My health journey started as a child growing up with severe asthma. I never left the house without my set of inhalers, and was unable to participate in P.E. or school sports without having an attack. Fortunately I discovered horseback riding, a non-aerobic passion that would pacify my desire to do things like play volleyball or be on the swim team. My youth was characterized with many trips to the E.R., unable to breathe. My collection of inhalers continued to grow, as I needed more and more powerful steroids to prevent the attacks.
Fast forward to college. I was having a great time in my new home of Denver after growing up in the suburbs of L.A. My asthma was quite improved (can’t beat the fresh mountain air over L.A. smog!) and I was less dependent on inhalers, although I still took my daily dose. I made a group of friends who liked to ride skateboards, play frisbee golf, snowboard and hike. I was introduced to more than just clean mountain air and outdoorsy-folk in Colorado. I got my first apartment with a classmate who was vegan. Before her, I had never known someone who had given up animal products. Having grown up with a younger sister with cancer and a “health nut” mom, I was used to eating broccoli and salads every day. But consciously avoiding animal products as an act of compassion and a move for better health was a new concept to me. It sounded great – I was all in!
A few weeks later, while talking to my mom on the phone, she asked how my asthma was doing. It was then that I had noticed that I had forgotten to take my daily inhaler for an entire week! She was upset, even though I felt great without it. I assured her that I would take it, and then promptly tossed it in the trash (like any other 18 year old would do!). Since I didn’t need my inhaler anymore, I decided to try something really bold – running! I had never owned a pair of running shoes since I was not allowed to run as a kid, so I went out and bought myself a pair. I printed out a couch to 5k program and began running in the park by my apartment. I was addicted, and started running five days a week. At this point I was turning into an outdoor junkie – running, hiking, rock climbing, snowboarding, you name it I was into it.
Not long after I embarked on my vegan journey I was tempted by a wine and cheese party my friends were having. I never enjoyed dairy much so I didn’t miss it (as I kid I refused to drink milk, eat yogurt, soft cheese, ice cream, etc) but I definitely had a thing for hard cheese. I had a couple slices at the party, and a couple of minutes later I was mid-athsma attack. Since I hadn’t been needing my inhalers, I no longer had most of them, and the one for emergencies that I was supposed to carry around with me was at home. This was when I first made the connection that dairy was the source of my asthma. Over the next few months, I would have this experience over and over again when not being careful eating out or at reading labels. When I went home to California and saw my doctor, I asked him if I could simply be allergic to dairy instead of have asthma. He said yes, that it was very common. Obviously that made me incredibly upset, having put all of those steroids into my growing body instead of simply avoiding something I was allergic to!
This fueled the vegan health-kick that I was about to embark on. I was so empowered that I found out that I solved a health problem that had plagued my entire life thus far. I got completely obsessed with exercise and food. I started eating at all the trendy vegan joints, shopping for organic groceries at the health food store and loading up on tempeh and seitan. I ate kale, quinoa, and chia seeds, bought a juicer, and tried the raw food diet. I made smoothies full of soy protein and pomegranate juice and worked out at a gym. My friends and I regularly did the master cleanse to clean out our intestines. I was introduced to more people who ate what I ate and felt the way I felt about health and nutrition, firmly solidifying my beliefs. And honestly, I felt great – I had loads of energy, my skin was clear, and I felt stronger and more fit than I ever had in my life.