Diet and Nutrition, Physical Fitness

On Becoming a Vegetarian

My husband and I recently decided to become vegetarians. For years, I’d been considering this change, but felt gun-shy because I didn’t think it was a choice that I would be able to actually follow through with. It’s only been a month since we made this decision, and it hasn’t been without its challenges, but it’s been a lot easier to follow through with than I thought it’d be! I wanted to share the reasons I made this choice, some of the challenges it brings, and some of the things I am learning as a result of doing this.

I’ve always found it interesting that, at least according to the Biblical account of creation, God originally only gave humans and animals permission to eat things that grow out of the ground (Genesis 1:29-30). We weren’t permitted by God to consume animals until after the flood (perhaps all the vegetation had been drowned out?). The fact that, in God’s original design of the human body, we only needed fruit and vegetables for sustenance speaks volumes to me about why we are not currently thriving in terms of the state of our collective health. Disease is rampant, and yet often times preventable simply through diet. I know we can’t control most of the things that happen to us in life, but if I can do my best to take care of this body that God gave me, to be around longer and to be healthy enough to do whatever it is that God might have me to do, I’d like to get on board with that!

Another concept that I’ve felt personally convicted of over the years is the concept of Ahimsa – or non-injury – to all sentient beings. This concept is adhered to in the Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. The basic idea is that we (humans, animals, and insects/bugs) are all in this together. These traditions go beyond showing love to your fellow man, but also showing love and care to anything that lives. I love the compassion in that, and I think it echoes what God intended when he told us that we were to be stewards over the earth (Genesis 1:28). Full disclosure, I am still working on letting bugs live when I find them in my house or my classroom– but I’m getting there!

Finally, it just isn’t healthy to eat the meat that is mass produced here in the United States. Our animals aren’t raised humanely, are fed products that are inconsistent with what’s healthiest for them, and then killed in (often times) tortuous fashion, and brought right to our dinner tables. I often wonder what is happening to our bodies when we are eating sick, traumatized, and depressed animals?

The challenge for us, in being vegetarians, is that it can be hard to plan and execute good meals. I work full time, we are both involved in activities outside of work, and we have a lot of things currently happening in the life of our family. In the past, when we were too tired to cook or plan dinner – we’d just go out and grab something quick and easy. That’s a lot harder to do when you are a vegetarian! Though I haven’t craved meat, I do suspect that abstaining from seafood will be a bit of a challenge for me. I love my lobster and crab legs in the summer! But I’ll just take it one day at a time and cross that bridge when I get there.

One of the things I am learning is how to cook differently, making vegetables as the main portion of the meal as opposed to them being a side dish. I am also learning to detach from food. A friend of mine who went paleo mentioned that she was learning this, too. And I have a better understanding of what she meant now, than I did when she first said it. Not that it’s bad to enjoy the food we eat, but I am learning that food is primarily for sustenance. In the past, the enjoyment of food (for me) took precedence over whether or not a particular food item was beneficial for my body. This realization surprised me, because I am not a foodie by any strtch of the imagination! But, by refocusing my purpose for eating (sustenance and not enjoyment), I am finding that I am not as attached to food as I previously had been. Which, I think, is a good thing!

A final thing that I am learning has to do with the difference between saying, “I’m a vegetarian,” and actually eating a plant based diet. Just because a person is a vegetarian doesn’t mean they are eating healthily! There was one day where all I ate was cheese pizza, popcorn, fruit snacks, and a Dr. Pepper. Those things are all technically “vegetarian” in the sense that I didn’t have any meat – but none of it is plant based! (And, I felt horrible at the end of that day).

Ultimately, I think being a vegetarian is the healthiest dietary choice for my body, and I want to do whatever will allow me to experience my body to its fullest potential!

Have you ever significantly changed your diet? And if you’re a vegetarian, send me your recipes!

Thanks for reading!

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Infertility, Physical Fitness

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Infertility

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that she and her fiancé were wondering about what types of things they need to consider (medically speaking) as they get ready to plan a family. As we chatted about all of the different medical concerns that are part of the world of infertility, it got me thinking about the things that I wish I had known before my infertility journey began. Things that, perhaps, could have helped me to waste less time in my search for a resolution. If you are under 35 years of age, a doctor will not generally see you for infertility until you have tried to conceive for at least one year. If you are over 35 years of age, you may be seen for infertility after 6 months of trying. But when you want a baby, and month after month yields only negative results, six months to a year can feel like an eternity! Our first official year of trying was, for me, a living hell! I kept feeling like there was something more I could do to help our situation, yet I could not get any official medical advice because we had not been trying long enough!

