Updated: Aug 2, 2018
As a wellness advocate, I feel it's important to share my learnings on all things wellness with you, my community. Not so much so that you can adopt them, more so so that you have the information I've gleaned to make your own conscious decision. I'm always learning on a day by day basis, and have made amazing shifts in my overall wellness over the last months through my diet.
I became aware of the connection of thoughts and emotions to food through my certification in integrative wellness. Your depression or anxiety can be a result of the foods you're eating. With so many processed food options, it makes sense that chemicals affect our body as a whole on a physiological level. While integrative wellness focuses on all things in balance and shows you how to modify your own diet based on your body, there is also a focus on trial and error to see what diet works best for you.
For instance, the Paleo diet is a popular option today and it includes no dairy, grain, no refined sugar, and no processed foods. Originally I wanted to modify my diet because of digestive problems and excess sinus mucus I was experiencing. I didn't realize it in the beginning, but now I see that changing my diet completely improved my overall mood and
played a huge part in my healing from depression and anxiety that I was experiencing as a result of my father's passing and moving to Boston in a time of transition. Coming off of Zoloft, I was able to manage my emotional well-being with food.
I went on life-changing meditation weekend retreat in Barre, MA in December, where they only served vegetarian food the entire time. At first I was really worried I would be hungry the whole time without the protein of animal based products. What I learned was that this wasn't the case at all! I felt full and experienced less inflammatory symptoms like indigestion and mucus as a result. Buddhists focus on a vegetarian diet because of the positive energy source plants provide. I realized then that food affects you emotionally. The chicken that suffered by being slaughtered, manifests in the food as an energy that you experience, whether you are conscious of it or not. I'm becoming conscious to this emotional energy.
Then I read the book, 'You Can Heal Your Life' by Louise Hay. This was when I really learned what the specific impact our thoughts and diet are on our mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. There is even a whole section with physical ailments listed alongside each of the corresponding thoughts and feelings that lead to it, along with a counter affirmation to heal them. Now when I experience a physical discomfort, I refer to the book and read the associated affirmation to heal from it. In a similar way, when you eat an animal its thoughts and feelings manifest as inflammation in you. I think this is what I took away from this book too.
At this point I had started my trial of no dairy and grain, and was finding it to be manageable. There are so many grain free and dairy free options these days. I then watched the Forks Over Knives documentary on Netflix as part of my integrative wellness certification recommended videos.
This documentary was incredible, and it was born out of a study carried out by a pair of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. The studies revealed that degenerative diseases can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. It honestly changed my life. There is so much that the meat and processed food industries must hide in order to make money and continue to have people believe in their products as being necessary.
Dr. Campbell lifts the veil on this illusion that we need animal protein to survive, and reviews several studies that show they have quite the opposite negative affect in creating degenerative disease. The filmed phone calls to the American Cancer Society and Heart Society asking why they are promoting meat such as bacon (?) on their websites recipes, were brushed off and ignored which made me very skeptical of these organizations and what their motives are.
Basically, what you'll learn is most scientific based evidence supports plant-based diets. Still, on an emotional level one thing I found hard to let go of was fish. So I would eat it here and there, maybe like 10% of the time. Then last night, I watched the Food Choices documentary just out of curiosity. This documentary encompasses overall wellness, including the scam behind supplements (like fish oil!), with the health issues associated with an animal based diet, and an even bigger focus on the environmental impact. I take myself to be an environmental activist, so this doc really nailed the hammer in for me. Particularly with the whole segment devoted to fish and the cognitive bias we as a species have, where we are conditioned to believe that fish don't have feelings. Fish was the one animal based product I hung onto the longest. I wasn't even aware that this was why I was still eating fish, but it was true.
With fish out of site out of mind, I just didn't think of them as having emotions, however they are just as much sentient beings as we are. The footage of fish being killed in inhumane ways was enough to put me completely off from it. Some countries eat cats and dogs, while the U.S. sees them as companions. It's the same here, it's just a perception.
Another important factor is how important fish are to the ecosystem of the ocean relative to the whole earth. The earth is made of up of mostly oceans, so can you imagine what's happening as we drain the ocean of fish to feed ourselves? We are negatively affecting the marine ecosystem. Also, when fishing in mass quantities, many other species of marine animals get caught in the nets and are killed as innocent bystanders. What I didn't know was that oceans are becoming so scarce that companies are now having to fish in arctic waters, so the ecosystem in the arctic is depleted of their main source of food! Seeing an emaciated polar bear was what sealed the deal for me, no more fish.
To be honest, I never ever would have imagined I would adopt a plant based diet. I still liked fish a lot, and even when I was starting to check out vegan restaurants, like By Chloe and Peacefood in NYC, I didn't think I could manage it as a lifestyle. Learning through my trials and becoming conscious of the effects of an animal based diet on both myself and environment changed that. It can seem hard, however once you make the choice and commit it to it sticks. It's also much cheaper when you stop buying processed foods! Another common misconception is that a plant based diet is more expensive, they debunk this in the documentary.
I still didn't fully commit until just this week after testing it out for the last 3+ months, so know that it is like a new lifestyle you adopt in time. I still will eat out, and maybe 5% of the time my only option might be to have something that is animal by-product. It is mostly about balance and making more conscious choices you commit to.
Mainly, I realized how everything we do has an effect on the world we live in, and it is completely within our control to manage this effect in a positive way. I highly recommend watching the Food Choices documentary on Netflix as it dives deeper into this concept on the environmental level and mental/emotional level, and it still features Dr. T. Colin Campbell along with a wide variety of wellness advocates and researchers. The same way I'm doing, they lay out all the information for you to make your own informed decision and commitment. It's true that most people will want to ignore what is happening, and that's also their choice. We live in age though, where more and more information can be shared so it may become harder to ignore this in the future.
In conclusion, a plant based diet lifestyle is positive for ourselves: in our nutrition and mental, emotional, physical, spiritual wellness, AND positive for our immediate environment, the earth and its oceans and animals.