Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Vegan Lifestyle Is Not A Fad

Being vegan isn't something I decided to try because it was trendy or Instagram-worthy. I didn't choose to live the vegan lifestyle because I could use a hashtag to garner followers. I didn't stop eating animal products because I watched a documentary on Netflix or someone on my Facebook feed spammed it with images of slaughtered animals.

I didn't just wake up one day and decide to annoy my friends/family or be a "douchebag" as someone called me for announcing at a restaurant that I was vegan.

My vegan lifestyle is about choices and a commitment. A lifelong commitment to myself to live a healthier life. That was the initial purpose for changing my eating habits, yet, it led to an awareness of the environment and respect for animals. 

It all started last summer. [ Warning for the squeamish: I'm about to discuss female issues in graphic detail so log off now if that's not your thing.]

Curled up in a fetal position on a narrow cot in my home office racked with acute pain. That's how I spent most of my summer last year. The condition I've suffered with for over 11 years seemed to worsen in a few short months. I'll spare you the gory details because gory, they are. In short, I've suffered with uterine fibroids which entails blood, and LOTS of it. I'm talking hemorrhaging or the medical term, menorrhagia. Let's just say I was bleeding so much a Demogorgon would've climbed out of the walls, swooped me to the Upside Down and gorged hungrily on my poor body.

June 2017: I bled heavily for 24 days straight. I didn't realize my body could bleed so much for so long. On top of the heavy bleeding, I dealt with the countless accidents at home and in public. Don't get me started on the debilitating menstrual cramps. Or the packages of sanitary pads I bought almost on the daily. At least it felt like daily. Let's not talk about how I'd have to rush into the bathroom every 30 minutes at night which meant sleep deprivation added to the severe anemia I suspected I had.

July 2017: I underwent several doctor appointments, hormone tests, blood tests, lab tests, regular and pelvic ultrasounds and a freakin' endometrial biopsy. What's an endometrial biopsy? Oh, you know, when your gynecologist preps your cervix with anesthesia, then inserts a long thin tool inside to scrape tissue from your uterine lining. Why an endometrial biopsy? To rule out cancer which the doctor said was a possibility. Thank God, it wasn't. It was just the dratted fibroids wreaking havoc on my body and quality of life. Picture my uterus as the Shadow Monster and my fibroids the demodogs of my Upside Down body. 

I was prescribed a three month prescription for Provera to stop the bleeding. "If the bleeding doesn't stop after three months call us and we'll talk about other options."

W.T.F. Three months! Oh, hell nah.

It was the pivotal moment when I took control of my health. I was pissed off and fed the eff up! My body was screaming at me to stop and listen. I finally did.

I conducted my own extensive research on fibroids. Lo and behold, the common culprits of uterine fibroids were: sugar, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. I quit all four bad boys cold turkey. Okay, three since I've been lactose intolerant for decades and stopped consuming dairy.

Ignorance is bliss. My eating habits were feeding the little demodogs I call fibroids. I was drinking Kombucha every morning believing I was benefiting my gut. Wrong! Kombucha is a fermented tea high in sugar and drumroll please...ALCOHOL! Add Kombucha to my all day coffee habit, plus my glass of wine at night and the little beasts were in heaven.

August 2017: I was weeks into my no dairy/sugar/caffeine/alcohol habit when I decided to try acupuncture treatments with Melissa from Little Sage Acupuncture and Herbal Medication. She specialized in female hormonal issues which, in my desperate state, sounded like I reached the promised land. I was still taking Provera but my bleeding barely lessened. Melissa put me on weekly acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs. I won't lie, cooking and drinking those herbs TOOK a lot of will power. But I told myself, if I had no problem drinking Kombucha, I sure as hell shouldn't have any drinking herbs.

September 2017: I finally felt a difference in my physical and mental states. I weaned myself off of Provera since I noticed the Chinese herbs I was cooking and drinking were helping my cycles. Povera didn't stop my bleeding but the herbs did.

Vegans: In September, vegans crossed my path either in person or on social media. I've had vegan friends throughout my lifetime but somehow the ones who crossed my path this year made a subtle but lasting impact. They weren't the condescending vegans I've experienced in my life. They didn't spam my Facebook & Instagram feeds with images of slaughtered animals while they ate steak "occasionally" at fancy restaurants or sushi when they pleased.

The vegans I recently met didn't look down their noses at me for eating meat. No, they  were excited about their plant-based lifestyle.

