For starters I’m not vegan. Phew! Now that I got that out of the way I’m pretty much done with this post right?! Kidding! Trying to crack a joke because to be honest I am a little uncomfortable writing this. There is so much going on in the media right now around veganism. I felt it was important to share my experiences and professional opinions with you. I often get asked many questions about what I eat and also figured it was about time for this type of post. With the exception of honey all of the recipes I’ve shared here are whole food and vegan. That is going to begin to shift a little here and there. I wanted to address it upfront before I just throw in a recipe with eggs or ghee and you’re like wait, what?!
I want thank you for the support over the last 2.5 years. It’s truly been incredible. I’ve grown a great deal since the blog started and my life has blossomed in amazing ways. When I began this blog I was living in a motel on the Pacific Coast Highway in a tiny town in Northern California. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was headed when I finished the plant-based culinary program I was in. When a friend reached out and said she had a place for me in Los Angeles I figured that was a good city to begin the next chapter of my life. Looking back I am aware that nothing happens by mistake, this is totally where I am supposed to be right now.
Before I dive into my food journey I need to say that food choices are intensely personal and political. They are steeped in our different cultures and family values. Writing about food and having access to the kinds of fresh foods and medicinal herbs that I do is a huge privilege. I have always recognized and been very grateful for that. I am sensitive to the reality that not everyone gets to go the organic farmers market or spend time debating what they are going to have for dinner. It is a luxury.
Coming from this place of reverence for my life and the way I get to live it has always kept me from being preachy about food. I’ve also had health issues over the years that have been healed by foods and herbs, some of which people in the vegan community would frown upon. My goal is to create an inclusive community around nourishment and making conscious choices about what and how we eat. I’ve had the privilege of working with many people over these last years and none of them were alike. There are similarities and threads that connect us together, but we all have different nutritional requirements that are based on many factors.
I refrain from judging peoples food choices in life and on the blog because it isn’t helpful for anyone. I’m much less interested in labeling myself vegan or paleo or anything like that. I am much more interested in the feelings that come up for us around food and how we take care of ourselves through conscious eating, but you knew that already ;)
I often tell my clients that what we eat is just as important (in some ways more so) as how and why we eat. Eating a specific way doesn’t equate to wellness. Feeding ourselves is the most basic form of self-care and in my experience and practice that is an area in many of us that needs some deep healing. Learning to take care of ourselves by consuming local organic produce is incredible. Healing our bodies with small amounts of ghee can be equally as valid and deeply healing. There isn’t a right way and I like to remain open to the truth that wellness is non-linear and ever changing.
Ultimately you don’t even need to read the rest of this post. I mean of course I want you to as I’ve been working on it for what seems like for ever, but really this big topic of eating animals boils down to learning to listen to our bodies and live in alignment with the universe. When I’m living in agreement with my purpose and feeling connected to the planet I want to eat in a way that supports my community, the earth and all sentient beings as often as possible.
Nearly five years ago I stopped consuming animal products, gluten, refined sugar (yes even honey and maple syrup) and processed foods. Even though I wasn’t eating animals, calling myself vegan felt weird because I wore leather and to be honest was never much of an activist. I stopped eating those foods because I was constantly sick and I hoped changing my diet would help.
From the time I was in high school until my late 20′s I had major problems with sinus infections and digestion. I had taken loads of antibiotics over the years but never found a solution. As I got older my sinus problems got worse. I was also chronically fatigued from overworking myself and generally felt some sort of ill feeling the majority of the time. In 2009, after my sixth sinus infection that year I made my first appointment to see a Naturopath.
My boyfriend at the time knew a lot about holistic health and all sorts of stuff that was new to me. He told me the Naturopath would ask about my diet and my poop and that is pretty much what happened during our first session. After my appointment I bought a book about cleansing at the recommendation of a friend. I trusted her and went for it. That 21 day cleanse changed my life.
What I loved most about that cleanse was that it was food-based, holistic, and didn’t ask me to give up too many things. For me it was the refined, processed breads and loads of cheese that was hard. That cleanse is not vegan but I decided to make my 21 days vegan just to see what that was like. I’d had a fantasy about not eating animals and thought this was a good time to try it out.
About 10 days in I experienced a terrible healing crisis. A healing crisis is basically a deep detox with uncomfortable symptoms. If I knew then what I know today I would have done things much differently but I’m glad I went through all of that. After the 21 days I felt the best that I had in years. I decided I was done with the refined grain products, sugar, and animal products and never really looked back.
Shortly after adopting this new way of eating I spent over half a year living in Berlin, Germany. At the time there wasn’t much happening in way of plant-based, local food but I knew how to cook so I got really into hanging out at the local markets, chatting with the few organic farmers and spending time eating in a way that was quite new to me. I cooked about 90% of all my food while overseas. I started my first blog about self-love and began seeing the deep connections between food, nourishment, and self-care.
Up until that summer my life moved pretty fast. My time in Berlin was slow. I had few obligations and spent most of my days practicing yoga, hanging with friends, and making simple, healthy plant-based meals. I felt lighter and happier than I had in ages. I practiced yoga six days a week, a very rigorous practice that made me feel balanced, strong and more emotionally open than I can ever remember being.
I was so happy and at peace during my time in Berlin that it was rare that I ate my feelings. I also didn’t eat on the go or in the car and made it a real point to enjoy my meals at the table, outside, or with friends. Eating in this way made me see how I often ate out of sadness back home or ate in a rush. It’s hard to enjoy food and truly nourish yourself when you’re in a hurry or stuffing yourself to the point you are beyond full to not feel uncomfortable emotions.
