Vegan Views Part 1: Do it For Your Health, Not Just the Animals

I’ve shared my journey to a vegetarian lifestyle on my blog before, and I’ve shared my experience of what it was like to go vegan for a week, so now I want to share my views on veganism and my reasons for leaning toward a plant based diet.

When I first started learning about what it means to be a vegan, I thought that vegans were people who loved animals and didn’t want to bring harm to them. And while that is true of most vegans, I never really thought about people turning to a plant based diet for the health benefits.

Like most Americans, I was raised eating meat, cheese, butter, and drinking cows milk. And I was a fairly picky eater – I don’t really remember liking any vegetables until I was a teenager. I remember thinking that if I drank enough milk I would grow taller, and as a young teenager thinking that if I ate enough low-fat or fat-free dairy products I would lose weight and be healthier. Why did I think that? Because that’s either what my parents told me or what I heard on TV. But there was never really any convincing evidence behind it, that’s just what my parents had been taught and were led to believe.

I grew up surrounded by people who hunted deer, squirrels, and turkeys for food, so I never really thought much about killing animals for their meat. I even went squirrel hunting with my dad a couple of times, but never shot anything. I was a tough tomboy growing up alongside my three brothers, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for animals. My family even thought that I might grow up to be a veterinarian.

When I became a vegetarian I did it for the health benefits, not really because I felt bad that animals were being harmed. But when I had been a vegetarian for about two years, I started following a couple of vegan bloggers and learning more about what it means to be vegan. After doing a little research, I decided to go vegan for a week to see if I could pull it off. I did it and had so much fun cooking new vegan recipes. The hardest part was doing it at home with my family, not because I was tempted to eat the foods they were eating, but because I always felt like they were rolling their eyes at me or making fun of me instead of encouraging me.

As the years went on I found myself eating more vegan meals every week, but never fully committing to a plant based diet. There was this part of me, deep down, that really wanted to become vegan, but it just seemed like a lot of work and effort at the time. One of my biggest reasons for not being fully committed to a vegan lifestyle is the fact that both my husband and my family still eat meat and dairy products on a daily basis. I don’t have a problem fixing separate vegan meals for myself, but it becomes difficult to stick to this kind of diet when visiting with relatives and friends. Just this morning I was talking to my mom about Thanksgiving and what dishes everyone will be preparing, and, to my dismay, every dish she named has some form of animal product in it.

Now a days, there are plenty of vegan recipes that can be found on the internet, but the problem is that a lot of people don’t even really understand what a vegan diet is and therefore don’t know how to prepare vegan friendly meals. My biggest fear of going vegan would be that I would end up being a burden to my friends and family when going out to eat or visiting them. I don’t want to ruin everyone else’s fun because they can’t go to a certain restaurant because I wouldn’t be able to eat there. However, I’m starting to realize that I shouldn’t put off a lifestyle that I want to pursue just because it may inconvenience  the people around me from time to time. After all, this is my health we are talking about, and we only get one body.

The transition to a vegan diet these past couple of weeks has been relatively easy. Even though I haven’t been fully committed to a vegan diet over the years, I have made it a priority to stay educated and informed on all things vegan. I’ve read books, done research, followed vegan bloggers, watched documentaries, and even tried to incorporate vegan meals into my diet on a weekly basis. I believe I’ve watched just about every documentary that is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime about the food industry/plant based lifestyle  – “Food, Inc.”, “Forks Over Knives”, “GMO OMG”, “Cowspiracy”, “Live and Let Live”, “Hungry for Change”, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (1 &2)”, “Vegucated”, “Food Choice”, “Fed Up”, “Food Matters”, “The Kids Menu”, “Cooked”, “Farmageddon”, “Super Size Me”, “Bite Size”, “Sugar Coated”, etc. Seriously, I’m a documentary junkie! And while some of these documentaries are in favor of animal products, they are still worth a watch.  I encourage everyone who hasn’t seen these documentaries to go watch them! Even if you aren’t interested in pursuing a vegetarian/vegan diet it is still so eye opening to see how the food industry has brain washed us.

Honestly, I get really tired of people who question my knowledge on the subjects of health and nutrition. Yes it’s true that I didn’t study medicine or nutrition in college, but that doesn’t mean that I am not educated on these subjects. I’m not claiming to be an expert or saying that I know it all. And no, I don’t just read random people’s blog posts about health and nutrition and take that to be truth. I do my research, I read news articles from credible sources, I read what both medical doctors and holistic doctors have to say, I read books, I watch documentaries, and I have my own experience as well as that of friends and family to base my judgments on. I studied journalism in college and I know how to research and find credible sources.

