BENEFITS OF GOING “FREE”: improved health.

December 07, 2011

Going Free!

I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life and in the past few years I’ve had three Naturopath doctors recommend that I go on a gluten FREE (GF), dairy FREE (DF) and sugar FREE (SF) diet. The first time I was given that recommendation, I couldn’t even comprehend it. I thought my practitioner was crazy…what on earth do you eat then? When I was younger, I often got that reaction when I told my friends I was vegetarian….at that time I couldn’t relate to their reactions…but all of a sudden that’s how I felt. No gluten? No dairy? No sugar? There’s nothing left to eat…!!! WRONG….there’s still so much to eat…and living in CA there’s an abundance of fresh veggies, herbs and grains.

By the third recommendation of this diet, I was actually ready and able to hear it and WOW….what a difference it made in rejuvenating my health! Last January – June I went gluten, dairy and sugar free…and I saw amazing results with my lower back, chronic sinus congestion, energy levels….and so many other things. I won’t lie, it was challenging at times, but for the most part doable because I was at home and was able to be aware of what I was buying and cooking. However, we did quite a bit of traveling over the summer and that was the end of my life as GF-DF-SF lifestyle….It was challenging finding foods that were vegetarian, plus GF, DF and SF…and when I’m with friends I don’t like being the “special needs” person. I would rather just blend in.

Overall in the past six months I am eating less of these things, but they have all slowly crept back into my diet…especially now around the holidays.

I think one of the biggest challenges I face, is the idea of giving all three things (gluten, dairy and sugar) up at one time. So I’m thinking for the New Year’s, instead of giving them all up at the same time… I’m going to give one up every quarter…so something like this: Jan – Mar: no sugar, April – June: no gluten, July – September: no dairy. And then in September I’ll assess how I’m doing and if I’m up for a challenge, then I will go GF, DF, and SF from October-December (that of course, being the deadliest time of the year for me, so it would be a pretty BIG challenge).

With my interest in all things food related, I ran across this great article that was posted on the New Hope 360 Blog (a blog dedicated to commentary from the healthy lifestyle industry)….called “Why I’m going Vegan”….It not only talks about going vegan, but also just being vegetarian. Despite having a hard time sticking to a GF, DF, SF diet, being a vegetarian has never been difficult for me, nor have I had a hard time finding things to eat. The vegetarian selection in most restaurants is as big at the meat/ poultry/ fish sections these days….so it’s definitely easier to start here!

ENJOY the article:

Why I’m going vegan

Today, I received this email from a good friend:

“I guess I’m pretty much vegan now. I’ll still be rocking leather boots, but no animal products go into my body anymore! I’m so happy to be back to real foods. It’s been pretty easy for me. I never really ate red meat or dairy, so it’s more a matter of not eating chicken and eggs. I really haven’t missed them. I feel better, think more clearly and I’m not giving my money to that system anymore.”

This friend has struggled with digestive and health issues since I’ve known him. He’s seen multiple doctors to treat chronic back pain, and though I’m not surprised, not one suggested dietary changes. He did his own research, decided to try avegan lifestyle, and while it’s only been a few months, already he’s noticing health improvements beyond what he did while taking medication.  

His story is just one of many that I’ve heard while researching and writing stories for Natural Foods Merchandiser. Working on a feature for our December issue, I was struck by the number of dietitians, doctors and even retailers who now also support a plant-based diet. Take for example Whole Foods Engine 2 Campaign. For 28 days customers can sign up to eat a vegan diet following Rip Esselstyn’s book, The Engine 2 Diet (Wellness Central, 2009). When the program debuted in 2009, more than 5,000 people signed up, and since its inception it continues to gain steam. Can you imagine such a program taking off during the days of  Atkins?

According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians and vegans have lower rates of cancer, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and fewer instances of obesity. The research is so convincing, I’ve decided to try ditching animal products myself.  While I do cook most of my meals at home, rarely eat meat and regularly enjoy a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, I’m intrigued with what veganism may offer. Who couldn’t use more energy and increased focus, not to mention fewer pounds before swimsuit season?  

This weekend I picked up Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (Da Capo, 2007) and began scanning recipes. Some call for curious ingredients such as vital wheat gluten and textured vegetable protein. I opted to make the baked potato soup with kale as it sounded the most like something I’d find in a Deborah Madison cookbook.  I tested my creation this afternoon and while pleased with the result, couldn’t help but think, all this needs is a little sour cream.  I may need a little help. If you’re vegan, I’d love to hear what you serve non-vegan friends, and how you’ve managed to stick to the diet.



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