A Plant-Based Life

Your Complete Guide to Great Food, Radiant Health, Boundless Energy, and a Better Body

A Plant-Based Life

Author: Micaela Cook Karlsen
Pub Date: July 2016
Print Edition: $16.95
Print ISBN: 9780814437070
Page Count: 352
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814437087

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Excerpt

Preface

At age 17, I made a decision to stop eating meat. My reasons weren’t anything like my reasons now. There was just a vague feeling that moved me to stop. It could have been related to the fact that some of my friends didn’t eat meat, it could have been some innate instinct for health, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t want meat anymore. Becoming a vegetarian was gradual over months, but by the time I turned 18 and in my senior year of high school, I had stopped eating meat completely and began to think more specifically about my health. I was highly allergic to dust and dust mites, so much so that I was a candidate for weekly allergy shots. The shots helped, but it seemed only up to a point. Pre-shots, I have memories of waking up in the morning with dry lips and a sore throat from breathing through my mouth all night, sitting up in bed, and feeling everything in the world start sliding downwards. My nose ran, the room spun, and it was all I could do to stumble into the shower, where the hot water gave me 15 wonderful minutes of normal breathing. Add skin problems, sleep deprivation due to insomnia, typical concern over my weight, and it’s amazing that I was still a good student.

The diet I ate as a vegetarian in high school involved lots of white bread, skim milk and cereal, cans of green beans for lunch, and orange juice. I organized my choices around an attempt to lose weight by eating low-fat. I did lose weight, but I felt continually hungry. Constantly looking ahead to my next meal, while at the same time trying to concentrate on calculus or my after-school job, I limped along in a state of deprivation that seemed justified by maintaining a healthy weight – or at least a weight at which I didn’t feel self-conscious. Moving into my freshman year of college soon terminated the dedication I’d maintained to low-fat as the all-you-can-eat buffets provided more than enough extra calories for me to gain the “freshmen fifteen.”

During my junior year, my best friend at the time, Meghan Murphy, took a popular course at Cornell, NS:200 Vegetarian Nutrition, taught by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the university’s Professor Emeritus in nutritional biology, and later the co-author of The China Study (2005), the first and most comprehensive account of the research on plant-based diets and health, as well as author of Whole (2013). Through Meghan, the evidence-based, scientific information about diet and disease began to seep into my thinking. Having already read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America, and eaten a vegetarian diet for several years, it was no big leap mentally to cut out dairy and think of myself as a vegan. Physically, my cravings for cheese remained in full force for a few years (in contrast to giving up meat), but intellectually a totally plant-based diet made sense.

By the time I began working for Dr. Campbell’s Foundation in my mid-twenties, I’d been eating what I considered a vegan diet for several years, had much improved my allergies and skin, and settled into something close to my ideal weight, only minus the deprivation. Being so closely involved with information about whole food, plant-based (WFPB) nutrition, I was able to further refine my understanding of what whole food meant. It took me at least another six months to a year to move into a truly whole food, 100 percent plant-based diet, but it’s now been almost a decade of this gradual shift, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Once I started eating a truly whole food, plant-based diet, I felt comfortable in my body for the first time since I was a child. I still have challenges when I’m in certain food environments and I have to strategize around them to make sure that I don’t get pulled back into the addictive rabbit hole of fatty foods. But I am able to maintain my dietary lifestyle successfully because of specific strategies that are discussed in this book, and these strategies can work for everyone.

The people whose stories are shared in A Plant-Based Life, who provide supporting evidence for the research and examples of certain principles we’ll cover, can also serve as inspiration to you. Many who were motivated have struggled. They have overcome their backgrounds, their childhood eating patterns, unsupportive family members or spouses, and challenges with their children, but they have achieved permanence in following a dietary lifestyle that is quite unusual in the current environment, and good health that they can enjoy for many years. I was one of those people, and it took me years of trial and error to arrive at a peaceful and successful place with my eating and my diet. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned, and now I’d like to help you skip some of that difficulty.

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