The Power of Habits and the Vegan Experiment

 Enjoying a nice piece of raw beef on the streets of Paris in 2016

Enjoying a nice piece of raw beef on the streets of Paris in 2016

If you’ve read my last blog about one man’s mission to improve his life by committing to 100 goals in 10 years as a way to challenge his old ways of thinking, then you already know I really resonated with this thought process.

I had started my own experimentation with creating new habits just before hearing him speak during my time in Portugal this past summer. And my first experiment in new habit formation was to… GO VEGAN. For those of you that know me, you can pick yourself up off the floor now. Shocking, I know… the thought of this carnivore eating tofu and veggies every day.

First of all, it will take a little getting personal for you to understand why I chose this particular habit.

In my early 20s after a handful of years of unexplained symptoms that were beginning to affect my life and health, my doctors finally diagnosed me with a genetic hormone condition commonly known as PCOS, which causes varying degrees of issues for one in ten women.

Looking back, I started having symptoms around 18 but every time I went to the doctor for one issue they would just “fix it” by giving me a pill to cover up whatever symptom I was having, never looking at the root cause of that issue.

Some of the symptoms that caused me the worst trouble included ocular migraines from hormone fluctuations, debilitating anxiety and shaking episodes, scary instances of apnea where I’d wake up unable to breathe, an unexplained slowed metabolism, rapid heartbeat, hair loss, nausea from blood sugar spikes, and expected infertility.

All these issues resulted in a routine of me taking 9 pills per day in my mid-20s. I was on everything from beta blockers for my heartrate, anti-depressants for anxiety, and insulin resistance medication to regulate my blood sugar and improve my metabolism. None of the pills seemed to make any improvements and I ended up with more symptoms like dizziness and stomach problems. I felt like I couldn’t win.

When I quit my job and started traveling the world alone I found that I had a lot of extra time on my hands. And one afternoon in July after a week of feeling particularly bad I thought, what if my doctors are wrong about my condition? What if I don’t have to live with this the rest of my life? I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set my mind to this year, why not improving my health, too?

I read books, watched documentaries, and even scanned medical journal articles and experiment reports in an effort to learn everything I could about my condition and possible solutions.

The turning point in my research was when I watched a documentary called “What the Health” where they discussed the correlation between so many diseases, including insulin resistance, and the consumption of animal products. Also, the idea that consuming animal products filled with hormones (yes – even the organic ones) could interfere with your own hormones.

So, I decided to go vegan. Or, for the purposes of this blog – “plant-based.”

 Some tasty vegan food in Thailand

Some tasty vegan food in Thailand

Since the vegan lifestyle often includes what you wear and the handbag you carry, I am not vegan in that sense. As I am only avoiding animal products as they relate to what I eat.

In addition to going cold turkey (no pun intended) on eggs, dairy, meat, and seafood, I dumped all my medications.

I also looked at what I was putting ON my body and through my extensive research discovered that many of the beauty products I was using included endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates and parabens that could be battling my natural hormone production as well. So, I ditched all my old products and went completely chemical free with everything from shampoo to eye shadow.

I started this process in July. It wasn’t always easy. I haven’t been perfect. I had a plate of fish and chips in Ireland on the Ring of Kerry, the best octopus of my life in the fishing town of Porto in Portugal, and some authentic pad Thai with fish sauce in Thailand. But other than just a few screw ups or indulgences, I’ve eaten completely plant-based since July.

So, what happened?

I haven’t had a single migraine. My heart doesn’t unexpectedly race. My metabolism has sped up and I’ve lost weight without restricting my food consumption, or counting calories. I’m more relaxed and less anxious than I’ve ever been. My hair is growing back in the thinning spots. My skin is clearer. I’ve only had one apnea event since July. My stomach issues are non-existent. I also just feel better, and happier.

And most importantly and completely unexpected, after only two months of these changes I restored ovulation and fertility… something my doctors told me would never happen without a pill or artificial hormones.

TAKE THAT, MODERN MEDICINE!

After endless visits to the doctor, hundreds of swallowed pills, lots of tears and frustration, who knew I was in control the whole time? I just had to question everything when it came to my own health and change what I was putting in and on my body.

 Some of my favorites can be made vegan!

Some of my favorites can be made vegan!

And why I am sharing this with all of you?

It’s easy to get stuck in what you’ve always done, or to not challenge your own thinking or even what professionals might tell you. But no great change or discovery will happen in your life if you don’t actually take a risk and try. You might look like an ass... or fail... or not get the results you were looking for. But that's what life is all about, so why are we always so worried to just try something?

And sometimes that includes going against people that think they know what’s best for you, or doing something that is weird or unaccepted, but I’ve quickly learned throughout my life that that the opinions of others don’t matter and never really have. Most of the time they don't even know what the hell they're talking about, or their judgement comes from their own insecurities or fear of failure.

So as far as habits go, I'm sticking to this plant-based lifestyle and think this is a good one to continue beyond its initial 30 days, as long as it continues to make me feel as good as it does today. It’s funny how just one little experiment in change can alter almost everything in your life… but you won’t know if it’s possible until you try.

So, what habit will you try this month?

For me, my next habit will be one of the mind and I’ll spend 30 days meditating daily. Let’s see what all this buzz is about.