My grandfather’s passing meant losing the leader to my tribe, it meant losing a mentor I so dearly care for. It also gave me a new sense of awakening. It made me question my actions in ways I never had. After his passing I realized how much of an influence one person can really have on themselves, their community, and especially the people they love most. It became a catalyst to so many changes in my personality, including my relationship with food.
That year I started experimenting with food; I was more than curious to learn about the impact of food on the human body. At the same time, my mom was studying to become a health coach. I used to eagerly listen to some of her online lectures with her, try her new recipes, look for TED talks about wellness, and I constantly read trying to find out more. It has all that consumed my mind. I was constantly learning about how our body uses the food we eat, when we should eat, what we should eat, how we should eat, and basically unlearning all that I have ever known about the human relationship with food. I started to look at food in a different light. Food started to look more like fuel to a car’s engine rather than something we just get to enjoy. We are lucky that the source of which we get our energy is also something we can enjoy but there is so much more to food than just enjoyment.
The food that excited me started to change, I went from eating pasta with a side of chicken pané at our school cafeteria to walking around campus with mason jars filled with bananas, dates, avocados, almond, milk, spinach, you name it; I probably had it in one of my smoothies. I started snacking on fruits and vegetables rather than turkey sandwiches and God forbid you ever saw me even looking at a juice box.
I started to eat clean for the sake of clear skin, a healthy gut, and what I really wanted to heal was joint pain. After my grandfather’s passing and the increased amount of pressure and stress I was facing in school, I started to feel an oozing amount of pain in my bones and joints. Many days I would cry because of how painful it was and I made it my mission to find a solution to that. I was very eager to find an answer that didn’t include putting antibiotics and pain relievers down my gut; as my love for clean eating heightened, my love for alternative medicine did too. Because of my constant research and reading, I had an idea of what it takes to relieve the pain, and that was following a plant-based diet.
Until that point, I was still occasionally consuming dairy products but fish and poultry were definitely part of my weekly, if not daily, consumption and refined sugar was still occasionally an evident factor in my diet. I knew if I could decrease the amount of animal products I consume as well as eliminate refined sugar from my diet, I could relieve my body from the pain I was feeling. I kid you not, quitting some of my favorite foods was definitely a challenge but going vegan was something I really had to give a chance, as it became my long-term goal.
I knew that in order to achieve it, I had to learn more about what it encompasses. I started learning about the benefits of a vegan diet by watching every single documentary that related to the vegan lifestyle. I watched Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, That Sugar Film, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and last but not least Cowspiracy, the most influential documentary I have watched to date. Whilst watching all these documentaries I started making the change gradually – I first became pescetarian, vegetarian, and then eventually vegan.
Since January 22nd 2016, I have been conscientiously following a wholefoods vegan diet. Going vegan helped me in many different ways the first noticeable change was in my level of awareness towards my surroundings. I questioned how everything is made. From food to clothing, my perception towards the process of making goods shifted. I no longer wanted just the end product but I now wanted the product that had less of a carbon footprint for the sake of the environment, that wasn’t made in a sweatshop for the sake of human rights, and that wasn’t raised in an industrial farm for the sake of animal rights. I felt like I could really have an impact on my health and the environment by following a vegan lifestyle, and now looking back at my year of veganism, I can at least guarantee that I have definitely changed my own life.
I have definitely been able to decrease the level of joint pain I feel and that means the world to me. It has made me emotionally way more invested in this lifestyle because it drastically improved my physical well being. I definitely believe I’m on the right route. I’m still learning about my body and what works best with it but I started somewhere and that’s what counts. Finding a wellness goal and sticking to it means you get to dedicate yourself to some form of self betterment and there is nothing more empowering than developing yourself for the sake of your own well being.