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Plant Based Diet and Why I Chose It

Plant Based Diet and Why I Chose It

Photo By: J.Michelle Photography

Why I Now Eat A Plant Based Diet

The question I get asked weekly on my Instagram account is why I’m on a plant based diet. Lets go into detail as to why I decided to start eating plant-based and how it’s slightly different than being a “vegan.”

Last year I experienced auto-immune symptoms, horrific burning in my joints, specifical in my neck, wrists, and ankles. Also, I had a chiropractic injury that felt like I was loosing my marbles as a wife and mom. More than that, I was in terrible physical pain every day and I was not functioning well, which meant I honestly cried all the time.

The Doctors Couldn’t Diagnose Me

We went to the doctor and he ran a lot of blood tests. It showed that I was ANA positive, but we didn’t know what auto-immune disease I had. My symptoms leaned towards lupus and RA (rheumatoid arthritis). My doctor told me to try a diet change and get rid of lifestyle stress to see if my ANA markers would go down, which could actually alleviate my symptoms. He said we would test me again in 4 months.

As soon as I got home I tried to alleviate my stress and my mom stepped up to the plate and really helped me with the kids while my husband was at work. She helped do laundry, cook, and bathe the kids all while I didn’t feel well. I was already gluten-free and sugar-free, but I knew that dairy caused inflammation, and I was drinking a few cups of organic grass-fed milk daily to help keep my vitamin D levels where they needed to be. I bought only grass-fed beef and really good quality chicken from Costco.

Cutting Out Dairy Was The Hardest

The HARDEST decision I made was going dairy-free, specifically the diet I went on was AIP, auto-immune Paleo. AIP restricts you from eating, grains, legumes, and dairy. Since I was having auto-immune issues, I also restricted myself from eating nightshades (potatoes, eggplant, peppers). Within a few weeks I saw a huge change in how I felt. My burning in my joints was starting to go away and I generally was feeling a lot better. I couldn’t believe how good I was actually feeling! Mind you, my symptoms were not gone… just about 70% better than they were before. It wasn’t ALL day long, but did rear it’s ugly head a few times and mostly at night.

4 months later and I went to the doctor to redo my blood work and my ANA markers had gone down so much so that my doctor said I wasn’t ANA positive any more and I did not have RA or Lupus. He said if I had continued down the road I was headed that I would definitely have an auto-immune diagnosis. Auto-immune can be caused my stress, sometimes by genetics, but for a lot of people it’s caused by stress.

What It Took To Feel My Best

So, fast forward 3 more months and I wanted this all to just GO AWAY! I was tired of still dealing with this burning sensation… so I decided to do more research. 10 years prior I had read the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Esselstyn. I couldn’t believe that you cWan actually REVERSE heart disease and PREVENT it! I thought, I wonder if you can actually reverse and prevent auto-immune diseases with a plant based diet?

I highly recommend this video!

Thankfully there are great resources on the internet because I started watching his videos on YouTube and I heard him mention that many Western Diseases are preventable by diet, and that auto-immune diseases are increasing like wildfire across the United States, and a lot of that is due to diet. I did more research, watched more documentaries, and just poured every second of my day into learning everything I could about Western diseases and how diet plays a HUGE role in it. The phrase “You are what you eat” is TRUE!

I Contacted The One Doctor I Thought Could Help

I decided to email Dr. Esselstyn and ask him all my questions. I was scared because it meant I would start eating grains again, since most of the plant-based diet requires you to eat grains and beans, which I completely was restricted from on the AIP diet.

A few days prior I had tried a few bites of oatmeal and soon after felt a tremendous amount of burning… How would I introduce these foods back in? I was scared. Within 3 hours of emailing Dr. Esselstyn, his assistant got right back to me and said Dr. Esselstyn would be calling me!!!! What?! I was so excited and called my mom immediately! LOL

Sure enough, about an hour later Dr. Esselstyn called me. I told him how I had tried oats and they made my joints burn. I didn’t know how to do this… So he talked with me about my health history, and said slowly but surely I could do this. He had me try quinoa and said it’s ok if I can’t tolerate oats right now, but that I most likely would eventually be able to. He said there are so many grains on the market, try a various amount of them. So I tried quinoa and I tolerated it!

I bought quinoa flour as well and made pancakes with it (not my favorite, but it was nice to have something I could eat!). Next, I tried beans. Garbanzo beans didn’t work in the beginning, but I could tolerate black beans. I started righting down the foods that I could eat and building a menu from there.

Meal-Planning Is Key

I remember my mom coming over and taking the kids for the afternoon. She told me my only job was to meal-plan for 2 weeks with my new cookbooks, and write up a grocery list. That way I wouldn’t have to wonder what I could eat, it was all planned out and I was ready. (I really do have the BEST mom!!!)

So that’s what I did. I sat with my computer on Pinterest, and looked up recipes that I could eat. I also ordered the cookbooks from Dr. Esselstyn’s family, and the Forks Over Knives cookbook as well. They really opened my eyes to the possibilities I had in the kitchen. My FAVORITE cookbook of all is the Engine 2 Cookbook. It is full of delicious recipes. I make some of them every single week, without fail!

Since eating plant-based ALL of my burning in my joints is gone!!! It’s amazing! One time I took a vitamin and had a reaction, but it only lasted 1 day. It’s amazing how food can really be healing to our bodies.

Use Social Media To Help You

Another resource I want to give you is a YouTube channel. Dr. Esselstyn’s daughter Jane and wife Ann have a YouTube channel where they cook from their cookbooks and answer plant-based eating questions. I remember at night I would just sit here on my chromebook and watch video after video of these delicious looking recipes. They make it look easy and simple and durable!

