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.
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!