Friday, June 7, 2013

Kristin: Adopting a Plant-Based Diet After Unexpectedly Expecting

I always enjoy hearing the stories of those who read my blog. I urge any other readers to reach out to me so that I can share your triumphs and challenges that we all face in our lives, whether it's through our plant-based journey, road to financial happiness, or our adventures into minimalism. Whatever the story, it always put a big smile on my face to know that other readers out there are relating to my own life, and are learning something in the process.

When Kristin reached out to me, I was excited to see if she'd share her story with all of you.

LRJ: What made you decide to go plant-based and change your diet?

Kristin: In the fall of 2012, my husband and I watched several food documentaries including Food FightKing CornSupersize Me, and Forks over Knives. Coincidentally, we watched Forks over Knives on Thanksgiving night. After watching that documentary, we sat down and decided to discuss trying a plant-based diet. My husband was very supportive and purchased the Forks over Knives cookbook immediately, which set me on the right path from the start.

LRJ: What kind of health problems have you experienced in the last few years and what led you to change your ways?

Kristin: In the summer of 2010, at the ripe old age of 37, I was diagnosed with hypertension and mild sleep apnea. I started taking medication for the hypertension but opted to not purchase a CPAP for various reasons. At the end of 2010, I was surprised to find out that I was pregnant. During my pregnancy, although I lost weight, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome (Class I). I almost died the day after my emergency c-section due to the medication being given to me because of the HELLP syndrome.

 It truly wasn't until my little man was old enough to eat solid foods with us that I decided to change my eating habits. Since he has a severe dairy allergy, I couldn't see fixing two separate meals for three people. With the hypertension and my little one's dairy allergy, it really became an obvious choice to change our eating habits. Also, I was diagnosed in August of 2012 as pre-diabetic with the recommendation to start medication for that issue. Having seen my father and his father deal with diabetes in their later years, I knew I didn't want to do the same thing. Another reason for making the change.

LRJ: What have been the biggest health benefits or changes that you've noticed since changing your diet?

Kristin: Surprisingly, I've lost at least 20 pounds since changing my diet. Because of the weight loss, and eating healthier, I'm no longer pre-diabetic. And, I've been able to cut my blood pressure medication in half. In fact, I'm now taking 1/4 of the dose I was originally prescribed in 2010.

LRJ: Did you face any challenges in the beginning?

Kristin: Plenty! First, I never knew how much junk we had in our pantry until I started looking at labels and was really being challenged to watch our intake. I did start pretty simply by making only things that I felt comfortable making easily. And I'm definitely not ready for Iron Chef (I still have trouble cutting an onion), but I'm getting there. I was scared to death of all of the crazy ingredients I saw listed in the Forks over Knives cookbook! We live in a small Southern town, so I still can't find many of the ingredients. But I now have the confidence to work around any ingredient issues and utilize the internet for moral support.

Second, I didn't enjoy cooking in the least when I first started. I had no confidence so I really never knew if something was going to taste good or not each meal. Thankfully, I've been blessed with a wonderful husband who is very supportive of our change. He has definitely given me the confidence to at least attempt everything once. I will say, though, the "No-Cheese Sauce" in the Forks over Knives cookbook has been shelved indefinitely. Not going there again any time soon. :)

Third, I'm not the healthiest person on the planet. But even my healthier friends were challenging me on cutting out meat. And it seems that even now I'm often left to fend for myself because of a lack of understanding. In fact, I had someone ask me if I didn't believe that God wants us to eat meat. And I had someone else who wanted to bring us lunch one day and decided on roast beef & ham sandwiches. Not sure what you say to that except "thank you."

LRJ: Tell me about your blog, Unexpectedly Expecting. What inspired you to create this blog?

Kristin: Pregnancy. At 38, I never imagined I would be having a baby. When I titled my blog "Unexpectedly Expecting," that hit the nail on the head. We absolutely and resolutely never wanted to have children. My husband and I had been happily married for over 10 years and just didn't feel the need to "ruin" our lives with a child. We had come to a reconciliation with the Lord that it ultimately wasn't our decision but His. However, we weren't free-wheeling either... well not every time, at least. :)

So I decided to start a blog to record my growing belly along with milestones. All of our friends and family knew how strongly we felt about not having children so they sincerely wanted to know how we were handling this change in our lives. And as this country goes, you just don't live close enough to the ones you love for them to be involved in your lives. So, the blog started. Now that I have a very active toddler, it's been more difficult to get the blogs posted on a monthly basis. I do what I can and post when I have the opportunity.