Seriously, one of my FAVORITE recipes!

Rules To Eating Plant-Based

Here are the rules to eating plant-based (per Dr. Esselstyn) DO NOT EAT:

  1. meat or eggs of any kind
  2. animal dairy products of any kind
  3. oil of any kind (you can use it on your skin, but don’t eat it)
  4. juice (this of course is optional to general plant-based eaters)
Photo By: J.Michelle Photography

Let Me Encourage You

If I were talking to somebody that was struggling with auto-immune, I would highly recommend the plant-based diet. The AIP diet really helped me, however, it didn’t get rid of it… Plant-based eating is actually HEALING the body. Your body WANTS to heal every single day… but the food you eat can in fact keep it from repairing what is damaged.

Plant based diet is basically the vegan diet, but without all the oil. OIL is pure saturated fat. That means you have taken a whole food and stripped it of all it’s nutrients and fiber. All you have is the oil, and that oil is pure fat. Remember, God created that olive for you to eat in its whole form. That way you can process the oils with the fiber to make it digestible. It’s just like juice. If you juice an apple you are left with the fructose of the fruit. But an apple was designed to be eaten in its whole form, giving you the fiber that the juice needs to digest properly in your stomach to keep your glucose levels stable. Also, remember processed “vegan” foods like fake meats and cheeses are packed full of oils! These are not healthy foods, so stay away from them.

You Can Have Freedom Again

I am finally healing from this crazy bought that I have had for over a year now. I am feeling amazing. Actually, I feel like I’m on top of the world! I have FOOD FREEDOM, HEALTH FREEDOM, and that gives me FREEDOM to live my life to the fullest! As a family we prayed asking, no more like begging God to give me the tools to fully heal from this, and He did. I am so thankful for plant-based eating.

Plant Based Diet Tips

If you are wanting to try a plant based diet lifestyle here are some tips that really helped me:

  1. Buy the cookbooks that I recommend. They will really help you in so many ways! Way more than Pinterest.
  2. Meal-plan! Sit down with your planner or just a piece of paper and plan out your meals for 1 week. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks or dessert.
  3. Plan to eat at home for a few weeks. I talked to my husband and he was completely on board. You need your family to help support you in this. That doesn’t mean they have to eat like this, but you need them cheering you on. Actually now, we rarely eat out, and if we do I bring my own food generally.
  4. Give yourself grace and up your grocery budget by $50 for at least the first month or two. I needed the extra $50 to buy produce for new recipes, and to try different grains and beans to see what I could tolerate.
  5. Make plenty of each recipe to give yourself some leftovers. I really like doing this with pasta, soup, salad dressing, oatmeal, cookies, etc. Also, I am a huge advocate for batch cooking ingredients. Having big batch of brown rice in the fridge really helps!

Greens Are a Life-Saver!

A major component to healing your body is eating a lot of GREENS. That’s right, kale, spinach, lettuce greens, swiss chard, beets… all of it. Greens have a wonderful amount of vitamins and minerals that help your body absorb amino acids and protein, which reduces your risk of many health problems and diseases. Make sure to incorporate greens into your diet every day.

What I Typically Eat In A Day!

Breakfasts: OATS! Always eat oats for breakfast in some way for breakfast. They are packed full of nutrients, keep you full with all their fiber, and they even have protein in them! I like to eat “oat bowls,” AKA: RAW OATMEAL. My kids love these Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes, and my husband has a 4-Ingredient Breakfast Bar with a piece of fruit every morning for breakfast.

I also have TONS of oatmeal muffin recipes!

bowl of raw oatmeal

Lunches: This is the time to eat up leftovers from the night before. I also try to eat at least 1 salad a day. This is a great time to eat one. If you google oil free salad dressings, you will find a lot of recipes. I absolutely love The Olive Tap flavored balsamic vinegars. They are pricey, but so good! You don’t need to add anything to them, just pour some on your salad.


I also enjoy making sandwiches on my homemade sourdough bread. I like to make a bunch of these plant-based burger patties, freeze them, and pop them in the toaster to make a quick sandwich.

Dinners: Here’s where it gets fun! I post my meal plans eat week here on my website, so there are lots of ideas for you there, but I also have several plant-based recipes on my website under Main Dishes. If I don’t know what to make, my default is Mexican food because it just seems easiest for me!

A Few More Tips

Lastly, remember to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Dr. Esselstyn recommended I take 250 mcg of B12 daily and I feel great. I actually recently had my blood work done and my B12 levels were perfect. B12 is naturally found in the dirt, which is how meat eaters absorb it through the meat they eat. We are really good about washing our produce these days, so just take a supplement and you’ll do great!

You are a warrior. Your body was created with the ability to heal. Food is natural medicine. Make sure you are fueling your body with the necessary daily nutrients it needs to stay healthy. I hope you find this post encouraging and helpful! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

This Post Is NOT Sponsored

***This post was inspired and written from my own experiences. No body paid for me to say anything written above. This post is not sponsored in any way. All the words written are my own. This is a testimony of what helped me personally go on a plant based diet. I am not a doctor, nor do I hold any medical degrees. Please do not take any of this as medical information. Please consult a doctor with any health concerns.

Instant Pot Vegan Black Bean Soup (click image for recipe)
4-Ingredient Breakfast Bars (click image for recipe)
Vegan “Meat Loaf” (click image for recipe)
Vegan Apple Cinnamon Muffins (click image for recipe)
Please Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, and I will receive a small compensation when you use my links to make a purchase. I would appreciate your support, as this website helps support my family.

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