I am asked this question several times weekly, so I decided to write about it!
I attended an animal rights workshop when I was 15 (I grew up on a farm raising and training show horses, so animals are near and dear to my heart), and it really opened my eyes to the issues of factory farming, and how animals intended for food are raised and treated. What I learned was shocking, both in terms of the health of the animals and the humans that eat them. So I became a proud vegetarian. Not really putting much thought into what I was eating at age 15, I survived on little more than rice and ramen noodles for the base of my meals. I thought, hey, I’ll just cut out meat. I remember falling asleep in class, having to take long naps when I’d get home from school before I went riding, and my hair became brittle. I became anemic due to my poor diet and was put on iron pills.
A bell went off: what you eat determines your health status. This seems obvious & basic, but I’m telling you, so many people don’t make this connection or even care. McDonald’s is tasty and cheap, until you begin to pay for the medical bills years after treating your body badly. So anyway, I began reading about how to have a healthy vegetarian diet. I learned about combining grains and beans, getting enough protein, and eating more greens. I added in soy for extra protein. This worked great for me–for a while.
Around this time I began working for Planned Parenthood and developing an interest in women’s health. I read all I could about women’s health (Christiane Northrup) and nutrition (Dr. Andrew Weil). I remained a vegetarian for many years (13 total), all through college. I worked at my university’s women’s center and developed an interest in journalism, contributing to various publications.
When I moved out to San Francisco, I experimented very briefly with veganism and never felt worse. I was constantly tired and moody, and I began noticing some issues with my soy-heavy diet. I read more: Julia Ross, Phyllis Balch, Kaayla Daniel, Ann Louise Gittleman, and learned that a diet heavy in processed soy can adversely affect hormone levels (read more about my soy story here). I eliminated soy and added meat back in and instantly felt better, and my hormonal issues resolved. I decided to make a career out of nutrition since I was already dispensing so much advice!
I began studying nutrition at Bauman College and learned that the body’s needs change all the time, and everybody has different physiological needs, because we are all biochemically different! Some people fare well as vegetarians; some need meat. If you are under stress, suffer from depression or anxiety, or are recovering from surgery, you need a more high quality protein-based diet, and beans and rice aint gonna cut it. I get a lot of calls from vegetarians that have major hormonal problems, depression, or infertility and don’t understand why, because isn’t a vegetarian diet the healthiest way to go? That’s another post for another time, but suffice it to say that part of being a nutritionist is to determine the best diet for YOU as an individual, along with how to choose the highest quality foods. And part of my job is to encourage mindfulness around eating so that you know what your body needs. Contact me for more info on my services.
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