Have you ever heard someone say, “easier said than done”? This simple expression is so true, and I am a living testimony. It is so hard to do the right and good things for us in most instances, even though we tell ourselves that we will do it. I have always wanted to practice a healthier way of living, and for many years, I tried to do that with not much success. Whenever I got into that “it’s time to do it mode,” I would get pumped up and commence that journey. For a while, it felt good because I was doing it daily. Finally, I convinced myself that I got this, and I never looked back. But, unfortunately, no sooner did everything halt, and I was back to square one, basking into the same old, annoying dirty, unhealthful habits and practices. This goes for various situations in my life that we know need improvement, whether it be my attitude, my inability to forgive, my relationship with God, family, and friends, and this list could go on. Today, however, I am talking about the burning desire I had inside to live a healthier life and how I finally transitioned from eating a predominantly animal-based diet to a plant-based and became more physically active.
Many of us are aware of the importance of good health and have already begun to take steps to do better by making better choices. And I, for one, know first-hand how difficult this could be at times. It is even fair to admit that it is not easy to break habits after many years of doing things that were not so good for us because it has become so deeply rooted inside of us. Of course, some people would argue that it is “easier said than done but I like to tell myself that even though I struggle with something, there is no rule that I cannot and will not overcome it once I have patience, consistency, and perseverance. Yes, it may take time, but it is possible with the right mindset.
A little background into my life
I grew up in rural Jamaica, West Indies, in St.Thomas. The primary source of living for people in that community was farming which included growing our own foods and domestically rearing livestock. Both couples would work the land in many homes, and the women would take the produce to the market to sell. Whenever the children were old enough, they helped out on the farm. My parents had four girls, and I was the second child; I am sure my dad would have wanted a son to help him with specific tasks, but he accepted his blessings and made the best of it. Years later, my brother came along. So my sisters and I would assist with taking the goats out to the field in the mornings to feed and bringing them home just before sunset, especially when our dad had to be gone for the day. Even though my dad did not take us to the farm much, I loved accompanying him. I have helped with the farm by throwing the seeds into the holes as he plants and harvests. We carried water in buckets on head bottles in hand from the community standpipes many distances from our home, fed the chickens, and even prepared them for sale to local small businesses. Of course, house chores were a must as well. I enjoyed this at a very young age, but most of it was not as fun when I was in my teenage years. However, I absolutely loved planting and took pleasure in doing so.
Growing up, I was of a skinny frame, and I really disliked eating most vegetables. My appearance earned me a few nicknames like thread, thready, anancy, lack of flesh, want fat, needle eye, etc. Jamaicans are known for nicknames. As we say in my dialect, I may have been “mawga”(skinny), but I was strong, fit, and healthy.
By the time I was in my late teens, I knew that I wanted to take a healthier path, even though I did not fully understand that. I knew that I did not want to be sick, overweight, and unhealthy. I often expressed that I wanted to look well in my old age. Interestingly, being young at times caused me to think that it was not that pressing to change anything because I had plenty of time and appeared to be relatively healthy.
I grew up in rural Jamaica during those times, when there were not many fast food restaurants, supermarkets, etc., especially in the country areas. We ate primarily natural whole foods from the farms and domestically raised grass feed animals. My mom would send me to the butcher shop every week to get freshly slaughtered meat to buy, not like all these frozen meats today. However, basic stuff like rice, flour, cornmeal, canned food, etc., was purchased in bulk for our home whenever my mom went into town or the city. There were, however, a few small groceries or food shops, but we did not often visit because it was a long walk. In fact, I cannot remember eating cook food from any local shops in my community as a child; we ate homemade food which was freshly cooked every day. For breakfast, boiled yams, green bananas, breadfruit, steamed callaloo, cabbage, fish, liver, kidneys, ackee, saltfish, salt mackerel, egg sandwiches, etc. Dinner was rice and peas, plain rice, dumplings, chicken, beef, pork (rarely because my dad did not eat that), chicken backs, soups, yam, banana, sweet potatoes, and more. These were often combined to make our meals for the day. We were well fed, and if there were leftovers (ova-nite-food), that was our breakfast the following day. We also had an abundance of fruits which we ate throughout the day.
Occasionally, Mommy would treat us to a few snacks or buy us ice cream on Sundays from the ice cream man who rides around our community on a bike. Then, she fed us many cow’s milk which she purchased from a local company named serge Island by the case. Otherwise, we got milk from the cows or goats. Whenever mommy bought us Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), I loved our special treat. I was so excited. And when she finally took me to KFC in Kingston, Jamaica, forget it, I was psyched. Talk about “country come to town.” Everything in town looked so different and more excellent in my young mind. And that chicken, oh that KFC chicken, was finger-licking good.
I later became aware of the practices of the Rastafarian culture in my country. They believe in healthy living and eat ‘ital” food which we call vegan or vegetarian but predominantly natural whole foods. Initially, I thought that eating “ital” must have been bland and tasteless. It certainly did not help that I am from a culture that embraces various food flavors, so of course, my taste buds were already ‘bruk bad'(spoiled), so anything outside of that was unfathomable.
At 17 years old, I learned of Vegan/Vegetarianism through my Aunt, a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA). In the SDA faith, of which I am also, we embrace and promote healthy lifestyle practices, one of our doctrines. So while members alternately refer to themselves as vegan/vegetarians, we are more like health reformers. At this point, you maybe be thinking about what is the difference. While all these adjectives are acceptable to some extent, several practices and beliefs separate us from the mainstream vegan culture. (I will speak about this in a future post, God’s will). Okay, so I visited and spent some time with my SDA aunt, and that was when I became fully exposed to a plant-based lifestyle and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
My Aunt ate nothing from animals or its by-product. She ate whole grains, nuts, legumes, and lots of fruits and vegetables. , At that time, when she offered food to me, it tasted disgusting, especially the “vegetarian cheese.” I literally caught gas because I did not eat much of anything during my stay. I must add that plant-based/vegan/vegetarian foods/products have come a mighty long way. I also attended church with her on the Sabbath, which gave me a deeper insight into the world of healthy living and worship of God. I never felt more at home in my life, and that’s when I knew that I had found where I needed to be. I was sold out! Unfortunately, as I said before, change is a gradual process, and even though I knew what I wanted and tried to achieve that desire for a while, it took years to get to where I am today.
As I became an adult, fast and junk food became a more significant part of my life, and I ate it more frequently than average. Then, I started working in the city and lived there for a few years. I had my own money and access to whatever fast food or snacks I felt for. Before I knew it, I bought food outside for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Over time, I began to suffer from heartburns, allergies, headaches, and my sinuses were affecting me real bad. My face broke out in pimples, and at one point, I swore that I had heart problems because of how sick I felt inside. On top of that, I started to gain weight, which made me most uncomfortable. Certainly did not help that most people complimented me more on my physical appearance when I felt most self-conscious about my weight gain.
I knew that I needed to take back control of my life, and for a few years, I struggled with getting back to eating healthier homemade food and shedding the few pounds that I had gained. I thought that if I started going to the gym more, it would be fine, but I was very inconsistent with it, and I still ate way too much outside instead of preparing healthier meals at home. And those meals prepared at home were white rice, flour, fried food, and way too much meat, cheese, milk, etc…homemade but still not so good for me. Looking back, I really did not know better, and I did not understand the whole aspect of eating well and what implications awaited me if I did not get it together.
To be continued…..
This pic was taken in July of 2011.
Leave a Reply