My journey towards becoming vegan started over 10 years ago, even though I did not realize it at the time. I started having problems with stomach discomfort and pain. An ultrasound revealed I had gallstones. I was told to get ready for surgery, but after researching life after gallbladder surgery I decided to try a diet change instead. Fatty foods triggered my attacks so I cut out all fatty foods and became even more diligent about only eating home cooked whole foods. During my consultation, the surgeon guaranteed me that no one can maintain a low fat diet and that I would be back within a year. I have not seen him since. The interesting thing was I didn’t even need to keep an intense super low fat diet. I just eliminated processed fatty foods. For example eating an avocado? No gallbladder attack. Eating a slice of diner store pizza? Agony.
Unfortunately my stomach issues were not the only thing I was struggling with. I live with depression, bipolar, and OCD, and I struggle with compulsive binge eating. So while I did okay for a while with my whole foods home cooked diet, at some point, I stopped taking my meds (I make bad decisions sometimes). I was fine for a while and then I fell into a three year bout of severe depression. I lost my job, and it left my body way out if it’s weight comfort zone because I was getting zero exercise, and in constant pain.
I remember the exact moment I realized I needed to do something about my health. I was taking a shower and I was out of breath from just from the exertion of washing my own body. Suddenly I felt light-headed and nauseous and thought I was going to pass out. I turned off the shower and dragged myself to my bed and collapsed there, dizzy and panting. I had one clear thought in that moment: if I did not do something about my health I was going to die.
I made a promise to myself many years ago that no matter how dark things got for me with my mental health, suicide was not an option. I had to be there for my son. That was a powerful motivator and it kept me alive on many occasions when I just wanted out. However, I realized that what I was doing to my health was just a slower form of suicide. I went to my doctor that week and got back on medication. The first thing to go when I take my meds is my compulsive binge eating. So with just that one simple step I was already feeling better. Next I cut out the processed foods and gluten (which I had slipped back into the habit of consuming regularly). I felt even better.
Even though for the most part I had eliminated all my bowel issues by this point, I had, not surprisingly, become obsessed with how diet impacted health. The more I researched the more I was convinced that going vegan was the best choice for me and my son. Sometime around mid-2014, I made the choice to go vegan. It was a surprisingly easy change for both me and my son. I think most of that had to do with the fact that our diet was already almost exclusively home cooked and whole food. Cutting out meat and dairy barely phased us. There was a little bit of a learning curve on the home baked goods though, but I got that on lock now.
Even though I had eliminated my most noticeable stomach issues, I found that when I was vegan my stomach felt even better. It’s hard to describe but it is sort of a clean comfortable internal feeling that I never had before but now wonder how I lived without it. Another unexpected side effect of going whole food vegan was my that son’s migraines completely went away. He used to suffer severe, throwing up, light sensitive, body shakes migraines (ever since the 1st or 2nd grade) on a regular basis. Since going vegan he has had, at most, 3 migraines in the the past 4 or 5 years.
Over the years, I have gravitated from being a purely health choice vegan to being an ethical vegan. It felt like an organic transition and that is where I am at now: voluntary vegan and reluctantly gluten-free. I am also in the final stages of editing and design for my vegan, gluten free cookbook, Love Letter to My Son in 40 Recipes: Vegan, gluten-free, whole-food cooking, with a Southern African Flair. Anyone who wants to show some support or preorder a copy can get details at: https://www.gofundme.com/LoveLetterToMySon