When I first went vegan, I was clueless… and desperate. I had unsuccessfully tried so many “remedies” for my acne and poor digestion that I was willing to try just about anything. So when my husband suggested a vegan diet, I spent little time hesitating and jumped right in.
That’s the day my journey toward better health began. Since then, I’ve been like a sponge soaking up knowledge and applying it to my life to become healthier every step of the way.
Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned about health on a vegan diet.
Health is ever-evolving
If we’re doing it right, we’re always learning more about how to be healthy. Maybe it’s a new way of eating or a new form of exercise. It could even be discovering that something we once thought was good for us may not be. (Remember the huge marketing campaign for whole wheat? Now everyone’s finding out they have gluten allergies!) The key is taking the knowledge we gain, little or small, and using it to improve our well-being so over time we just become better.
Everyone has a different idea of what health looks like
Ask 10 people what it means to be healthy and you will get 10 different answers. Everyone is on their own journey of discovering health. Some are very green and others have been growing for years. Some people actively seek knowledge about how to be healthy and others don’t see it as a priority. It’s not for us to judge someone else’s health. We only have control of our own health and can share the knowledge we gain with others who are willing to listen.
Health is more than skin deep
The number on the scale is not a reflection of how healthy a person is. People are so focused on weight-loss that they’re willing to sacrifice their health to get there. While losing weight is a great way to take care of yourself, starvation and restriction is not the answer. On the other side, people who are naturally thin often feel like they can eat whatever they want since they don’t gain weight. Little do they know, their organs are being surrounded by visceral fat from all the junk food they eat, which could lead to diabetes.
True health is found in the food of the earth, not medication
Why is it that medications that are meant to heal the sick, come with a long list of side effects that force those people to have to take another medication? The greedy pharmaceutical industry is designed to keep people reliant on it. Yet, if we break the cycle and take control of our health, we discover that God has already given us what we need. People have cured themselves of depression, diabetes, and even cancer by eating a plant-based diet!
…but health is not just what you eat; it’s mental and emotional, too
There’s more to health than the physical body. Your mental and emotional well-being are critical to you feeling and functioning at your best. Learning to love, accept and care for myself has transformed my life by helping me to recognize and alleviate stress and anxiety. While I still do struggle with this and I have a long way to go, having this little bit of knowledge has opened up a whole new world of health and happiness for me.
You may need to forget everything you know to learn what it truly means to be healthy
As children, we rely on our parents to teach us how to live a happy, successful and healthy life. But they can only teach us what they know themselves. At some point, it’s up to us to step back and take an objective view of everything we’ve been taught. We need to decide if what we believe is in fact truth or if we just believe it to be true because that’s what we’ve always known.
Meat causes cancer
I was shocked when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, classified processed meats like hot dogs, ham and sausages were carcinogenic, meaning they cause cancer (specifically, colorectal cancer). It doesn’t stop there. They also classified red meats like beef, pork and lamb as probably carcinogenic. With this knowledge, I don’t understand how anyone can continue eating meat.
Dairy creates mucous and inflammation
Dairy is a common allergen that can cause inflammation in the body. On top of that, dairy can mess with the good bacteria in our gut that serve to reduce inflammation. Double whammy! Why do we care if we’re inflamed? Inflammation can cause chronic pain, weight gain and heart disease, just to name a few. I wrote all about the negative effects of dairy and how to ditch it for good, if you want to learn more.
Food really does impact the way you feel
It took more than 20 years of my life for me to realize there was a correlation between my upset stomach and the food I just ate. Now that I’ve started to pay attention, I can usually pinpoint what it is I ate that gave me a headache, made my stomach gurgle, or even made my face puffy the next day. Food can also have the opposite effect. There are some foods that my body loves and thrives on. When I eat these foods, I feel my best. I try to eat more of these foods and less of the ones that make me feel bad.
A whole food, plant based diet is way healthier than the SAD diet
It may sound obvious but sometimes we need to hear something multiple times before it clicks. Ask anyone to list healthy foods and I guarantee most of that list will be fruits and vegetables. Yet most people fill their plates with fatty processed foods that are slowly killing them. A vegan diet has encouraged me to explore plant foods more than ever, even though I still have access to tons of vegan alternatives to traditional animal products.
I’ll leave you with this last, and very important thing I’ve learned about health as a vegan and it can be applied to any are of your life. I hope you use the knowledge you’ve gained here and anywhere else in your life wisely.
The more you know, the harder it is
Knowledge is power. Once you have knowledge, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with it. Is it easier to not care what I put into my body and to be able to eat anything no matter where I am? Of course it is! But knowing that animals and my health would suffer because of it is not worth it to me. I choose to hold myself to a higher standard and use the knowledge I’ve gained about health on a vegan diet to constantly grow and evolve.
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