I’m pretty new to this blog thing. Truth be told, I’m winging it! I love to geek out and share all kinds of nutritional info with you, but I think it’s important that I share a bit about myself! So this post is going to be personal, REAL personal.
So, buckle your seatbelt, we about to go deep y’all.
You may or may not know that I am a vegan. I really don’t even like that word, “vegan”. I remember when people used to tell me they were vegan before I myself was one, and I immediately thought, “This chick thinks she’s better than me” and “Here comes the lecture about why I’m a horrible person because I eat chicken”.
I don’t want to be an angry vegan.
One of my favorite authors and podcasters, Rich Roll, has coined the term “Plant Powered” and that’s what I roll with. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about animal rights or the environment, I just think it’s important that as a plant powered person, I don’t act like a raging lunatic forcing my political agenda on the general population. I want people to eat more plants, not be running from me because I’m preaching the gospel of veganism.
Am I perfect? Hell no! Sometimes I get on my soap box, and I usually realize it as the words are coming out of my mouth and I can’t stop it.
Overall, I try and spread the message of eat whole foods, mostly plants, most of the time.
I wasn’t always vegan. I used to love my McDonald’s quarter pounders, my Chick-Fil-A friend chicken, pizza, all the goods. I even used to date a guy whose brother was vegan and I thought, “What a weirdo! Why deprive yourself??”
My current partner, Nick, and I have three kids. Sophia, my oldest, just turned 7. Then there’s Penelope (affectionately called Lo LO) who’s 2 and Vasili, my baby boy, who’s 1. I am 32 years old. When I had Sophia, I was YOUNG, like 25 years old young. I remember I got pregnant, gained a bunch of weight, had my daughter in May, and was back in a bikini two months later riding jetskis with Nick.
Then came age and two kids back to back. There was no more bouncing back.
I had Penelope when I was 29 and three months after I had her, we found out I was pregnant again. 9 months later, when I was 30, Vasili made his way into the world. My body was completely different from anything I’ve ever known it to be. I would look in the mirror and think, “Whose body is this!??!?!” My average weight before the babies was about 130, give or take 10 pounds. After having Vasili, I weighed in at 220 pounds.
I had never experienced what it was like to be heavy. Man, did I take that for granted. Everyone kept saying, “Go easy on yourself! You just had two babies!”. But, let’s keep this real. It was so hard for me. I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. For the first time, I had stretch marks, I had to buy new jeans (size 16) and felt so incredibly self-conscious.
I remember right after having Vasili, the kids, Nick and I went to the indoor pool at the YMCA. I have never been more aware of my body as I was that day. Before we even got to the pool, I had to go to Kohl’s to buy a one-piece maternity bathing suit because nothing I had even remotely fit. I ended up getting the only one that fit, it was bright orange. I mean, BRIGHT orange. I literally looked like a felon. I wore a pair of Nick’s swim trunks on the bottom, to cover up my thighs. As I waded around the pool with all the other moms and kiddos, I couldn’t even be present to enjoy the swim time with my babies. All I could think about was how fat I felt. I was wondering what other people were thinking of me. Did they know I just had a baby? Do they think I’m fat?
It was exhausting.
On top of not feeling great in my body, I had ZERO energy. I mean, zero. It took everything in me just to stay awake all day. I would usually start my day out with a big plate of eggs, bacon and toast. It was delicious, but afterwards, I just wanted to nap. I couldn’t drink a ton of caffeine because I was breastfeeding, so I was on my own. Most days, all I could do was sit on the couch and watch my kids play.
And my mood. To put it nicely, I was cranky. All the time. I didn’t want to be, but I just always had this irritability. On top of being cranky and tired, I always felt like I was in a haze. Like I never really woke up from my sleep the night before.
In October of 2015, I had had enough. I actually remember the day, October 27. It’s the day I finally decided to do something different.
