Over the last six months I have started a lot of lifestyle changes. I have stopped drinking, started exercising, and started getting back to meditation. All of these shock me less than one change I have made. This is one change that I never thought I could make or would want to make. In fact, I would have said you were crazy if you ever suggested it to me.
How it all began
I never had experiences with vegetarians growing up, not until I went to college. Sure, there were people in my high school that were known to be vegetarians, I lived in a college town that had restaurants that had extensive vegetarian selections, I just never knew any personally. That changed when I went to college and ended up pledging a fraternity. There I met Billy. Much like myself, Billy was a queer kid. However, I was still in the closet. Billy was also a vegetarian. While we were in school together, I never gave it much thought. He was just Billy. After he moved to another college, we stayed in touch through the frat. That is until I left college.
Some time later I found him on Facebook and I reached out to add him as a connection. We talked a lot about the “good ole days.” At some point there was a joke that came across my feed about how animals are good, especially with gravy. I made an off the cuff not weak thought out comment and Billy didn’t take it well. He is also an animal rights person and includes that with his vegetarian lifestyle. To make a long story short, I was an ass and our friendship ended. I never thought much about it since I wasn’t a vegetarian and didn’t have a desire to be one. That all changed.
Making hard decisions
Just over two years ago, I met Karl, he is a vegetarian. It was almost like the universe was putting him in my path to learn a lesson(s). At first, I didn’t change my diet much. He never pushed me and I didn’t see the need. Over time I started to change my eating habits. Nothing overly drastic. More veggies and slowly trying things like tofu. Once I understood that those things could be very appetizing, more changes happened.
When I started going to the doctor in December, the first thing I found out was that I had high blood pressure, no real surprise for me. The first thing they told me was that I needed to change my diet. The new trend is the Mediterranean diet. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a lot of vegetables, legumes, protein, and healthy fats – short version anyway. They also advised me to reduce my salt intake. That was easier since I rarely use salt. My diet started changing and we started doing meal prep.
The biggest change came with my liver disease diagnosis. It is a lot to receive news that says you have a disease that cannot be cured. That your only hope is to treat the symptoms and work to slow its progress. That was a major hit to me and was left wondering what to do and if it was all worth it. After a bit of depression and thinking I didn’t want to fight, I realized I didn’t want to die just yet. I had to fight.
The hepatologist I go to suggested that I start exercising, don’t over use OTC (over the counter) drugs, and massively change my diet. I had already been eating about 60% vegetarian, so I asked what else I should do. Her response was to give up salt, red meat, and anything refined. Refined items being white sugar, flour, and bread. Increase the amounts of raw and cooked vegetables. For exercise. Was advised to speed about 150 minutes a week with moderate exercise.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy but it also did not seem an insurmountable task. I had support from my boyfriend and knowing I was fighting to prevent this disease from advancing and possibly killing me, was enough to force a change.
Where I am at today
Before I go any further, let me give you some context. When I had my first appointment with my doctors on December 24th, 2020 I was massively out of shape. We would go on hikes and I would be stopping often for breathers. I, absolutely, hated it. My first weigh in had me at 293 (approximately) pounds. I was not healthy, I had bouts of bloating, swelling legs, bad sleep apnea, and difficulty breathing. Add to that having arthritis in both knees and my days were a fun challenge.
By May of this year, I had already dropped about twenty pounds just from giving up drinking and eating better. At the time, I wasn’t so hardcore. With the severity of the news I had been given about my liver, I stepped it up. I work out no less that four days a week, for an hour each day. Each workout is over moderate exercise. I have switched to about a 90% vegetarian diet, for lack of a better description I am a pescatarian. I limit the amount of animal protein that I take in, relying mostly on vegetable proteins or other ways of adding it. My sugar intake is minimal, as well as my salt.
These are pretty big changes for me. As a result, today I weighed in at 250. Keep in mind that I am also 6’4” tall and yes, I fully realize that I am still overweight. That is not the issue or the point. In six months I have shed 43 pounds and now eat healthier than I ever have in my life. I am working on rebuilding muscle tone and lose more weight.
My goals, set by my hepatologist, was to get down to at least a 25% BMI, currently I am at 29.6%. That is down from the 35% I was at. It makes that last 5% seem really easy to get to and possibly push further. Initially, she told me she wanted me at a 185lb weight. With my height, I was more worried about how I would look. I made my goal to be 225. Looking at the progress I have made, pushing to 185 doesn’t seem so drastic as it once did.
Yes, you can change your lifestyle
Looking back, I was an ass to Billy. He deserved a friend that is supportive of his lifestyle and views. I made a joke that wasn’t funny to him and chose to be belligerent about it. Where I am today, I am fully sorry for treating him like that. As they say, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I have a whole new respect for being a vegetarian, honestly I don’t think I would want to go back to how I used to eat. Billy, wherever you are I hope you can forgive the childishness on which I acted and know that karma came full circle and gave me a heaping portion of vegetarian crow to swallow.
You can make a change, no matter how difficult and insurmountable it may seem at the time. I am proof of that. When it comes to healthy living, I was always lazy. It’s all about the approach that can make the difference. It is sad that it took a life threatening disease to wake me up to see there are better ways to live and eat.