I know that in my own personal experience, I have been the happiest and healthiest since giving up meat. And now that I’ve been vegan for the past couple of weeks I feel even better. As a teenager I used to have insomnia, I struggled with maintaining a healthy weight, and I had really bad acne. Once I gave up meat and started eating healthier I noticed that I slept better at night, I was able to eat what I wanted without counting calories and stay at a healthy weight, and my acne got so much better. Over the past year I started noticing that my body had a problem with dairy. Every time I would eat ice cream or have something with cheese on it, I would get bloated and have really bad stomach cramps. I started taking a probiotic everyday which seemed to help, but I was still struggling with occasional cramps and bloating. It wasn’t until I gave up dairy that all of that disappeared!

I’m not saying that a plant based diet is for everyone, but I think we could all incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diets and cut back on meats and dairy. From what I’ve learned, there are plenty of connections to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. and eating animal products. Just go watch some of those documentarians that I mentioned earlier. It makes me so sad to see people that ignore these facts and continue on as they have been because it’s more “comfortable” for them. It’s not until they have a health scare that they open their eyes and realize that they might need to make some changes. And sadly at that point it might be too late. My  goal is to make healthy food choices now while I’m young, so that I can have a long, happy, healthy life. And I’d love to help other people make this choice too.

There’s a quote by Dave Ramsey, author of Total Money Makeover, that I love, and while it is pertaining to money, I think it could be applied to our health as well:

“Change is painful. Few People have the courage to seek change. Most people won’t change until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change.” ~ Dave Ramsey

Is it time for you to make a change?

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Vegan Week Victories

As many of you know, starting November 1st I decided to give up dairy products and go vegan for a week as a way to cleanse and restart for the new month. This was my second time going vegan for a week and it has been amazing. It went so well that I decided to continue on with it! I’m not sure when I’ll end up eating something with dairy in it again, but for now I don’t feel the need to.

Today I thought I’d share a little bit about the meals I’ve been eating and how I’m feeling overall.

While I did do a little bit of meal prep for my vegan week, I honestly didn’t make a bunch of fancy vegan meals. My husband won’t eat most of the vegan meals I fix, so I didn’t want to make huge quantities for myself.

For my breakfasts I had lots of avocado toast, oatmeal, and I even made up a batch of vegan waffles. And of course I had to have my coffee! Instead of drinking it with creamer like I usually do, I used almond coconut milk and a little bit of raw sugar. After a week I finally got used to it!

I don’t eat a whole lot throughout the day, so I just had some Go Macro bars, 1915 Bolthouse Farms juices, and hot teas on hand to have for lunch/snacks.

For dinners I made a huge batch of vegan Chili Mac n Cheese (Brendan actually ate it too) last Wednesday that lasted throughout the week, and I also made vegan Cauliflower Sauce Mac n Cheese for the first time. It definitely didn’t taste like normal mac n cheese, but with some practice I think I will get better at making vegan meals like that.

I ended up eating more vegan “junk food” than I had planned on. Brendan and I had Chipotle o Friday night and then Dominos pizza on Sunday night. And yes, it is possible to eat vegan at Dominos. After doing a little research, we found out that their thin crust does not have any whey in it. So, I ordered a thin crust pizza with extra sauce, spinach, and roasted red peppers. I had them hold the cheese and I just sprinkled some nutritional yeast on top.

I need to focus on incorporating more fruits and veggies into my meals, but besides that it hasn’t been very difficult to eat like this. The hardest things for me were giving up my coffee creamer and raw honey that I use in my hot teas. Besides that, I haven’t felt deprived at all.

Now, let’s focus on how I’m feeling physically.

I lost a lot of weight leading up to my wedding back in May. I felt fit, happy, and healthy. But once the stress of the wedding and moving into our new apartment was over with I ended up gaining all the weight back (and more). I tried working out every single day and using My Fitness Pal to track every single thing that I ate to lose the weight. None of that worked and I was left feeling frustrated, fat, and very unsatisfied. I stopped counting calories near the end of August and I slowly started to feel better. However, I was still not making any progress with my weight.

It wasn’t until going vegan for a week that I actually started to lose weight! I eat relatively healthy for the most part, but seeing the affects that giving up dairy products had on my body is amazing. I’ve lost about 3.5 lbs. in the last couple weeks without trying.

Weight aside, I think the real victory for me is the fact that I haven’t felt bloated or nauseaus this entire week. Recently, I had been going to bed every night with a bloated tummy. It didn’t really seem to matter how much or how little I ate, I would always be left feeling icky. I was turning to Apple Cider Vinegar water every night before bed to help ease my stomach. I think it might be safe to say that I might be a little lactose intolerant.

