Hi, friends! Before I get going, I want to talk about this new portion of the blog I’m super excited about! Beyond the bananas is a place for me to talk about lifestyle and other random life musings. I’m just too passionate about this whole vegan lifestyle and movement to not vent about it every now and then, ya know?! I find my mind gets so full it’s like overflowing with thoughts of how AMAZING this way of living is, or just thinking about topics related to it, and I want to be able to get your opinions and thoughts, too! I’ll do posts like what I eat in a day, fitness related stuff, nutrition, things like that. Oh and I want to do some Q&As, maybe with questions you guys send me on instagram or through email!
I want this component of my blog to be VERY interactive, so please please please comment below with your thoughts, reactions, or whatever! My favorite part of having a blog is interacting with you beautiful souls, so whether or not you agree, disagree, or can relate in any way to what I’m talking (writing?) about, please don’t hesitate to jump in.
This is the story of how I came to discovering a plant-based, vegan way of eating and how it completely changed my life. It’s very personal and I feel pretty vulnerable sharing it, but my goal is that it helps even just one of you if you’re not in a great place right now.
Growing up, I ate the standard American diet. My mom always had dinner on the table, and we always ate as a family. It typically was some kind of meat, rice (I’m Korean, where my fellow Asians at?!), and a small portion of veggies if my brothers and I decided to be cooperative and eat it. I ate without thinking anything of it when I was young, because I was a child, and we certainly weren’t out of the ordinary for our way of eating.
As a kid, I never had problems with my weight. I was quite active as a cheerleader and I played lacrosse. High school was the first time that I began experimenting with the way I was eating, and I went vegetarian, for ethical reasons. I knew nothing about the health aspects at the time, but I loved animals, and I really never liked the taste of meat. I’ve always been more of a sweets person, so giving up meat was not difficult, at all. Actually, it was easy, and I didn’t miss it.
I went off to college at The Ohio State University. My diet definitely wasn’t healthy, but it wasn’t horrible, either. I didn’t really start drinking until my junior year. My friends and I were going out to bars 3-4 nights in a row, and having a freaking fantastic time doing so. While I worked out on a regular basis, the quick increase in alcohol caused my weight to go up. I wasn’t overweight. Not even close, actually. But it was enough that I could tell in pictures, and it freaked me out. With all the societal pressure to be thin as a rail, I immediately was so insecure about the weight I had gained, even if it wasn’t that much.
I immediately started a calorie restricting diet. I was meticulously counting calories, planning every single piece of food that would go in my mouth each day. I was eating foods that I thought were healthy at the time, and maintaining a pretty rigorous workout schedule. It became like a challenge – how little could I eat? How hard could I work out on no food? I didn’t really tell anybody except my boyfriend (now husband), because I was SO mortified and embarrassed. I did lose the weight I wanted to, at the price of feeling like shit and having no energy, all the time. After a couple of months, decided I didn’t need to follow that strict diet anymore.
Only at that point, I couldn’t. I was in way too deep with the counting, mostly out of habit. I couldn’t stop automatically calculating in my head how many calories things were. I was only allowed to eat at certain times, and if I ever broke my own rules, I beat myself up about it for HOURS in my head, telling myself I was weak and needed to do better. I had to work out everyday, or else I didn’t feel justified to eat. I had no energy, no love for myself, but I still felt like I was winning when I made it through a day following all the rules. I don’t think I ever had an official eating disorder, but I was absolutely caught in a vicious cycle of orthorexic behavior, obsessed with being what I thought was “healthy,” but in reality, I was as far from healthy as I could’ve been. It wasn’t even about being healthy at that point – I just couldn’t stop the habits I had grown so accustomed to.
I did a pretty good job of hiding it all, because I didn’t want my parents or my friends to worry, and honestly I was really embarrassed. I knew they would tell me to just stop, that I looked fine, and part of me knew that was true – I knew that what I was doing didn’t make much logical sense. But at the time, I didn’t know how to make it stop. It was like I couldn’t turn it off. Joe was the only one that knew, and I’m so thankful that I at least had the courage to tell him. He played such a big role in helping to slowly pull me out of that horrible pit of darkness, self-hate, restriction, and totally disordered thinking. It was a gradual process, but by the time I graduated and started my master’s program for teaching, I was in a much better place. Still sensitive and nervous to gain weight, but really consciously trying not to count calories and restrict myself. In a way I’m lucky I was still eating crappy foods, because it helped ensure that I never got unhealthily thin.
During grad school, I was still totally vegetarian, and the only animal product I was eating was greek yogurt. One night I remember thinking I wanted to swap out the greek yogurt for something else, just to try being “officially” vegan. Looking back I can say this was NOT a manifestation of that restrictive, disordered eating pattern. At the time I didn’t feel like greek yogurt was unhealthy (even though it is, I just didn’t know at the time), I just felt like experimenting with being “totally” vegan, since it was such a small move to just take out yogurt.
January 18th, 2015 was my first day eating a vegan diet, and I haven’t gone back since that day.
