It started when someone posted a photo of the "pink slime" on Facebook...it nauseated me and I couldn't stop thinking about it! Then, on a long car trip, my boyfriend and I stopped at a rest area (breeding ground for non-health?) I was starving and in true road-trip mindset thought I'd splurge on a burger and fries. My meat-eating boyfriend said, "I thought you weren't eating that pink slime anymore?" and immediately the image of the goo and thoughts of what go into it floated into my brain. That was enough to keep me away.
Since then I haven't touched fast food, and am now fully transitioned into eating vegetarian. If you think cutting out meat sounds difficult, this BBQ-loving girl made the decision to go veg and hasn't had a single craving for meat. In fact, from reading so much about the health problems associated with animal products as well as the cruel abuse of farm animals (a few pages of info that made me sob on the floor of living room), I'm now mostly disgusted instead of hungry when meat crosses my mind.
I’ve always been someone who thought I was a healthy eater. In college I was a dancer, I went to the gym every day, and I was extremely thin. I was also totally neurotic, counted every calorie obsessively in my head, and ate the exact same thing 7 days a week. If I went shopping and couldn’t fit into the size 0 jeans, it would depress me. To me, healthy food meant that the label read “non-fat”, “reduced calorie”, “low-carb”, but all I ate was animal products or things that came in boxes, with hardly any life-giving veggies thrown in. Thinking back, I clearly had some version of an eating disorder that led me to be obsessive compulsive about food and have a completely unhealthy body image.
In the years after I graduated from college, somehow my eating habits went from obsessively starving myself to eating way too much restaurant and bar food, or having a sodium-filled “healthy frozen meal” for dinner and then inhaling a bag of candy or a row of cookies meant to be 5 servings. Luckily, I still went to the gym every day and walked a lot since I was in NYC, but I definitely wasn’t making good choices.
Now my lifestyle has changed quite a bit. No longer a dancer or a gym-rat, I do yoga and Pilates daily instead. I try to concentrate on being in shape, but also being happy and at peace rather than obsessive and neurotic. I’m sure I haven’t done away with every bit of neurosis (just ask my boyfriend!), but I make an effort every day to try. I’ve changed my diet to a TRULY healthy one, one is which I don’t drive myself insane counting calories all day, but instead I follow a plant-based diet as free of processed foods and animal products as possible.
As soon as I began eating this way, I started to feel healthier. I even notice if I have a weekend where I’m eating more processed foods and just plain chowing down for a couple days, I feel pretty awful. It only takes a day of eating meals filled with veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, and good grains like wild rice to start feeling better. I don’t find myself needing coffee for energy and even manage to stave off most sugar cravings (my weakness.)
I’ve found that what’s changed my habits so drastically has simply been educating myself. For many reasons, yoga and Pilates seem to go hand in hand with overall healthy living and a plant-based diet. Not that everyone who does yoga is a vegetarian, but it seems that many are and through learning more about yoga I began reading, reading, and reading some more about nutrition based upon eating WHOLE FOODS, not the crap the food industry would have you think is food. I began with Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”, which really opened my eyes to the concept of getting nutrients through whole foods and cutting down animal products as being the only way to truly get enough nutrients as well as be responsible toward the planet. Since then, I’ve finished Kris Carr’s “Crazy Sexy Diet” (she managed to stave off a rare cancer that everyone said was inoperable, incurable, and would kill her by changing her diet and lifestyle to one that was green, clean, and stress-free) and I can’t stop reading.
My advice for everyone is to do yourself a favor and pick up a book and teach yourself how to truly nourish yourself. Eating plant-based, natural, chemical-free, and low on animal products will help you maintain a healthy body, and by healthy I mean disease-free, not size 0. You don’t have to immediately become a vegan, but simply cutting down dramatically on the amount of meat, dairy, and processed foods you consume and replacing them with colorful, amazing veggies will lower your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Eating shouldn’t be something you do without thinking, but rather should be done with a true mindfulness. Food keeps you alive and well, but you diet could also be sending you to an early grave. Take them time to learn about eating well. It’s the responsible thing to do for yourself, the planet, society, and your future children.