The first time I tried to make a healthy green soup, it didn’t turn out well. In fact, the first two weeks of my ‘vegan adventure’ were a huge mess.
Granted, I was fifteen and adamant that everything I tossed into the blender or chopped up and threw into a pan on the stove would miraculously turn out well, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
After waking my parents up in the middle of the night try to try ‘raw almond cheese’ (which was nothing more than ground almonds with lemon juice, salt, and water), it became clear to me that I needed to get this recipe thing under wraps.
Avocados and raw brownies weren’t cutting it.
So, having the awesome opportunity to work at a health food store after school (in the boonies of South Dakota, mind you), I began studying recipe books like it was my job. It wasn’t too long before some of the things I started creating turned out well – and were winning over people at school, too.
That was my introduction to a plant-based diet, and besides a few hangups here and there, the lifestyle has only benefited me more and more over time.
You see, when I became infatuated with the idea that food can be one’s medicine (after hearing that a guy ‘cured’ his cancer eating apricot seeds), something in me knew there was truth to the concept. Most of my life, I had been a bit ‘heavy’ and had breathing problems. And when I turned eleven years old, I lost my beautiful baby skin and turned into a polka-dotted freak with all the acne covering my head, shoulders and back.
I was miserable, to say the least, and tried to combat my insecurities with an eating disorder (*cough* or two…) and self-sabotage. It didn’t last long, which is why, at age 15, I KNEW I needed to change and discover a sustainable way to live.
That’s how I stumbled across the concept of vegetarianism and eating to live, not living to eat. The many anecdotes and science-based facts won me over, and before long, I dove in fully.
Shortly after ditching meat, dairy, processed sugars, and low-quality (hydrogenated fats) from my diet, my physique and mentality began to change. Some of the top five benefits I noticed shortly after adopting a plant-based diet follow:
The state of my skin was likely what I was most depressed about as a teenager. There were days I would almost beat myself up in front of the mirror because I couldn’t stand to look at myself (which, ironically, contributes to more acne if you look at the psycho-spiritual relationship between identity, skin, and emotions, which is self-loathing).When I gave up artificial foods and animal products, however, my skin quickly began to get better. I kid you not – within a day or two, I could see major improvements. Take it from someone who used to have cystic acne and couldn’t make eye contact with people because she was so embarrassed: when you suffer from an affliction, healing it becomes majorly important.
And here’s the thing; nearly 70% of people will be afflicted by acne at some point in their life. The underlying causes however, need to be addressed for it to remedy on its own.
When there is lymphatic stagnation in the body (you can blame dairy and refined sugars), an overconsumption of acidic-producing foods (animal foods, mostly), imbalance of beneficial intestinal microflora, and nutritional deficiencies (high phosphorous diets deplete magnesium and other essential nutrients from our bodies), a physical manifestation of some sort will occur.
In addition, most peoples’ guts have been compromised by poor dietary and lifestyle choices. A permeable gut, in addition to low stomach acid (due to eating too many animal foods), contribute to inflammation and allergic reactions in the body. One of the manifestations? Yep, acne.
My family’s genetic weakness has to do with our skin, so that’s why mine broke out so badly. But changing my diet and healing my leaky gut remedied this in no time.
More Empathy For All Creatures
While I LOVE animals and desire to see all beings happy and healthy, I did not adopt a plant-based diet for ethical reasons. My main focus was health, health, health – all the way.
Not long after learning how unsustainable large-scale agriculture is and the inhumane way animals are treated as they are raised for slaughter, however, that began to change.
Growing up in the Mid-West, I was a devoted FFA officer who participated in competitions like ‘labeling the cuts’ of bovine and pigs, and floral arrangements (the latter, no doubt, I preferred). But as I changed my diet (and definitely received flack for eschewing meat and dairy), the issues with large-scale agricultural industry became very apparent.
