My life has always revolved around food. Growing up in a lower-middle class household with healthnut parents, we never ate a lot of meat, sugary or processed foods – mostly because they weren’t cost effective options. Procuring a tasty treat meant that you pulled out a cookbook and made what you wanted from scratch. I started making muffins, pancakes, and cookies at 8 and by 13 I was planning 3 course meals for my own birthday party. There wasn’t 1 cookbook at the library I hadn’t checked out and read and most of my babysitting money went toward fancy ingredients. I was, in every essence of the term, a full blown foodie.
But then puberty hit and a mean case of Body Dismorphic disorder set in. I still remember the day I became a vegetarian ( for the first time). I took violin and on occasion we played in groups with the older students. One of the older girls was tall, lean and graceful. She was everything I wanted my stout athletic 15 year old body to look like and she was a vegetarian. I began the next day (after scarfing down a couple slices of meat lovers pizza).
From there, one thing lead to the next. I had a quick run-in with veganism and maybe a week or 2 of raw foodism. But at the end of the day all of these diet changes at the time were being fed by a sickness and I was starving myself in order to be in control. I panicked when I didn’t know where I’d get my next “safe” meal. I counted calories, grams of fiber, and fat, exercised to cancel every one of them out and disrupted my bodies natural cycles and rhythms.
I was at rock bottom right before I turned 17. I remember waking up to my body just hurting. I had terrible GI problems, joint pain, chronic runners knee and even ran through the stomach flu one day. I was the toughest and stupidest person I knew. Fortunately, around this time I read through the Mayo clinic’s comprehensive family health encyclopedia and discovered to my horror I was setting myself up for osteoporosis, all types of deficiencies, and possible long term fertility problems (ya, I know I was 16 ha!) I was shaken up enough after that to start eating enough to sustain marathon training the rest of that year and complete my first one at 17.
Fast forward another year and I’m much healthier, eating meat again, running slow but high mileage. One evening I go out on one of my typical night runs. Twenty mins in my hands start itching and then swelling. I feel my face getting tight and my eyes swelling. Then came the hives. By that time I had beelined it back home and was shrieking for Benadryl. I hopped in a hot shower and waited it out, wracking my brain with what could have triggered my reaction. I had recently reintroduced meat back in my diet so that’s what I began to scrutinize.
This same occurrence happened off and on for over a year until I finally linked it to red meat. I have what is now recognized by medical professionals as an alpha-gal allergy. It’s a reaction to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal), whereby the body is overloaded with immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies on contact with the carbohydrate. Give it a google and try not to get a tick bite. Anyways, it is characterized by delayed onset of anaphylaxis and in 2009 there was no such thing as delayed-onset anaphylaxis and my doctor just looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for an Epipen. Needless to say, that’s when all mammal meat made a swift exited from my diet once again.
Fast forward another 5ish years and I’m living that steady omnivore life incorporating dairy, fish, and poultry pretty regularly still with a heavy emphasis on my veggies. I was running well but not particularly happy with how I recovered and still pretty groggy throughout the day at work. It was around this time I met Jesse who was a year out from brain surgery recovery. Our diets meshed well and we bonded over our mutual appreciation of good cheese and creamy pasta dishes. After we’d been dating about 8 months we began having serious discussions about preventative measures to take in decreasing the risk of his brain tumor returning. We both began reading/listening/watching everything we could on lifestyle and diet changes that would lend themselves to a long healthy happy life. Jesse switched over to a vegan diet completely the summer of 2016 and (after a few meltdowns) I obliged to accommodate his new dietary restrictions.
At first I felt boxed in. I love building rich tasty umami flavor using small amounts of animal products but relying mostly on plants and I saw nothing wrong with my habits. I felt like all the taste and diversity was being stripped away from our mealtimes and cooking wasn’t fun anymore. I also was concerned that Jesse wasn’t going to get the calories he needed to sustain his 90-100 mile weeks of running. It took 6 months for me to read and educate myself further before I was 100% convinced a purely plant based diet was the best option. I’ll share in a later blog post some of the excellent resources that led me to this conclusion. I, by no means, want to guilt trip or sway people to be vegan but rather share the journey and discoveries we’ve made on how to truly live, train, and feel your best.
So here we are now, running a total of 160-180 miles a week combined, fueled 100% of plants and feeling great. The blogs to come will be filled with tips, trick, recommendations, reviews, training secrets, race recaps and musing of our veggie fueled life.