I am Johanna, a 23-year-old college graduate. I fought my battle through high blood sugar and high cholesterol along with dropping off those extra pounds which I had gained due to stress and depression. Now, I persistently make an effort live a healthy life so that I can reap its benefits to live a long and happy life ahead. Here’s my story:
Dealing with those extra pounds
Although I follow a plant based, vegan diet at this point in my life, I did not always eat this way. Two years ago, I was 25 pounds heavier than I am now (140 lbs, 5’3’). How changing my lifestyle changed my life for better. Although, I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian (a vegetarian who does not eat meat but eats eggs and dairy), but that wasn’t helping, probably because my dairy intake was high. The additional weight made me more depressed, and this depression made me eat more.
In the first 6 months of transitioning into a plant-based diet, I dropped about 6 pounds. The most dramatic weight loss occurred once I made the complete switch to a vegan diet, in which I lost 19 additional pounds! A side bonus of the weight loss was that I just started to feel better about myself and be happier. My depression went away and I found out how to heal myself holistically through certain foods.
It all hit me about a year ago when I went to the doctor for a blood test. The blood test results were shocking with a very high overall cholesterol score and peaking blood sugar levels. Since I was already following a vegetarian diet, my doctor suggested that there was no other option than to start with Lipitor to control my cholesterol. I was 22 at that time and here I was, thinking about the possibility of taking heart medication. I simply didn’t want to start with these pills at such a young age. I told my doctor that I would check up with him in about 6 months.
How I did it?
I geared up for a transition from an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet to a plant based, vegan diet. Though, I did not make the full transition until about January of this year, but I did cut out dairy at that point whilst still consuming eggs once a week. The results of my second blood test were absolutely amazing! My cholesterol dropped about 60 points and my blood glucose levels were back to a normal state. And I did all of this by changing my diet!
How changing my lifestyle changed my life for better
Along with following a plant-based diet, I enjoy exercising in ways that are fun for me. I enjoy going on long walks or hikes and submersing myself in nature. I practice yoga about once a week, which is something that I definitely want to do more often.
One of the biggest challenges with following a plant based vegan diet is going out with friends and family. It gets easier with practice, but I had to experiment with some creative ideas, while ordering food in restaurants. Although my friends and family are supportive, I feel that this type of lifestyle is relatively misunderstood. I get a lot of negative feedback and comments from people, and I really wish that others could be more open about this lifestyle and learn about its benefits. Eating this way has makes me feel amazing and I am in the best shape I have ever been! I have become more conscious of what I put on and into my body since making this life change.
Friends/family offering food
It can sometimes be a challenge in daily life or when one is out to say “no” to processed, unhealthy, and non-vegan foods. For example, the other week my sister made a fantastic looking peach cobbler from scratch, but due to its “not so healthy” ingredients, I told myself that I wouldn’t eat. After having a small taste, I decided not to eat an entire piece. I felt a bit guilty while refusing to eat it but then I reaffirm that I have chosen to avoid these types of foods because they simply don’t make me feel my best. Some friends and family members understand, while some others don’t. For those who don’t, I just hope they understand that the “healthy” preferences are for my better health.
Johanna’s Tips to Stay Healthy
1. I drink a lot of water. My current goal is to drink about 3 liters of water a day which keeps me hydrated and flushes the toxins out of my body.
2. I try to sneak fruits and veggies into every meal time. It can be a pain to count the servings of fruits or veggies, so I’ll just mix them into meals to guarantee that I’m getting enough. For example, I sprinkle some berries to my oatmeal in the morning or make a great smoothie.
3. I try to limit going out to eat as much as possible. When I go out to eat, I try my best to go to restaurants that offer healthy options, where the whole ingredients can be seen in the meal. I try to limit eating Thai or Indian curries because it’s a mixture where the ingredients can’t be seen as isolated ingredients.
4. I let myself indulge when appropriate. I will definitely eat a vegan chocolate chip cookie or treat about once a week if I’m craving it. Although it’s highly processed and has little nutritional value, I let myself eat it because it prevents me from eating 10 later due to previous deprivation.
5. I remind myself that every meal is an opportunity to do better. Every time I eat, I aim for it being a healthy meal, maybe healthier and more creative than the last. This pushes me to try new tastes and cooking methods.
6. I don’t beat myself up. If I slip up or eat something that is unhealthy for me, I remind myself that I am only human, and that it will become part of a learning process to do better in the future.