Last year was a year of change. I moved to a different country, got married, and stopped eating animals.

I was hungry for knowledge and eager to cut through all the contradictory alleged health information I had amassed over the years. I wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. I eventually read The China Study, took T. Colin Campbell Foundation’s Plant-Based Nutrition Course, and after a lot of research, finally came to understand what I believe to be the truth about human nutrition. Real, accurate nutritional knowledge, not the widespread beliefs that most of us hold – that our bones need milk; our bodies require protein from animal sources; that carbs are evil and just turn into fat; and that the agricultural sector tells the truth.

I began to change in surprising ways. Science was never a strong suit of mine, and The China Study was challenging for me, but I embraced and soaked up all of the new and amazing knowledge. I never thought I’d take a course on nutrition and become so thoroughly engaged in it that I would begin to make major adjustments to my lifestyle. And I certainly never, ever, thought I’d stop eating animals and animal by-products – especially eggs and cheese – formerly my two favorite things.

I believe passionately in what I have learned, and having gained this knowledge, feel I have no other choice than to live plant-based. I am so very grateful for the understanding I’ve gained, and for the new direction in life.

Part of living a holistically healthy life, for me, means always feeling freedom to do what I want, without the stresses of having too many hard rules to adhere to. So, from a food perspective, that means I consistently choose to eat plant-based. I also recognize the reality that there will be certain occasions when I’ll allow for non-plant-based foods: going to a friend’s for a home-cooked meal, although most of my friends have been amazingly accommodating; traveling to places where plant-based foods are very difficult to find; and at restaurants where meals are often served prepared with butter even when I request that it not be used (my now finely-tuned palate can detect it!)

What are some of the noticeable benefits of this change towards plant-based living?

Finally getting rid of my eczema which tortured me for 15 years; moderate weight loss; the end of feeling like a cold was coming on every two weeks (i.e. always feeling sick!); recovering twice as fast after yoga classes; and the most incredible change, in my opinion – improved eyesight! Every morning when I put in my lower prescription contact lenses, I am reminded of the amazing power of plants.

This past year of progress, and the thoughtful adoption of different patterns and behaviors, has brought more ‘wholism’ to my life. I embrace my personal vision of holistic health by always keeping these beliefs close:

  • Food – eat plants. Lots and lots of varied, whole-food plants to enrich my health;
  • Exercise – yoga, at least twice a week, to develop and expand my awareness of the mind/body connection;
  • Sunshine – rejuvenate with at least 15 minutes during solar noon;
  • Stress – work through hardships with those closest to me;
  • Love – generate as much oxytocin as possible, from my husband and our two very entertaining Cairn terriers.

Nothing in your life will change unless you change elements in your life. Different is good.

Jamie Ryder is a graduate of the CNS Plant-Based Nutrition Course