I have been blessed with beautiful people in my life and yoga, both of which have taught be about prayer and meditation. I began to pray for an intuitive thought, asking Mother Spirit (or God, or Universe, or High Power, or whatever you call that thing that is greater than yourself) to guide me to a path of health and wellness. My prayer often sounded like “Spirit, show me how to be healthy today”. That’s it.
In my meditation, I would get this nagging feeling to eat more plants. I know that sounds so crazy, but it’s true. Then Mother Spirit started putting plant powered people into my life.
A guy named Phil told me to read this book called “The Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn. That book changed the trajectory of my life. I learned that a vegan, or plant based diet, is not in fact, crazy or rooted in deprivation. He talked about all the foods you could eat, why they were good for you, what effect they had on you and, most importantly, the science behind a plant based diet.
My family is rampant with diabetes and heart disease and I knew innately that I was on the path to both if I didn’t change anything.
So it all started with making a decision, and that decision was…I AM WORTH IT.
I am one of those all or nothing people, so there was no transitory period for me. I was all in. No more meat, dairy or eggs for me. No more Chick-Fil-A drive through. I started to eat a whole foods, plant based diet.
In the beginning, I thought it was going to be super expensive and super difficult. I was so wrong. In fact, it was a lot cheaper than eating junky carryout everyday. I started getting back into cooking, a passion that I had dropped many years ago because I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to do it anymore. I started googling plant based recipes, searching for plant based bloggers and podcasts (that’s how I found Rich Roll), and became a plant powered machine.
I didn’t lose weight immediately, but I did gain a TON of energy. So much so, that I started going to the gym everyday. I would pack the kids up in the van and drive over to the gym where they went off to the kid’s room and I went to the weights. At first, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. But, I didn’t let that stop me. I showed up anyway and just moved my body.
After about a week, I remember the brain fog lifting. At the time, I didn’t know I had brain fog. I didn’t know it until it was gone. I had never been so clear and focused in my life.
There was something to this plant based diet after all.
Then my skin cleared up. I thought I was doomed to acne for awhile because of all the hormones associated with just having a baby and breastfeeding. I was wrong. Plants fixed that problem for me. My skin not only cleared of any acne, but it started to have this healthy, radiant glow about it. It was awesome.
For the first few months, I didn’t have much weight loss. A few pounds here and there, but nothing drastic. I was discouraged, to say the least. I kept reading on different blogs that people went plant based and they lost like 50 pounds in a day. Or at least that was my perception. But I DIDN’T GIVE UP. How could I? I was feeling more alive than I had ever felt in my entire life! I had energy to workout for a couple hours AND play with my kids all day, all without an afternoon nap or a venti coffee from Starbucks.
After about five or six months, the weight started to fall off.
After 1 year, I lost 80 pounds.
But, more than losing 80 pounds, I also started to become aware of how my food choices affect the environment, the animals and the future of the world. Every second, 2 football fields worth of Amazon rainforest are bulldozed to make room for animal agriculture. In fact, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from all transportation. I also started to learn about conventional farming practices, the absolutely horrendous conditions that these animals are forced to “live” in, and I use the term “live” loosely. And then there’s the amount of water it takes to support all these animals.
It was astonishing, and I will probably do a future blog post on this topic alone.
My favorite quote of all time is by Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better”. I couldn’t unlearn what I was learning, and my diet started to align with my unique set of spiritual principles. When people said things to me like, “You’re not a baby cow, why would you drink cow’s milk?”, I understood that. Or, “What’s the difference between eating a chicken and eating your pet dog?”. That made sense to me.
Fast forward two years and going plant based has changed everything about my life. Not only have I lost almost 100 pounds in a healthy and sustainable way, it has also helped me discover my passion for nutrition and health coaching, which is now my business and what I do for a living. It has allowed me to deepen my yoga practice because I am actually in tune with who I am as a human being. It has given me the gift of being awake enough to be present with my children.
If you are considering going plant based, go at your own pace. Not everyone is meant to go plant based overnight. Start eating more whole foods (i.e. things not in packages), mostly veggies, most of the time. I know it will change your life, like it did mine.
Plants for Life,
Stephanie Misanik, INHC, RYT-200