On top of eating a vegan diet, I have been going to the gym a couple times a week and also working out at home. While I believe exercise is important, I think that a healthy weight starts in the kitchen. Seriously, I see a difference in my abs just since going vegan.

It’s not always easy, but everyday I try to focus on how I’m feeling physically and mentally rather than focusing on the number on the scale. I always feel my best when I know I’m nourishing my body.

If any of you have considered going vegan for a week, I strongly urge you to do so! It may not be easy at first, but your body will thank you for it. 🙂

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Using Vaccines as a Crutch

Around this time last year I was writing my very first opinion article for my magazine writing class at Liberty University. Being an amateur at opinion writing, I wanted to pick a topic that was very important to me and one that I knew I could write well – so naturally I chose to write about the flu vaccine. I came across this article when I was going through some of my school papers the other day and thought that it was worth sharing. This piece I wrote last year sums up my thoughts on the flu vaccine, and while some of the statistics may have changed in a years time, I still think it’s worth a share.

I got a good grade on this article and my professor and classmates seemed to find it interesting and enjoyed reading it. I am not claiming to be a medical professional, I’m simply stating facts I have researched and my own opinion. And like I mentioned before, this was my very first opinion piece, so please be kind if you comment. 🙂

 

Using Vaccines as a Crutch

by Ashley Bunner (I wasn’t married yet 🙂 ) 11/5/2015

In a society where we demand a quick fix for everything, Americans have come to rely too heavily on doctors and medication, turning their backs on the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

We Americans expect there to be a pill or a vaccine for everything – whether it be a minor ache or if someone has something as common as a cold – and we expect doctors to give us these so called “remedies” if we pay them a visit, regardless of whether we actually need them or not. 

The problem with this is that we as a society are trained to run to the doctor for every minor illness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I respect doctors and am thankful for the medical advancements we have made and the health care options that we do have available today. However, we have become so dependent on doctors diagnosing us and giving us medications, that we have started to neglect our own health.

That may sound strange to some people that consider going to their doctors as “taking care of their health”, but what most people fail to realize is that health care starts with learning how to properly take care of their own health needs and strengthening their immune systems.

Flu season is a wonderful example of how people use doctors and medicine as a crutch for taking charge of their own health. When it comes to the flu virus, I believe that natural preventative measures are better, and certainly healthier, than opting for the flu vaccine.

According to Peter Doshi, a scientist from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 32 million doses of the influenza vaccine were available on an annual basis in the United States 20 years ago. But today, the total has reached an alarming 135 million doses.

So many people rush to get their flu vaccine as soon as pharmaceuticals start offering them – mainly because their doctors (and the government) push them to. But what these people fail to realize is that the flu vaccine can actually weaken the immune system, making them more susceptible to contracting other viruses.

“There are three reasons the government tells the elderly why they should get flu shots: secondary pneumonia, hospitalization, and death,” Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon and author of “The Blaylock Wellness Report”, said in an article on Mercola.com about the hidden risks of flu vaccines. “Yet a study by the Cochrane group studied hundreds of thousands of people and found it offered zero protection for those three things in the general community.”

Now, in my grandparent’s experience, when they received the flu vaccination, it did all but help them stay out of the hospital.

Approximately 10 years ago, my grandfather went to go get the flu vaccine. The night that my grandfather had gotten vaccinated he started feeling very ill. The symptoms increased as the night went on, and resulted in him blacking out and falling down the stairs to the basement.

He was rushed to the hospital – bruised, beaten and in a coma. My grandfather never did wake up from the coma he was in and two and a half years later, he passed away.

No one will ever know for sure whether or not the flu vaccine caused this incident, but it has certainly been one of the reasons I am wary of the vaccine.

Besides weakening of the immune system, another reason to opt out of the flu vaccine is that it contains mercury, which is known to be harmful to humans. The mercury contained in vaccines is called Thimerosal, which is an ethyl mercury-based preservative.

According to Blaylock, Thimerosal can actually act as an immune depressant, making people that get the flu vaccine much more susceptible to contracting the flu.

“They may even think the vaccine gave them the flu, but that’s not true — it depressed their immune system and then they caught the flu,” Blaylock said.

According to Osteopathic Physician Dr. Joseph Mercola, a typical dose of thimerosal-containing flu vaccine contains 25 micrograms thimerosal. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the “safe limit for human exposure to mercury is 0.1 mcg per kilo of weight per day”.

“Since almost half of the thimerosal is mercury, this means that each flu shot contains just over 12 mcg’s of mercury, which would be considered unsafe for anyone weighing less than 120 kilos, or just under 265 pounds,” Mercola said on his website Mercola.com.

