My husband and I transitioned to a mostly plant-based lifestyle after years of struggling with poor health. Just by focusing on nutrition and making healthier lifestyle choices, we saw some pretty impressive health transformations! And now that we’ve seen firsthand what a whole food, plant-based diet can do, we have no intention of ever going back.
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Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. Even though we saw great success with our plant-based diet, please know that your experience may be different from ours. You should do your own research before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle especially if you have a health condition.
It’s true: my husband Josh and I follow a mostly plant-based lifestyle. And we do it willingly and happily, too!
But if you had told me a few years ago that I would adopt this new way of eating, I probably would have laughed and rolled my eyes. And if you had told Josh the same, he definitely would have laughed!
But here we are, loving life while eating what most people call “rabbit food.”
That’s us. I’m Summer, and that’s my sweet husband Josh.
Like many plant-eaters, our transition happened out of medical necessity. Unfortunately, both Josh and I suffered for years with severe digestive problems without any hope of ever finding a permanent solution.
We weren’t content with our lot in life, but what could we do? Our doctors couldn’t help us, and mainstream nutrition wasn’t doing us any favors either.
We were a wreck, and we had no idea how to fix it.
Let me share with you our story of overcoming our serious health problems. And maybe, just maybe, it will inspire you to take back your own health too!
My Irritable Bowel Syndrome
My irritable bowel syndrome started back in 2010 when I was seventeen years old. I didn’t really know what was wrong; I just knew that I had to leave many social gatherings early because of digestive issues. It was embarrassing and terribly inconvenient.
You know those commercials for irritable bowel syndrome where the person is constantly in search of a restroom? I became that person.
And it sucked.
My doctor recommended I keep a food log to try to pinpoint my trigger foods. It helped me determine that apples were one source of my woes, but it gave me no suggestions for fixing the problem.
My mom was a real life-saver during this trying time. She searched the Internet relentlessly trying to determine what was wrong with me.
Sometime around 2011 she learned about a little-known food intolerance called fructose malabsorption. My symptoms fit the description perfectly.
Basically, my body could not process fructose, a naturally-occurring sugar found in fruit.
This explained why I had severe gastrointestinal distress within 30 minutes of consuming soda, the first ingredient of which is usually high fructose corn syrup. It was no wonder these beverages gave me severe tummy troubles, and since soda was always, always, served at social gatherings, I was bound to have a bad reaction.
This diagnosis also explained why foods naturally high in fructose (apples, grapes, watermelon, honey, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, etc.) always sent me running for the restroom.
Once we realized exactly what my body could and couldn’t tolerate, I cut out all foods that contained high fructose corn syrup and foods that are naturally high in fructose.
But living this restrictive lifestyle was awful!
I couldn’t eat anything without first reading the ingredient label, and I constantly feared accidentally eating something that would trigger my IBS. Even with careful monitoring, I still experienced horrible bouts of diarrhea on a weekly basis simply because I couldn’t control the amount of fructose in my food.
My IBS went on for six whole years before I finally found relief.
Josh’s Ulcerative Colitis
Fast-forward to 2015. Josh and I were newlyweds, and I regularly fixed delicious, home-cooked meals for us that I thought were healthy. I could make a meatloaf that put everyone else’s recipe to shame, and I always made sure to serve it with vegetables on the side. Healthy, right?
What I didn’t know was that even though we ate some vegetables with most of our meals, I was basically poking the sleeping bear that was Josh’s colon by also serving meat, dairy products, and processed foods with every single meal we ate.
Josh experienced a couple of flares before we realized that something was seriously wrong. When we finally visited a gastroenterologist in the summer of 2015, a colonoscopy revealed a life-altering diagnosis: ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the colon. It’s similar to Crohn’s disease, but where Crohn’s can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, UC is localized to the large intestine.
Doctors told us there was no cure, and that Josh would live the rest of his life experiencing painful, energy-sapping flare-ups and taking expensive medication every single day.
The worst part of the diagnosis? Josh had an increased chance of getting colon cancer sometime down the road.
Standing in that doctor’s office as a newlywed, this was not what I wanted to hear. My once-strong, vibrant husband was now lethargic and weak. And the possibility (more like probability, given our dietary habits) of cancer was absolutely terrifying.
Josh’s own body was attacking itself, and I felt powerless to fix it.
When I researched a UC-friendly diet, I discovered that bland, nutrient-deficient foods were the recommended fare. I wasn’t an expert in nutrition, but I knew that this diet was a recipe for even more health complications in the future. Still, it’s what the “experts” recommended, so I did my best to comply.