My friend, Boye, was always posting pictures of his vegan food and his call to actions weren't condescending. My friend, Kat, whose been vegan for a long time also made an impression on me. My friend Tiffany, always spoke of her daughter who is vegan, and raved about how "delish" her daughter's food was. A good friend, May, has been a vegan for 12 years and I've always admired her. 

All summer my Instagram feed was filled with posts about some documentary on Netflix called, What The Health which converted a horde of carnivores (including celebrities) into vegans. I scoffed. I rolled my eyes. I had no desire to watch it. (I have yet to watch it, actually.) 

But something was happening to me. I still felt sick especially after eating meat. It wasn't like I could blame the horrid-tasting Chinese herbs because that halted my hemorrhaging.

I was always bloated, gassy, lethargic and sluggish after each meal. I still felt sick.

One night in the middle of September, my friend Krystal posted a photo of a colorful and delicious-looking plate of food. It was totally Instagram-worthy with a bunch of greens and what I thought was meat. I vaguely remember her caption saying something along the lines of it was so good you couldn't tell it was vegan.

Krystal is now vegan, too?

My interest was piqued. Krystal made being vegan FUN! Her excitement for vegan food was infectious and it was spreading.

September 27, 2017: I was working at my local coffee shop in the morning when the first thing that popped up on my Instagram feed was Krystal's picture of a medley of vegetables, vegan cheese, vegan meat and fruits. I immediately messaged her to let her know I was trying to go vegan but needed sources for iron and asked her for resources.
Krystal's post that was the
catalyst to my vegan lifestyle.

Krystal didn't hesitate in supporting me in my decision with the information she provided. She pointed me in the right direction (check out @veganbodybuilding on Instagram) and I've been a vegan ever since. I feel reborn as if I shed an entire skin that no longer served me.

I don't call my plant-based lifestyle a diet as diets imply a temporary state. A few years ago I tried the Paleo diet for three months which helped me lose a ton of weight. Yet, I never felt 100% healthy. I also tried cutting out carbs that also temporarily helped. Then I went on a pescatarian binge until an allergy panel showed I was allergic to ALL seafood.

Can you hear how loudly my body was screaming for my attention?

It was time I listened to my body. I've received mixed reactions from people which I expected. Ridicule, scorn, support mixed with skepticism, defensiveness and encouragement. I've been told not to be a douchebag vegan who annoys meat-eaters just because I said not eating meat has made me feel lighter. The few people who've supported me in this are my treasures.

I've been told it's hard to go vegan which I understand but it wasn't for me. My body, mind and spirit were ready. When you experience copious amounts of blood pouring out of your body for a month, trust me, you're ready to make a commitment to a healthier way of doing life. I refused to go on prescription meds, continue my narcotics or have surgery. I was determined to heal my body with food.

It's been four months since I've been on my vegan journey and a lifetime to go. For the first time in over a decade I FINALLY have normal and regular menstrual cycles with minimal pain that only last a maximum of five days! FIVE! A stark contrast to the 7-10 hellacious ones I've had for over a decade. My PMS went from severe on the crazy scale to just a few days of irritation. The constant mood swings decreased, too. I no longer suffer from daily headaches, bloat, or lethargy.

I feel like a whole new person. Sounds extreme but when you've suffered with so much pain and discomfort for over a decade it makes sense.

Here's the thing, what works for me may not work for you. So don't be throwin' shade at me like my spawn does for being vegan. When I live long enough to see my grandkids have their own kids then maybe, just maybe, they'll know why my vegan lifestyle was the choice to make.

Someone told me I can't call myself a vegan unless I've been one for a long time. It's been almost five months. I'm vegan, b*tch. 
One of my favorite vegan dishes I crave
is vegan pho. I don't miss meat at all. This
one is from Pho Zip in Fullerton made with
vegetable broth. 
If I could eat fideo every day I would!
I was recently introduced to this Mexican soup
by my family and have yet to make it myself.
When I go insane with cravings I go to
Colonia Publica in uptown Whittier and
build my own with vegetable broth
and all the vegetable toppings I want. 

If you're curious about going the vegan way here are a few people to follow on Instagram: 

Of course, I'm going to say follow my friend, Krystal: @burgerwithoutthemurder

My friend, Boye: @veganboye

For vegan fitness and nutrition: @veganbodybuilding

For vegan food inspiration: @veganfoodspot