes. I analyzed these processed-food labels, perplexed at the alien-like ingredients in the food I was consuming. What on earth was I eating and what was it doing to my body?
Ironically, these ingredients aren't found in nature. They're found in chemistry labs. Processed food comes from factories, and artificial additives are usually put in. They are taken out of their natural form and salt, fat, sugar, and/or artificial ingredients are added. To make it worse, the very things that make food healthy — like fiber, vitamins, and minerals — are often removed.
I wondered if what I was eating could be the reason for my acne. Interestingly, when I changed what I ate and cut out the processed foods, my skin got clearer day by day. I also limited my meat and dairy to once or twice a month. It wasn't the easiest choice at first, but surprisingly it wasn't as hard as I thought.
As I started eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, my taste buds and food cravings adjusted. I found myself craving steamed broccoli, whole grains, and apples. My goal never was to lose weight, but my body adjusted with my new diet, looking and feeling healthier.
My family had started eating more healthy than in the past, but were far from vegan. I started going to the grocery store with my parents so I could pick out the vegan/whole foods I wanted. I get soy milk to replace milk, whole-grain bread to replace white, lots of fruits and vegetables, some canned beans, nuts, and tofu.
Sometimes it was more expensive, so it took some compromising with my parents. I always picked what was on sale and kept an eye out for coupons. My favorite breakfast is a whole-grain cereal with 10 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein.
I don't eat meat, so I have to make sure I have enough protein and other nutrients. Sometimes it is hard to find healthy food at social gatherings, but I just look for the healthiest options available and stick to those. Sometimes I'll just eat before I go or bring my own food.
Eating a mostly whole foods/vegan diet hasn't been hard for me. I thought it would be difficult at first, but once I started changing my eating habits it got easier and easier. There's no need to start cold turkey (pun not intended!).
Perhaps because I'm eating more fruits and veggies, I noticed that my appetite increased so I started eating more often throughout the day to stay satisfied. I feel like I'm getting more fiber, vitamins, and minerals and less of the bad stuff, like cholesterol and artificial additives. And I feel good knowing that by eating plant-based foods I'm helping the planet and not harming animals.
I think it's incredibly important to supply our bodies with the nutrition they need. I feel so much better when I know my body is being well taken care of from the inside out. I feel much more energetic and ready to take on the day. I like to think of it as a wheel. When I'm supplying my body with healthy foods and lots of water, the wheel spins fast and easily. However, when I feed my body unhealthy foods and not enough nutrients, the wheel struggles to turn.
People are willing to do a lot for their health and often spend money on the latest health trend. But improving our health through nutrition is often ignored. Building healthy eating habits has been a journey for me, and I seem to be learning more and more every day.
I've found my own level of dedication I want to put on health. Some people are diehard calorie counters, but that isn't the way I wanted to go. I eat mostly whole foods that keep me sustained throughout the day without counting calories. It has taken some mistakes and successes to help me learn how to make a healthy lifestyle work for me, but either way I'm learning.
I never intended to make these diet changes; it all started with wanting to get rid of my acne. I used to think vegans were crazy! Now in retrospect I feel like it's one of the best, if not the best, decision I've ever made. There are lots of healthful diets out there, but this is the one that's worked best for me.
I want to live a long, healthy, and happy life and I know having good nutrition is a vital part of that. I don't want to lose years of my life from diet-related illness when I'm a grandparent, which sadly I see happening to people around me.
It may seem like it's impossible to eat a healthier diet, but I used to think the same thing. It all started with baby steps and was a slow progression, but I don't think any other way would have worked for me.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2012
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