Why I Switched to a Plant Based Whole Foods Diet

May 4, 2020

I’ve been eating a plant based whole foods (vegan) diet since August of 2019. I realized it’s something I talk a lot on my Instagram stories about but have never written a blog post. I have several highlights devoted to it on Instagram if you are curious. It’s been transformative for me, so I figured it was about time I shared why I switched to a plant based whole foods diet.

Migraines & Chronic Headaches

Besides my documented infertility and endometriosis health history, for as long as I can remember, I have had pretty terrible migraines and regular, chronic headaches. My mom and sister have them as well, and I started seeing a neurologist during college. I’ve tried every medicine out there, and though they helped, I still suffered. If you have any form of chronic pain, you know the reality that is living through life feeling only half yourself. The pain is always in the background coloring your days. I often felt like I was offering less than my family deserved because it was all I had to give.

Chiari Malformation Type 1 Diagnosis

My migraines started to intensify and I began having a numbness associated with them on one side of my face. After meeting with my doctor again, we scheduled an MRI. In August of 2019 I found out I have Chiari Malformation type 1, a condition where brain tissue extends into your spine due your skull narrowing too much and pushing your brain down. The chief symptoms are neck pain and headaches. My headaches are always at the base of my skull.

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How My Diagnosis Lead to a Plant Based Whole Foods Diet?

After my diagnosis, my options for treatment were more of the same which meant continued life with headaches and migraines OR brain surgery. I met with two neurosurgeons both of whom told me surgery was risky and up to me. Neither option sounded good. I began to read about natural ways to reduce inflammation, and everything I read lead me to a plant based whole foods diet. Ultimately I just decided it was worth a try rather than settling for either of my alternatives. What did I have to lose?

What is a Plant Based Whole Foods Diet?

So what exactly is a plant based whole foods diet? Vegan for short, a plant based diet means you eat only things derived from plants. Why do I call it this instead of just vegan? You can be vegan without eating whole foods, i.e. many chips, lots of desserts, processed vegan options like cheese and fake meats, and more. A plant based whole foods diet focuses on eating primarily fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, etc. and stays away from more processed alternatives.

What Did I Read and How Did I Start?

When considering why I switched to a plant based diet, books and internet research had a lot to do with it. The primary book I read is called How Not to Die. Written by a doctor whose own life has been changed by this lifestyle, the book focuses on all the main health concerns in the US and how/why they can be improved or healed by a plant based whole foods diet. These include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. After reading it, I was convinced it was something I needed to try. Cancer is very strong in my family history, and I had gestational diabetes not to mention the migraines.

I decided to order the How Not to Die Cookbook only so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed and just start. I cooked only recipes from it and took it one week at a time. Honestly, it was hard at first. I felt like I had to learn a whole new way of cooking and living. As the weeks went by, it got easier and more second nature just like any new way of living would. I began to really enjoy the food, and my body started to respond. For Christmas, I asked for a second book/cookbook called Plant Strong. Now I use both of those, Pinterest (find my boards here and follow along!), and make some easy things up myself.

Part II and III Up Next

This post started to get really long, so I am planning to do a part II all about how my body and health has changed and a part III about what I eat. I asked for what you all wanted to hear on stories, and it was more the specifics about those things, but the background is important when you hear the changes. Stay tuned!

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  • Reply Leigh September 23, 2023 at 8:32 am

    Did you ever follow-up with a Part II? I can’t find it anywhere if so. I was looking forward to reading it. Thanks!

  • Reply April March 11, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    I was just recently diagnosed with chiari malformation. I met with a Neurosurgeon today. I’ve had lifelong symptoms that I had no idea were all related. Has eating this way completely cleared up all of your symptoms from the malformation?

  • Reply Nallely July 16, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    I switched to a plant based diet at the beginning of the yea, although I still eat fish every now and then not too often. I have seen results and most importantly I feel so much better

  • Reply lorena May 16, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Wow its amazing how connected we are to what we eat.
    It’s incredible how sometimes medicine gives us few options and does not consider nature. What a blessing that you were exposed to this information and that you had the will to make this huge change.

  • Reply Des | itsbetterinheels May 11, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    Kudos on making the transition. Health is extremely important and you’ve made a great decision to put your health and family first. Looking forward to reading the next 2 parts of this series. Thanks for sharing your journey doll!
    I’ve been thinking of trying some vegan options for a week to see how it goes and how I like it. It’ll be tough though lol!

    Des | https://www.itsbetterinheels.com

  • Reply Laura Bambrick May 4, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    I didn’t know you were eating plant based whole foods until I saw an instagram post the other day. This is interesting! I’ve been dealing with migraines for years and medications help but don’t eliminate it so I’m interested to read more of your story!

  • Reply Samantha May 4, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    Love this post! So informative.

  • Reply beautygirl24 May 4, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    My gosh, I know you’ve talked about your migraines and your diagnosis on stories but I had no clue that it was so severe! What a scary experience Amy Ann. I’m really happy to hear that you’ve taken control and that this plant based diet is helping. It’s so easy to take our health for granted, but when something like this happens, it really forces change. You know I struggle with migraines too, so in that sense I can relate. I also have high blood pressure so I’ve changed a lot in my diet as well, although I haven’t tried going plant based. I might have to try this next.

  • Reply Sahra May 4, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    eeee! This is so exciting! Congrats on beginning your plant based journey – I’ve been on this ride for 20 years now and it gets easier and easier!

    XO Sahra
    Que Sera Sahra

  • Reply Jill May 4, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how making changes to your diet can have such a huge impact on your body? We switched to a more plant-based diet for our daughter last year and it really helped her. I’m so glad that you are feeling better!

    Jill – Doused in Pink

  • Reply Andrea Nine May 4, 2020 at 9:41 am

    I’m so proud of you and that you were able to kind of pinpoint what was causing you problems. We do not eat a lot of meat either, the boys more so than me and I especially do not like to do processed foods. Really these kinds of diets are ideal for everyone!

  • Reply Biana May 4, 2020 at 8:32 am

    This was such an interesting read and I’m so glad that it’s had such positive effects on you! xo, Biana BlovedBoston

  • Reply Meagan Brandon May 4, 2020 at 5:50 am

    I find it so shocking how a diet can change your body, like relieving your migraines! So glad this is working for you, although I’m sure it’s tough sometimes. I enjoy seeing the vegan recipes you make.


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