At one point in our Agriculture class, we were watching a film on the slaughtering process of cows. This was for school. All the guys played tough, crossing their arms as they watched the screen and saying, “Yeah, we do a variation of this when we slaughter our cows.” Proud.
The girls, of course, ducked into each other as film was shown of baby pigs’ tails being cut (without anesthetic) and cows were stunned, then their throats ripped open as they shuddered from the electric shock.
It was then and there I couldn’t separate what made it ‘okay’ to harm a cow or a pig, but not a dog or a cat. The walls of reality were crumbling, which is why I later watched Earthlings and decided to become an advocate for all animals.
I consider this a benefit of consuming a plant-based diet, because empathy and compassion for all living beings is not a weakness, it is an incredible strength. If everyone were to respect all life forms, our planet would be incredibly different.
Insane Amounts Of Energy
Not long after adopting a plant-based diet, I became abuzz with extra energy. As a teenager, I was the weirdo who would go to soccer practice (where you already run insane amounts), then go for a five-mile jog, then go train my horse for another hour or two, before settling down for dinner and homework.
My classmates didn’t understand what fueled this zest to be active, but I knew that what I was eating played a huge role. As captain of my soccer team, I took pride in being able to play the entire 90-minute game without needing a break.
While the food I was eating gained criticism (green smoothies, salads, and quinoa pilaf, anyone?), my academic and extracurricular performance was praised.
To this day, I still have more energy than anyone I know, and I haven’t lost the desire to go on long runs (or indulge in sprints) before or after work and play.
Presence And Purpose
I knew at age sixteen that my role on this planet had to do with ‘waking people up’ and sharing the good news: that what you eat can make a massive difference in how you feel, look, think, and contribute to change.
It’s an unattractive truth, because a lot of people want to place their power in the hands of others. “Fix me doc,” they say. But it’s an important one.
We are the only ones in charge of our experience, and it is essential we take responsibility for our thoughts, our health, and the state of our lives. It takes effort to live authentically and to pursue your passion(s), but when you live and eat in an eco-friendly, clean way, it becomes less of a strain and more of a pleasure.
The devotion to live true to yourself (and respect the laws of the Universe, Mother Nature, etc…) ultimately aligns you with your ‘truth’, and is one of the realizations I was gifted not too long after adopting a plant-based diet.
The infamous French gastronome, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, once said: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.”
Food is energy, and we are energetic beings that are affected on a subtle level by the food we consume, the environment we live in, the people we surround ourselves in, what we put on our skin, and the thoughts we think.
This awareness is profound and life-changing, because it really puts into perspective the importance a healthy diet plays in creating a life you desire to live and the work you are inspired to carry out. If you eat colorful (high-vibrational), nutrient-dense food, your physiology is BOUND to change and, in effect, so are ‘you’.
Heightened ‘Spiritual’ Connection
Spirituality, to me, is a connection to something ‘greater’ than yourself. It could be the feeling of Oneness with everything in this universe, or it could be a sentient Being (called ‘God’).
Shortly after adopting a plant-based diet, an intuitive awareness blossomed that I had never before been aware of.
The desire to ‘fit in’ and be perfect for a society constantly telling me I wasn’t – and will never be – enough started to fade away, and instead, an internal voice that said, “I love you – no matter what” became more resolute.
I deem this an important side-effect of adopting a plant-based diet, because I think forming a connection with that greater aspect of ‘Self’ is essential for living a happy, meaningful life.
More than anything, people are just seeking for their existence and actions in this life to MEAN something. I strongly believe that when you can sense your wholeness and the benefit you offer just by ‘being’ from within, your life will blossom in the best way possible.
That is the true revolution, and adopting a plant-based diet helped me realize – and act – on this.
If you desire to feel better, create a life of meaning and purpose, and enjoy every moment on this planet, I urge you to consider how what you eat, think, breathe, and put on your skin affects who ‘you’ are in this moment and the life you are creating.