I literally went vegan overnight, which is appropriate for me. I have an extreme personality, which can definitely be a blessing and a curse. In this case, it was a blessing. The further I went with veganism, the more books I read and the more documentaries I watched. Mine was the opposite of most, in that I didn’t watch something and automatically make the switch – I did it without knowing much about veganism at all, and the learning started from there. I learned SO much so quickly, and it was like turning on a light in a pitch black room. I saw everything in a totally new way, the truth was brought to the surface, and I was so, so excited about it all. The more I learned, the more I was able to change the foods I was eating, for the better. I learned that foods I thought were healthy before actually weren’t, and I learned SO many new foods I had never even heard of before. I was actually eating healthily for the first time in my life, and I felt INCREDIBLE, physically and mentally.
I started eating an abundance of plant foods, literally eating the rainbow, and I felt so nourished and amazingI I ate fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, and NEVER felt deprived. Oh, and I FINALLY was able to escape obsessively counting calories, because I could literally eat AS MUCH AS I WANTED, and not gain weight. This helped me finally be able to mentally relax and get away from those disordered patterns. It literally felt like I was freed. I finally had a clear mind to focus my thoughts on things that mattered, rather than whether I was allowed to have a snack before dinner. I learned to read my body’s signals of hunger and satiation, and the food was SO. DAMN. GOOD. Like, plants are amazing, if you think about it. A roasted sweet potato can literally bring me to my knees.
If you’re reading this like, eh I don’t like those foods, I’ll never feel like that. Trust me, anybody that is vegan will tell you that they’ve been there. I grew up eating a standard American diet of meat, dairy, and other processed shit. So if you’re giving this any consideration, it’s so important that you give yourself time to adjust. Your tastebuds adapt and you will grow to seriously CRAVE these life-giving foods.
The other great thing about discovering veganism? It just gets better every single day. You feel amazing, you take in so much incredible information from books, documentaries, and other social media influences. There is an incredible online community of plant-based friends. It’s seriously like an explosion of knowledge and enlightenment, and it’s all you want to talk about. I love it. Talking about it, living this way, everything. I wish everybody knew, but for reasons that I’ll touch on in a different post, a lot of people have no idea. In fact, this information is often actively hidden from us. But like I said, that’s a post for another day.
The day I went vegan was the day I started prioritizing self-love. Loving yourself is the best thing you can EVER learn to do. And it definitely is a learning process. It takes effort. Once you learn to value yourself enough to put your health first, you’ll be able to extend that love to those around you. When you feel like shit and are taking in toxins and poisons never meant for our bodies, you can’t get much done. Mental and physical health go hand in hand. Going vegan helped me get those into balance, and make them a priority, for the first time in my life. I finally loved the way my body looked, and even on days that I wasn’t as confident, I was able to mentally be strong and know that I was a valuable, beautiful person even if my stomach wasn’t perfectly flat. What I thought was happiness prior to this journey was so surface level. I feel so much deep happiness, even on the crappy days that we all inevitably have. Loving yourself is not being cocky, or conceited. It’s realizing that this is the one life you get, and being able to accept and appreciate yourself makes the journey pretty damn enjoyable, and a lot more meaningful.
There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude for making this change. My life is infinitely healthier, but most importantly, HAPPIER. I’ve never felt so free, so passionate, and so alive. Plus, I’m saving precious animals lives, animals that want to live, that want to be with their families, and that can feel pain. I’m helping take care of our beautiful Earth that so many people, including myself before all of this, take for granted. It’s like I’ve woken up from a long, horrible sleep. Do I still have crappy days that my self-esteem isn’t the best, or that little bitch in my head telling me I’m not good enough comes back? Yes, sometimes I do. Going vegan doesn’t mean you aren’t human! But the difference is that I know I’m living so healthfully, I have so much energy, I’m finally so GENUINELY happy, and I know that my life is more than the way I look. While I love eating healthily, what we eat isn’t all of who we are. This lifestyle is a beautiful way to get that first step of what’s on your plate helping you feel incredible, so that you can improve every single facet of your life.
So that brings us to today! I’m at my healthy, happy weight, and I no longer worry for five seconds about how many calories I’m eating. I know that the foods I eat are so healthy, I just enjoy them, listen to my body, and feel amazing as a result. Life is about enjoying the journey, and now I enjoy eating insane amounts of fruit, vegetables, and potatoes, and feeling so amazing, with so much energy, mentally and physically. Enough energy to run a marathon!
I hope this story helps you understand how awesome the plant-based movement is, and if you aren’t already, I hope you feel encouraged and inspired to make some changes, for yourself, the animals, and our planet! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and you definitely don’t have to be perfect. It’s about living compassionately and being your best, happiest, healthiest self!
If you’re in a bad place, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’ve definitely been in a place before where I felt like things would suck forever, that I would never escape the stupid habits in my head. Do I wish I could erase those from my past? Well, it would’ve made life a lot easier, that’s for sure. But I can now appreciate that it was a part of my story, an important part that helped me become the person I am today, a person that I love and finally care about. I promise there’s a way out, even if it seems impossible. I can say with confidence that it is so, so worth it to fight that battle and come out on the other side freaking strong as hell, and so, so happy. And healthy!
I love you all so much for reading this. PLEASE comment below with input, thoughts, questions, whatever! I feel like I could go on with this for days, and there’s so much I didn’t even touch on, but that I’ll definitely get to in other posts here.
You guys are the best.