My journey to a whole food, plant-based lifestyle was not a straight line from A to Z. At the age of 23, after a lifetime suffering from severe eczema followed by asthma in my early 20s and a constant struggle to lose weight, I somehow lost my diet mentality and got interested in nourishing my body. Without understanding what I was really doing, I simply began eating more vegetables, and before I knew it, I was no longer eating meat or dairy.
To my amazement and everyone else’s, my eczema and asthma symptoms vanished, and I rapidly dropped two dress sizes. At this point, I just thought that meat and dairy simply did not agree with me. “Poor me!” I thought.
However, when life got busy, it became easy for me to allow others to prepare my food, and I found myself back to eating the standard Irish diet (not too different from the standard American diet). My body seemed to accept it for a little while, but then—bang! What seemed like overnight, I was back on blue and brown inhalers, steroid tablets, and ripping my shins apart because I couldn’t bear not to scratch my itchy skin.
This time I took it seriously and decided I needed to find out what was really going on inside my body. I am so grateful that by chance I stumbled upon The China Study. For the very first time, I was introduced to the idea that so called “normal” foods were a major contributor to the chronic disease and obesity epidemic that we face today. Also, I no longer felt confused about nutrition and realised that healthy eating is not complicated. It’s actually very simple.
I once again began my journey towards a whole food, plant-based lifestyle, and once again, the results came shockingly quick. The extra weight which had crept back on fell off. My eczema and asthma symptoms significantly improved, allowing me to discontinue all medications. To this day, I have never experienced eczema like I used to. Only during times of stress do I notice my wrists getting itchy. This is a sign that I need to take a step back and get some good quality rest and rejuvenation.
After my enlightening education and my own experience, I was hooked on the concept of using food as medicine. I continued reading, studying diet and lifestyle and the way that these factors can help manage illness. I was incredibly inspired by what I was finding and decided to embark on a career to use this information to help others.
The next logical step was to complete the eCornell and Center for Nutrition Studies Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate, which was life-changing. I now understand that my genes predispose me to ailments like asthma, eczema, and holding extra weight. But more importantly, I understand that this does not mean I have to live with these conditions.
Eight years later, I eat this way not just because of how it makes me feel but because I love it! Today, my pantry and fridge are loaded with delicious, nutritious foods that at one time I never knew existed.
Looking back I can see there were two pivotal components driving my health transformation. First of all, I educated myself on what food can do for (or against!) my body, and secondly, I learned how to prepare simple, delicious meals. However, I did encounter some pitfalls along the way. I started by focusing on removing unwanted foods from my usual meals and initially didn’t know what to replace them with. Because I’m Irish, this left me eating mostly white potatoes and overcooked, shrivelled up vegetables. This approach was risky and was partly the reason that I reverted back to old habits. Fortunately, my insatiable desire for knowledge helped fuel my motivation to keep going, exploring new foods along the way.
Now I want to help others avoid my mistakes and teach them about the immense variety of delicious, plant-based foods that are out there. My own personal experience has helped me craft programs that are supportive and educational as well as practical. We all know that eating vegetables is good for us but without truly understanding why—and without understanding the damage caused by many so-called “normal” foods—change may be difficult. Very often we don’t realise that we are actually trapped by our food choices. It is only when we have enough information on how food can help us live a better quality life and how to do it that we can break free from destructive habits to truly enjoy our food and live a better life.
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