But there are some things you can do during – or even before – your first year of trying to conceive (TTC) that will help speed up the process when you are ready to grow your family. Although I am not a doctor or medical expert, I do want to share some things that I have learned along the way that could help anyone who fears the potential inability to conceive. Please remember that these are my thoughts and experiences, each infertility journey is different, and you always need to consult with your doctor before making serious decisions about your health. Here are five of the things that I wish I had known, before we began trying to conceive.

I wish I had known that hormonal birth control can actually harm future fertility.

My friend and I discussed the sad hilarity of the fact that when you are in high school, your sex-ed class scares you into believing that you can get pregnant at any time! The result is that there are millions of women who think it is easier to get pregnant than it actually is, causing them to use forms of birth control that could actually (temporarily or permanently) prevent them from becoming pregnant in the future!

The truth is that you can only get pregnant in the days leading up to and the day of or right after ovulation. Ovulation happens when your ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tubes. The egg only lives between 12 and 24 hours. Your partner’s sperm, on the other hand, can live between 3 and 5 days! Therefore, the best time for conception is 5 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day right after ovulation. Knowing this would have helped me, because I would have just kept track of my cycles – instead of using harmful birth control pills that may have contributed to my problems with infertility!

I wish I had known how to track my cycles.

If you know how to read your body, then you may suspect infertility long before you are at the point where you want to try for children. It is helpful to learn what the different types of vaginal discharge indicate. If your menstrual cycles are too short (21 days or less from the start of one period to the start of another), this may suggest hormonal deficiencies or luteal phase defect. If there are more than 35 days from the start of one period to the  start of another period, this may indicate that you do not ovulate, or that you ovulate irregularly. Keeping track of whether you spot or bleed between periods, and of whether your periods are heavy, painful, or irregular can help also. In my case, my short (24 day) menstrual cycles were indicating a progesterone deficiency – something I probably could have taken care of long before trying to grow our family. By using information gained through discharge observations, awareness of menstruation, and through charting your basal body temperatures –  you can become familiar with your body’s patterns and find potential concerns to resolve before you begin trying to conceive. And by having an awareness of any potential concerns, you are better able to advocate for yourself when you are finally able to see a doctor.

I wish I had known how many different aspects of your life can be related to infertility.

There are some obvious factors of infertility – like past sexual trauma, sexually transmitted infections, or past abortion – but there are some more subtle factors as well. Do you clean your cat’s litter-box? Do you eat a lot of soy products? What kinds of products do you use to clean your home? These subtle factors will not affect everyone who is trying to conceive, but these are things that a person who is TTC should be aware of.

I wish I had known (earlier) about a good infertility support group.

It wasn’t until three and a half years into our infertility journey that I found any sort of support and/or infertility resources. I am so grateful for my group of gals who are a wealth of information and have really helped me to make good medical and life-habit decisions. Having a support group also helps you to sort through all of the various aspects of infertility – the emotions, the medical testing, the insurance questions, the “let’s try this and see if it works” diet, exercise, and intercourse ideas. There will be so much symptom-spotting and bodily changes that you go through as you try different medicines and treatment plans. There are so many questions that you will have about different diagnostic procedures and surgeries – and you can glean from the experience and wisdom that the women in a support group will be able to give you! If you are facing infertility – don’t do it alone! The knowledge you gain in a support group may actually help you to get pregnant faster!

I wish I had known how expensive infertility-related tests and treatments would be!

If you think you may be facing infertility, now is a good time to check with your insurance to find out what they do (and more likely what they don’t) cover. Since infertility is not considered to be “life-threatening,” insurance companies do not always cover infertility related costs. In addition, we live in a culture where pregnancy is seen as a “disease” or something to be avoided – as opposed to being the natural state of a healthy, sexually active woman. Insurance companies, for the mots part, have taken on the attitude that pregnancy is to be avoided (notice that most insurance will cover birth control, but not the costs of helping you achieve a pregnancy). Search for an insurance plan that will help cover your infertility costs, save money like crazy, and/or live in one of the fifteen states where at least partial insurance for infertility is mandated! In my experience, though, even in a state where infertility coverage is mandated, all of your expenses still may not be covered!

Here is a list of some of the tests you may need for an infertility diagnosis:

  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) / Hysteroscopy (to check for tubal blockages or uterine deformities).
  • Pelvic/Transvaginal Ultrasounds.
  • Bloodwork to test hormonal levels.
  • Postcoital testing (to test how seminal and cervical fluids react to one another).
  • Laparoscopy/Endometrial Biopsy (to diagnose, remove, and test endometriosis/endometrial lining).
  • Semen Analysis.
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone tests.
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone Levels test (to check egg quality).

Not all women will undergo each test, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of the different types of testing available. In the meantime, while you wait to begin TTC – learn to pay attention to your body, eat well, exercise regularly, drink enough water, and avoid toxins to be in the best shape for the beginning of your TTC journey!

Baby dust to you!

If you struggle with infertility, what are some things you wish you’d known beforehand?