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Our Plant-Based Journey

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If you’ve followed my site or social media for awhile, you might have noticed a recent shift in the way we eat. I have been flooding my Instagram feed with colorful, plant-based, whole foods with no meat in sight! We have recently decided to follow a vegan lifestyle and I want to share how we started on plant-based journey.

I never thought I could follow a vegan diet. I absolutely loved cheese and had always relied on meat whenever I would attempt a “healthy diet”. From Weight Watchers to Whole30, I believed that I could consume practically endless amounts of meat with no health repercussions. Grains and carbohydrates were treated as the evil conspirators trying to derail my health goals.

In the past, I went on “diets” to lose weight or obtain a desirable body image. It usually wasn’t based solely on how I wanted to feel. If I looked and felt good, then it also meant I was healthy… right?

This mindset on my diet changed after I had my daughter in 2017. I was no longer concerned with physical appearance, but wanted to ensure I was providing optimal nutrition for my daughter. This included what I consumed and passed through breastfeeding her, to introducing solids in the form of purees and solids.

My renewed focus on healthy eating centered around avoiding pesticides, added hormones, antibiotics, and other undesirable toxins in my foods. Oddly enough, I was still consuming animal meal and processed foods.

Before I continue with how we landed on a whole food, plant-based diet, I want to highlight a few health issues that guided this journey.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

Ok so we don’t have to go all the way to my beginning, 1986 was a long time ago after all! In 2013 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism by my doctor. This is important to highlight because it was something that I just shrugged and accepted at the time. Now, six years later it is leading me on this plant-based journey.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is caused when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones therefore it is “underactive”.¹ Symptoms may include: weight gain or inability to lose weight, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, thin hair, impaired memory, and more. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through blood tests that measure your TSH and usually your thyroxine.

When diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you are usually prescribed Levothryoxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone, which you take daily. The dosage is monitored and adjusted to find the correct amount, but you are told that this is lifelong medication that you will be taking. Yes you read that correctly, every single day for the rest of your life.

My Hypothyroid Diagnosis

Back to 2013 when I received my hypothyroid diagnosis from my general practitioner. At 26 years old, I had spent the past 8 years in school, working late hours in the restaurant industry, and partying. My sleep habits weren’t great and I ate terribly (except for the few random diets here and there). I mention all of this because this lifestyle was masking my thyroid symptoms.

Once I was diagnosed by my doctor through a routine blood test, she shared the list of symptoms with me. The list of symptoms was what I would have just considered to be my characteristics! Always tired, always cold, blaming past marijuana use for my impaired memory, blaming age as the reason I gained weight, had dry skin, and my hair had thinned out.

I was relieved to hear that there was a reason I had all of these traits (symptoms). I wasn’t just an exhausted college student who had partied to hard and it was finally catching up with her at the old age of 26! With the relief came total acceptance of taking a magical daily pill to fix all my ails. I never questioned if there was an ideal diet for someone with hypothyroidism or the possibility that the medication may not relieve all of my symptoms forever.

Hypothyroidism and Postpartum

Fast forward to 2017, when I have my daughter. You are expected to feel tired, have thinning hair, and struggle with weight loss after having a baby. For almost two years, I chalked up my continuous hypothyroid symptoms with being postpartum. Afterall, I had my thyroid levels checked by my doctor and everything seemed to check out okay.

Why then did I feel so tired and lethargic after a full 8 hours of sleep? I eat well and was exercising on a regular basis, but struggle with any weight loss. My moods were up and down. How come at 32, I just felt so BLAH? I was fed up of feeling this way and figured it must be something in my diet. The new trend is to blame gluten, so maybe that was where my issued lies. I decided that come January 1st, 2019 I was going to try the Whole30 diet to eliminate grains, dairy, legumes, added sugars, and alcohol. Surely I would feel great after this!

Whole30

I have never successfully stuck to an elimination diet, especially one with as many restrictions as the Whole30 diet. I’m not sure what pushed me to actually stick to it for the whole 30 days, but I did! It might partly be attributed to me feeling terrible and hoping to find a food group to blame it on. Also, I had built a small online community through my blog and instagram, so I think sharing my journey with you all was part of why I was successful!

After 30 days of elimintating dairy, legumes, added sugars, alcohols, and grains – I was down about 12 pounds. However, I didn’t notice a difference in my energy levels or how I felt overall. My husband decided to stop Whole30 about 10 days in because he was feeling weak and needed grains in his diet.

New issues

Starting the first week of February, Ramil began having stomach aches nearly every morning. This lasted for over a month. After the first week, he went to urgent care and was told that it wasn’t anything serious and should clear up on it’s own. After that he went to his primary care physician, who again believed it wasn’t anything warranting a trip to the ER. His PCP sent him for routine blood tests to rule out any infections or something serious.

While waiting for the blood results from his PCP, he heard about a gastroenterologist in Newport Beach, CA named Dr. Angie Sadeghi. We looked her up and she had great reviews so he made an appointment, even though it would be over an hours drive to her office in Orange County.

His blood tests came back normal so his PCP also referred him to a GI doctor in our area, but we decided to stick with Dr. Sadeghi since he already had an upcoming appointment scheduled. This was the best decision we could have made!

Ramil continued to have stomach aches and cramps for over a month while he had his initial consultation with Dr. Sadeghi. She recommend a colonoscopy to rule out colon cancer and more. When that came back clear, they conducted an abdominal ultrasound. Everything came back with no issues.

Dr. Sadeghi recommended that Ramil cut out dairy and see if he felt better, as well as to schedule an appointment with her dietitian. At his first appointment she told him that they would reverse whatever was going on. It was nice to get some sort of hope – especially one that hopefully wouldn’t depend on medication.

Our First Plant-Based Meal Prep

Ramil and I began following Dr. Sadeghi on Instagram and soon found ourselves down a rabbit hole of information about plant-based diets. After watching Forks Over Knives and What The Health, he decided he wanted to give a plant-based diet a try. At this point, what did he have to lose afterall?

I was hesitant at first, even though I was doing research and it all seemed to point to plant-based eating being the healthiest diet. With a toddler to worry about, I didn’t want her to become deficient in any nutrients. However, my daughter already disliked eggs, meat, and milk, so going plant-based wouldn’t be too far of a stretch for her. I picked up some coconut yogurt to begin substituting it for her whole milk yogurt, one of the few dairy items she consumed.

I told my husband that I would prepare him vegan food, but Avery and I would still occasionally have meat, eggs, and dairy. Mostly in muffins, baked goods, recipes, etc. (Also I had a freezer of high quality, grass-fed, wild-caught meat and seafood that I didn’t want to go to waste!)

Curious what my first vegan meal prep looked like? You can check it out here!

Avery and I were mostly eating what Ramil ate, but I would add a chicken sausage occasionally or use eggs in our cauliflower rice. I started listening to more podcasts about veganism and plant-based diets. After about a week of not being fully committed, I decided we would give it a shot.

I made an appointment with the dietitian so I could get an individualized consultation about my diet related to hypothyroidism and possible Hashimoto’s. I also wanted guidance in terms of my daughter’s nutrition and dietary needs. Luckily for us, Dr. Sadeghi’s two dietitians are a married couple with a young daughter who has been vegan her whole life. You can check them out at www.marriedtohealth.com. We started following them as well on Instagram and quickly became assured that we had found that power team that we needed on our side to meet our health goals.

To be continued…

Sources

  1. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). (n.d.). Retrieved from
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284

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