Flash forward a year and I’m in Puerto Rico for a few weeks at the Ann Wigmore Institute experiencing a very intense cleanse. I was there participating in their certification program and to say my experience was life changing would be an understatement. I happened to be there at a very special time when the institute was quiet and our group was very small. During my time there I learned more about my digestion than I ever imagined possible and how to prepare the cleanest, most nutrient rich healing raw and fermented foods. It was such a gift to learn from the teachers. I cherish my time there so much. It’s where I learned how to grow wheat grass, what the setiva plant looked like and how to guide others through safe cleanses. I owe a great deal to this magical place.
When I came back from Puerto Rico I decided to leave Portland to attend a plant-based culinary school and enroll in a holistic nutrition course. I had been on so many adventures since I changed my diet and lifestyle and I was passionate about learning more and sharing what I learned with others.
The little tumblr blog I started gained some traction and people started to email me about their health. People who had known me back in my Tuna Helper (not even kidding) and cigarette (crazy right?) days were amazed that I was preparing all of this colorful food and writing about how taking care of myself was a huge priority in my life. They wanted to know how, why, and if I could help them.
Without even labeling what I was doing or charging for it I became a nutrition and wellness coach. By the time I finished culinary school and moved to L.A. life was in full swing. I set out to work as a personal chef. That lasted all of six months as it wasn’t for me but I learned a ton and met some interesting people along the way. I also saw firsthand how little attention people paid to how they eat. I can talk for hours about the healing properties of such and such food but lately I’m more interested in the how and why pieces. How do we incorporate healing foods into our lives? What gets in the way of us being able to nourish our bodies?
Shortly after moving to L.A. I started working with a Naturopath to help balance my hormones. Before moving here I was diagnosed with PCOS. I later learned this is a common diagnosis for women who took birth control pills for years and consumed large quantities of sugar and refined grains growing up. I read so many books and tried vegan diets for hormone balancing but in my case it was not successful.
My period had been gone for months, I had painful cystic acne on my face and was really afraid of what was happening. I tried a number of other alternative healing modalities and nothing helped. A few months before moving to L.A. I started taking western medication for PCOS because I was in so much pain and wanted relief. When my Naturopath suggested a non-vegan supplement to not just mask my symptoms but heal my body I said I’d try it. In weighing the balance of western drugs or herbs and an animal-based supplement, I went the natural route.
I’ve struggled for years with the moral dilemma of consuming animals and foods made from animals. Making the decision to take this supplement weighed heavy on my heart but it was so much better for my body than the synthetic drugs. The medication I took for the PCOS depleted my vitamin and mineral levels and gave me the most intense sugar cravings I ever had. Coming off of the medication, healing myself with herbs, supplements and foods was the second time in my life my body responded well to natural treatment. It was nothing short of a miracle to me.
Getting the PCOS diagnosis was really hard for me. Sitting in a doctors office discussing the possibility of freezing my eggs at thirty-one was a really hard conversation to have. At the time I had no idea if I wanted kids and couldn’t believe I was having to even think about this stuff. Coming to terms with re-introducing animals into my diet after years of not eating them was something I thought about, meditated on, and wrote about at length.
Today my hormones are in much better shape. I feel healthy and strong. I have an immense gratitude for Mother Nature and all of the ways she feeds and nourishes me. I bring so much awareness, gratitude, and mindfulness into my food choices. I spend lots of time connecting to Mother Earth and believe it has a huge impact on what I eat and how I live. And the icing on the cake, my cysts are gone and have regular periods!
The power we have to inspire and influence the people around us is not lost on me. Through every step of this journey I have seen the impact of simply showing up with a delicious home cooked meal. Sure it was challenging in the beginning, especially while traveling, but not impossible. Living in Europe after changing my eating habits in such major ways was a really good test. It also gave me a new found appreciation for the abundance of fresh food that is in my life on a daily basis.
My food journey has shown me that healing is a process and that our bodies know what is best for us. It can take time and work to connect to them and learn the subtle (and often not so subtle) signals they send. The more we practice the more fluid it becomes. We live in such a fascinating time. We can find books and research on every diet that proves why that one is the best. Ultimately though we have to do the footwork and soul searching ourselves. We must learn to hone and trust our intuition, be brave and willing to take care of ourselves no matter what.
So what do I eat? Mostly plants. Loads of them. I love to sprout and ferment because it helps my digestion and it’s super fun to watch things grow. I love medicinal herbs and enjoy talking to the farmers at the market. Occasionally I eat eggs, grass fed raw butter and meat and sometimes fish. Eating locally is important to me though I also eat select foods from around the world. I steer clear of refined sugar and every once in a while savor a delicious artisan bread. Above all its about balance and nourishment. I pay attention to the signals my body sends and I feed it accordingly.
Over the last six years I have developed a relationship with nourishment that I never imagined possible. Everyday I prepare a meal I say thank you to everyone and everything that came together to make it possible. So much has to happen to get food on my plate and I could (and have) meditated on that for hours. Food is energy and we can work with its energy to create health in ourselves and each other. The more I infuse my meals with intention and love the more my heart, mind, and body come into balance.
I try to eat at least one meal in silence everyday. Eating without distractions is a meditation for me and has been one of the most powerful practices in my life over the last years. I also share meals with loved ones as often as possible. When we eat in community and give in that way we restore our bodies and each other. Food has the ability to bring us together so that we can heal and enjoy life as one.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and be part of my journey. The amount of gratitude and love I have for all of you is endless. Wishing you well at whatever stage of your journey you are in right now. Know that you have support and don’t have to do this alone.