So my question is, why are so many Americans opting for the flu vaccine instead of taking natural preventative measures? The vaccine weakens their immune systems, makes them more susceptible to catching the flu and other viruses and exposes their bodies to harmful metals and chemicals. While strengthening the immune system naturally – by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, drinking herbal and supplemental teas and getting plenty of rest – has no adverse side effects. 

“Fact is, your body has all the tools it needs to protect itself without a toxic flu vaccine, so long as you take safer steps – starting today – to boost your immune system,” Melissa Wood, a retired Naturopath, said on her website Stay Healthy and Well.com.

Either method you choose, vaccination or natural preventatives, there is going to be a chance of contracting the nasty virus. But for me, I think I’d rather nourish my body while trying to ward off the flu virus, instead of damaging it with a vaccine.

Weekend Wanderings

This past weekend was just the right mixture of adventure and relaxation. Between football games, adopting a kitten, and having both of my brothers stay over, the past few weekends have come and gone without much one-on-one time with my husband. So on Saturday we slept in and enjoyed the fact that we didn’t have any set plans or company coming over.

Since it was such a gorgeous autumn day, we decided to get out of Roanoke for awhile and head to Lynchburg for the day. We spent the afternoon wandering around the streets of Downtown Lynchburg and visiting some of my favorite local shops like the Farm Basket.

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This city holds a special place in my heart and continues to grow on me with each passing day. There was a time when I hated living in Lynchburg – I was starting the second semester of my freshman year of college and was tired of being in Lynchburg and just wanted to go back home. But, as time went on I came to know more about the city and I got to know the people that lived there and my heart changed. I also met Brendan in Lynchburg and that’s where our relationship blossomed. So as much as I tried to fight getting “stuck” in the Lynchburg bubble, the truth is I really do miss this beautiful little city.

Sunday was our day of rest. After getting about 5 hours of sleep and then getting up and going to church, we were both pretty tired. When we got home from church, Brendan decided to take a nap while I curled up on the couch so I could finish reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. We originally had nothing planned for the evening, but as I was finishing up the book and telling Brendan how I really wanted to see the movie now, he said “Want to to go see it tonight?”. So we did! We ordered pizza for dinner (we had to do some research to make sure I could order something that was vegan friendly at Dominos) and then got dressed and ready to go to the movies.

I thought that The Girl on the Train was brilliant and the movie adaptation did not disappoint! Emily Blunt did an amazing job playing Rachel Watson and I was pleased that the plot, dialogue, and characters stayed true to the book (very rare to see these days). The only problem I had with the movie is that it was placed in New York instead of London, but I was able to look past that detail and enjoy the movie anyway.

After a refreshing weekend, I’m feeling motivated and ready to be productive. First on the to-do list this week is tidy the apartment! Having a 3-month old kitten living with you can be quite messy sometimes.

Have a great Monday!

 

 

 

Vegan Week – Day 1

Yesterday was World Vegan Day and it also marked the beginning of my going vegan for a week. What perfect timing! My main reason for going vegan for a week is because I felt like I needed a restart. Recently I have been eating a lot of junk and slacking on going  to the gym, and my body was screaming at me to make some changes. November 1st seemed like the perfect time to cleanse and recharge.

Right now I am happy with my weight and my body, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say since my wedding day in May. I gained weight over the summer and got so discouraged and upset with myself. I was beginning to hate looking at myself in the mirror because I always felt fat and bloated. It’s been a challenge getting back to a place where I am happy and not constantly thinking about the way I look, but I am slowly getting there.

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Please excuse my bedhead and weird smile. 

Day 1 of Vegan Week was very easy for me. Since I currently eat plenty of vegan meals, it wasn’t a big shock to my body to give up dairy products. The only things I am really missing so far are cream in my coffee and honey in my hot tea, but besides that I’m doing great!

My meals were pretty simple. I had two slices of avocado toast for breakfast and a cup of coffee with almond coconut milk. For lunch/afternoon snack before the gym I had 1/2 a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bar and echinacea tea with lemon and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). I made vegan tacos for dinner which consisted of roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with garlic and chili powder, and nutritional yeast in a crunchy taco shell. And I topped that with avocado, onions, corn, spinach & kale, salsa, and taco sauce. And for my bedtime snack I had a bowl of Cheerios with almond coconut milk and a cup of chamomile tea with lemon and ACV.

I definitely need to work on incorporating more fruits and veggies into my meals, but I didn’t feel deprived at all. I went to bed feeling satisfied and I wasn’t bloated like usual. One of my favorite parts about going vegan is getting creative in the kitchen. I love finding alternatives for certain ingredients and doing research and learning more about health, wellness, and nutrition.

I may not post what I eat everyday, but I will definitely keep everyone posted on how I’m feeling this week. Here’s to a happy, healthy November!