The First Day of the Rest of My Life

[Female, 30 years-old,

family from Guatemala]

I had a car accident  in August of last year.  I was a little on the heavy side and my doctor told me I had to lose some weight to take some pressure off my back.  I had two bulging discs in my neck and two in my lower back.  I happened to be on some medication that was making me gain weight.

I’d never been on any diet before because I never believed in them.  I always thought, you just have to know what to eat, right?  But my whole life I’ve spent trying to learn what to eat and I never figured it out.  I did know there were certain things that weren’t good.  In high school I stopped drinking soda because I was breaking out a lot.  I never liked eggs.  I never ate pork, my mom never fed it to us.  I never liked eating greasy food, though of course, I had fast food and all that stuff.  So I was always somewhat health conscious but didn’t know what to do.

After my doctor told me I had to lose weight, I started researching ways to be healthy.  I read different books, watched documentaries.  And I had a friend from college who’s always been vegetarian since I’ve known her, I’ve known her for eleven years now.  We went out to dinner and her and her husband, they’re like, “Oh yeah, now we’re vegan.”  And I’m like, “What’s that all about?”  “And she said, we don’t eat animal products at all now.” And I thought, but you’re already vegetarian. Then she explained it to me.  And I said, “Okay, cool.  But I could never give up cheese!”  Her husband said, “Yeah, everybody always says that.  But Claudia, we’re the only species that drinks another animal’s milk.”  I thought, “Oh, you’re right . . . how gross is that!”  So it planted the seed.

So I called my friend’s sister a couple weeks later and asked her if she had any books she could recommend and she said, “Oh yeah, I’m reading the Skinny Bitch book.”  So I went to the library and got it.  So I’m reading it and thinking it’s going to teach me how to be healthy, learn what to eat and that sort of thing. And page after page, I’m like, Wait, what’s going on here? What’s wrong with the FDA and USDA and the Food Pyramid? I thought the government is taking care of us.  All of a sudden I’m reading all these things.  I don’t think I even ate for two days, I was in such shock!  I didn’t know what to eat.

So this all happened at the end of last year and I didn’t know what to do. At the back of the book there was suggested reading with books and documentaries and that sort of thing so I started researching and I went on line and started following a couple of bloggers and I thought, okay, if I’m going to do this it’s going to be a lifetime commitment because I’ve never done any diet before.

So January eighth is my brother’s and my aunt’s birthday and I was at my family’s house and of course they had all this unhealthy food, fried chicken – to this day, I can’t go into Albertson’s without gagging because of the smell of the fried chicken.  My family is from Guatemala but I grew up in Blythe California, a small town and the only market was an Albertson’s – so I’m looking at this food at my family’s place and I go, I can’t eat this.  I just cannot eat this.  So I’m like, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life and so that’s how it’s going to be – I’m going vegan.  That was January ninth. I weighed a hundred eighty pounds and now, just about a year later I weigh one thirty four.

Now my family is getting involved, they’re eating healthier.  I went home for Christmas, my mom didn’t have any meat or animal products in her fridge at all.  She actually fits into my fat clothes now which is amazing because she’s always been heavy – and she has a bad back, too.  I gave her a lot of literature, a vegan starter guide and recipes.  She even made vegan pozole from a recipe I got from a friend.  We had some friends over and my mom says, “Do you want some pozole?” Oh yeah sure! “Oh, but it’s vegan.” And they’re like, okay, we’ll try it. But we don’t know what that means. And they look at me and say, “Hey is that why you look so good?  You look younger than your brother” – and everyone keeps saying that and my brother is eight years younger than me, he’s twenty-two!  And she said, “Yeah, when you came last time you were a little bit heavier and you looked older, but now” And I’m like, “Go vegan!”

So my mom says, “Oh here!” and she’s passing out the veg starter kits and veg recipes.  Go mom! Then when we were taking a picture, the girl says, “Cheese – oh, you can’t do that anymore.”  Then she says, “Vegan mac and cheese” because she was reading the recipe book.  So, they’re hard core Mexicans and they had just come from eating the real thing and they said,” It tastes just the same!” Stamp of approval.

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