LRJ: I'm childless but incredibly interested in raising my future son or daughter as a vegan. Does your son Noah like to eat plant-based meals?

Kristin: Actually, he really enjoys some of them. Obviously there are days when the food goes into the trash because he just wasn't in the mood. But since he's so young, he doesn't know what dairy products taste like due to his allergy. And, I've given him so little meat over the course of his life that he really doesn't even know it's not there. We will, on very limited occasions, give him a little chicken or hamburger, but only when we know the source of the meat. No store bought meat will enter his system if I can help it. Even today, I had some soy sliced ham on a sandwich for his lunch. He just wasn't interested in the "meat." And, he's the healthiest one of the three of us. I made most of his baby food and still make most of his food. Again, he doesn't know anything different so it really is easy with him.

LRJ: You also mentioned you were delving into minimalism. What brought you to that, and how has that affected your life?

Kristin: Interestingly, many things have brought us to that place. I worked full-time until the day I left to have Noah. When I left that day, we had planned on my going back to work at the end of my leave. How that would work, we just didn't know. By the time Noah was six weeks old, I was on the floor pleading with the Lord to make it work somehow that I wouldn't have to go back to work. (What?!) I NEVER imagined I would WANT to stay home with a child. I just didn't see that coming. So when we finally decided that I wouldn't go back to work, we really had to buckle down and see what was absolutely necessary in order to sustain our lives. My husband owns his own business so we really have to watch how we spend our money. (And his business is driven by the weather, which can be an added stress factor at times.)

Some things have been easy to cut out, like eating out and travel. We've also cut out our home phone and only have cable internet. When we cut our cable off, we thought that would be the end of our lives. But there is way more content on the internet that's free than we ever thought possible.

I even started making my own laundry detergent with your recipe. And I'm looking to make soap and shampoo soon to help cut those disposable costs. We're always looking at ways to cut out revolving expenses like our trash pickup (we can take it to a friend's dumpster) and putting up a clothesline to help cut energy costs this summer. But God has been so good to us by taking care of our finances. We actually have been able to give money to others on many occasions and are more free with our possessions than ever before.

LRJ: What advice would you give to others who are considering making a lifestyle change, whether into a plant-based diet or minimalism?

Kristin: Go slowly. I've had several people who said that based on my story they wanted to change their ways as well. I've encouraged them to take their time. I'm a stay at home mom with some time on my hands. But having come from the corporate world, I know how exhausted one gets after working all day. To try and take an additional two hours to put a meal on the table after working a full day would be maddening! Just do what you can when you can.

 If you can afford to take some short cuts, do that by buying the pre-cut veggies at the store. And don't get overwhelmed. I am definitely much faster at throwing a meal together now than I was six months ago. One thing that helps me is to always have some rice or other grain already made on hand. Brown rice takes up to 45 minutes or longer to cook. If you can have it done and in the fridge or freezer waiting for you to make your meal, all the better! Again, just take it slow and do what you can.

LRJ: You've obviously had some big changes over the last couple of years. Looking back, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment in your journey?

Kristin: This question actually brings tears of joy because my life is my proudest accomplishment (and I don't say that with pride). Obviously, without the Lord none of this would be possible. But had we not had Noah, this conversation would have never happened. There's a verse in the Bible that says, "I will give you the desires of your heart..." When we first found out about our little guy, that verse didn't make sense. A child was not the desire of our hearts. BUT we didn't know what our desires truly were. Only the Lord knew. And for that, we truly can't thank Him enough. So my proudest accomplishment is just this... life. I'm loving this life.

LRJ: Anything else you'd like to add?

Kristin: The only thing else that I would say is this: be okay with who you are. Coming from me, that's a very odd thing to say. But I'm realizing that who I am today is who I was created to be. And that's okay. Take some time and find out who you were created to be and then be okay with that person. What joy is there if we're never happy with who we are and are always striving to be somebody else? The other thing is to trust Christ in you. Take time to find out who He is. He created you, so take some time to get to know Him.

Thanks again to Kristin for sharing her story! Check out her blog, Unexpectedly Expecting, to keep up to date on her journey.

Kelsey is a passionate vegan living in Houston, Texas, spreading the word about the benefits of eating a healthy, plant-based diet. She's also a minimalist enthusiast, a self-proclaimed financial guru of her household, and founder of The Little Red Journal.

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