Today is a very special and important day for me. Exactly one year ago, I vowed to change my lifestyle and become a vegetarian! It has probably been the toughest obstacle I have endured. I want to take this time to introduce a new section in my blog called “Health and Diet”. Today, I want to discuss with you my take on vegetarianism after my one year experience.
People often ask me why I chose to make this drastic lifestyle change. Let me tell you the story! Let’s jump back to around late May of 2008. I was informed that my cousin was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer. The specific cancer was called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor (DSRCT). I spent hours and hours a day doing research about DSRCT, DSRCT patients, general cancers, cancer treatments, chemotherapy, radiation, alternative cancer treatments, oxygenation, and food and diet in relation to cancer and diseases. I had come to realize there was no specific cure for cancer. Cancer is caused by factors in a person’s lifestyle including diet, exercising, stress management, and mental/emotional health. The risks for cancer can all be minimized by proper eating, regular exercising, and basically keeping a positive outlook on life. I realized that diet played an extremely tremendous role. Many of the “processed” foods we see out there contain carcinogens, but many of the plant-based foods are anti-carcinogens. I wanted my cousin to eat healthier, not necessarily become a vegetarian, but introduce more plant-based foods into her diet. I started my vegetarian diet on July 14th, 2008 and it was the beginning of a new type of adventure.
Transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle was extremely challenging! I used to be the type of person that can’t survive without meat. Even in my salads, I always preferred it with chicken. I remember even after day one as a vegetarian, I told myself that I don’t know how long I can continue with this. Now that I really look at the big picture, the first two months were the hardest. I lost a lot of weight and I felt really weak. Luckily, the human body is very adaptive and susceptible to change. Eventually, my body adapted and the benefits were astounding. They include: increased energy, reduced cravings, and improved overall health. Once in a while, you’ll get old cravings, but you pretty much remind yourself the benefits and continue on the diet.
Very often, I get the question, “What do you eat as a vegetarian? Do you just eat salads all the time?” No, that’s not the case at all. I eat everything that omnivores eat; minus the meat and sometimes plus the meat substitute. Let me name a few so you get my drift, spaghetti with marinara sauce, eggplant parmesan, vegetarian pizza with Japanese eggplant, four cheese ravioli, Portobello mushroom burger, tempura shitake mushroom rolls, vegetarian pineapple fried rice, curry vegetable with rice, pad see ew with tofu, and the list goes on. Most of the time, my friends don’t even realize I’m vegetarian because I don’t require any special accommodations.
One of the biggest concerns people have toward a vegetarian diet is the lack of protein. In reality, that’s not the case. Protein are amino acids and they are in almost everything we eat. Some foods have higher protein content as compared to others. There are a lot of sources of high protein content from vegetarian sources such as tofu, beans, nuts, legumes, lentils, seeds, and many others. Protein deficiency should not be an issue.
Becoming vegetarian is a great way to improve overall health, but it’s not the only approach you can take to becoming healthier. A great start would be to add more plant-based foods into your diet. You can be a vegetarian and be in a worse position than a typical omnivore if all you’re eating are French fries, onion rings, fried mozzarella sticks, fried zucchini, grilled cheese, and potato chips. Just like everything else in life, you have to do things with moderation. Quite frankly, I think the American diet is one of the worst diets ever. We as Americans have the most obese people, the most heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I mean, we can still indulge from time to time, but we don’t have to live like kings everyday. If we want a healthy and promising future, I suggest we begin by starting to change the way we eat.
It has actually been a very interesting and exciting journey. I have tried many unique foods that I would never touch as an omnivore. I have also met a lot of health conscious people with similar interests. I feel more energized and healthier than I have ever felt throughout my entire life. I swim and run at least 2.5 miles almost everyday. Being vegetarian is actually a form of harsh mental and physical discipline. I can feel my body detoxifying itself everyday even after a year on this diet. The challenge in itself and knowing that I’m doing good for my body encourages me to stay vegetarian!