Over the next year, Josh had a few more flare-ups that required him to double his medications just to get his symptoms under control. I didn’t like this progression, and neither did he.
The Solution We So Desperately Needed
Now, I can’t take credit for discovering the missing piece to our digestive puzzle. It was actually my mom who came to the rescue (again!) and figured the whole thing out.
In the spring of 2016, after months and months of searching for a natural solution to Josh’s ulcerative colitis, she stumbled across some success stories of people who were able to overcome their diseases just by changing what they eat. After a little more digging, she learned about the true connection between food and disease.
This was our ticket out! This life-changing information gave us hope that we could reverse our serious digestive issues after all. And all we had to do was change what we eat.
Specifically, we needed to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
Even though we had never heard about this lifestyle before, it looked more promising than our current path. My mom took the plant-based plunge in April of 2016, and I followed suit in May. Josh was not initially on board, but he gradually came around later that summer after seeing my progress.
Remember my fructose malabsorption? It went away within a month. I could eat real foods again! I ate apples, tomatoes, grapes, cantaloupe, honey, bell peppers, and more without any digestive issues.
Of course, I didn’t try foods with high fructose corn syrup in them simply because I know how terrible high fructose corn syrup is for our bodies. But I don’t even miss those foods anymore.
I also noticed other health benefits when I went plant-based.
Prior to that, I had been suffering from increasingly frequent night terrors (these are different from nightmares). I would scream and thrash in my sleep trying to get away from whatever was terrorizing me in my dreams (usually bugs because I’m pretty sure I was traumatized from our spider-infested apartment). Those are completely gone now!
My pet and dust allergies are also less severe, my mild anxiety went completely away, my skin is vibrant, and I have more control over my emotions.
How’s that for plant power?
While my health breakthrough is certainly something to celebrate, Josh’s transformation is even more impressive.
It took Josh a little longer to jump on board with the plant-based idea (he’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, after all), but once he saw my health improvements, he decided to ease into this new lifestyle too.
Josh went mostly plant-based in the summer of 2016, and by the summer of 2017, his ulcerative colitis flares were nonexistent. That fall, we started weaning him off of his medication to see if he was fully healed. He completely stopped taking all of his ulcerative colitis medicine in October 2017, and he went without a single flare for two whole years!
As if that accomplishment alone wasn’t enough, he also lost fifteen pounds and doesn’t have eczema or sciatic nerve pain anymore.
In full disclosure, we aren’t perfect. And just like many other plant-eaters, we experienced a relapse into our old eating habits about a year ago. That relapse had little impact on me, but it caused Josh to experience a serious flare that required him to start up a low dosage of his medication again. Lesson learned, right? We’re confident, though, that once his body (again) no longer shows signs of UC, that he’ll be able to come off of his medicine again!
So What’s the Connection Here? Why Whole Plant Foods?
Just like you, I was very skeptical of a plant-based lifestyle when my mom first told me about it. I mean really: plants curing diseases? Mhm. Yeah, sure.
But once I started doing my own research and learning from the best plant-based experts, I realized that there really is a connection between diet and disease. I won’t go into much detail here because there’s too much information to fit into a single blog post, but it all boils down to animal products.
Animal products activate and feed disease cells in the body, which is how people end up with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases, among many others.
Remove the animal products (meat, dairy, seafood, eggs, etc.) and you can prevent, halt, and even reverse those diseases. Pretty cool, right? (source)
But it doesn’t end with animal products.
To get optimal nutrition from your food, you have to eat the right kind of food. Namely, plant foods that are minimally processed, or “whole.”
Highly processed foods (refined flour, white rice, prepackaged foods, white sugar, fried foods, etc.), though they may technically be plants, are stripped of their nutrients, so they really don’t do much for your health. That’s why it’s much better to eat a potato you purchased fresh from a grocery store and baked yourself than to eat french fries from McDonald’s.
The idea of eating minimally processed plant foods is why it’s called a whole food, plant-based diet.
This plant breakthrough was what our poor digestive systems needed. After taking away meat, dairy products, and highly processed foods, our bodies could finally heal. Josh’s body no longer attacks his colon, and my gastrointestinal system can process food the way it should.
Our bodies are happy. And that makes us happy!
The “Mostly” Part of Our Mostly Plant-Based Lifestyle
I’ll be the first to admit that we are not 100% plant-based. We enjoy a burger every now and then, and we eat the food that our family and friends lovingly prepare for us when they invite us over for dinner, animal products and all.
However, we try to make good food decisions the vast majority of the time. If I had to estimate, I’d say our diet is about 85-95% plant-based.
Now, before you grab a pitchfork or accuse us of being like a recovering alcoholic who still indulges every now and then, let me explain.
We choose a mostly plant-based lifestyle because we find that it works well for us. True, we may not reap every possible health benefit that we could if we were 100% plant-based 100% of the time, but we’re okay with that. At least for now.
We choose to look at our nutrition as a journey. We eat better now than we ever have, and we expect to keep eating better as time goes on. Eventually, we may be 100% whole food, plant-based (okay, Josh will probably never be 100% plant-based, but a girl can dream, right?). But for now, we are very happy with our current lifestyle.
Also, we try to not be a burden when other people cook for us, which explains our willingness to eat non-plant-based foods when eating with friends and family.
I write this to point out a necessary decision you will have to make should you decide to embark on your own plant-based journey. You have to decide what is and isn’t acceptable to you and what you think is appropriate for your specific goals and needs.
If you are trying to reap the maximum health benefits that this lifestyle has to offer, then you will probably lean toward the stricter side of things. And that’s great! Do what works best for you. However, remember to cheer on your fellow plant-eaters even if they allow a little more wiggle room in their lifestyle.
Want to Achieve Your Best Health Too?
After seeing our impressive health turnarounds, I wish everyone would adopt a plant-based lifestyle. I truly believe that most, if not all, of their health problems would improve.
If you want to learn more about a plant-based lifestyle, I have a few resources for you to check out in just a moment. These are chock-full of helpful, relevant information. They also offer testimonials of people like us who overcame sicknesses that doctors pronounced incurable.
But if you don’t believe in alternate methods of healing, I encourage you to do a little research. After all, you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it for yourself!
Although I never ever thought I’d become one of those herbal tea-drinking, essential oil-diffusing, hippie plant-eaters we’ve all made fun of at least once in our lives (don’t deny it!), here I am, willingly and happily living this mostly plant-based lifestyle with my mostly plant-based husband.
By far, I see that the people who really try this way of eating are so blown away by their improved health that they never look back!
And if they do look back (like we briefly did), they usually hightail it back to whole plant foods pretty quickly! Ha!
What would happen if you didn’t have anxiety, depression, arthritis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, or whatever it is that holds you back?
My guess is that you’d live life more fully, pursue your passions and dreams, and improve your finances! (In case you didn’t know, medications and doctor bills are expensive!)
I used to think that a plant-based lifestyle was only for hippies, animal rights activists, or weird people. Now I know that this lifestyle is for anyone who wants a better quality of life.
I never want to rely on medications, and this lifestyle is my ticket out. And it can be your ticket out, too.
My Favorite Plant-Based Lifestyle Resources
If you’re interested in learning more about a plant-based lifestyle, these resources will start you off right:
Zero to Plant-Based. This one is written by yours truly! I remember what it’s like to start a new way of eating and feel completely overwhelmed by all the information out there. That’s why I created a beginner’s guide to take the guesswork out of the whole food, plant-based lifestyle.
The China Study. This book explores the connection between animal foods and disease and how a whole food, plant-based diet is proven to prevent, halt, and even reverse serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and others. The overwhelming amount of scientific evidence supporting Dr. Campbell’s research is astounding!
The China Study Quick and Easy Cookbook. This cookbook has some awesome recipes in it! And the best part is that they’re quick and easy, just like the title promises.
How Not to Die. Dr. Michael Greger is another whole food, plant-based diet supporter who recommends this lifestyle to anyone who wants to avoid the fifteen leading causes of premature death in America.
Hallelujah Diet. The Malkmuses’ completely free 60-day video course is where I learned the basics of a plant-based lifestyle. You’ll receive a daily email linking to a video where you’ll learn all about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and practical tips for making the switch. They also share success stories from people who were able to overcome some pretty serious health problems!
What the Health. I watched this documentary on Netflix, and it completely blew me away! If I had any doubts about a plant-based lifestyle, this film put them to rest for good.
Free Printable Plant-Based Quick Start Guide
In addition to those plant-based resources, you can download my free printable plant-based quick start guide so you know what to eat and what to avoid!
Final Thoughts on Why We Transitioned to a Mostly Plant-Based Diet
A plant-based diet can do some pretty impressive things for your health. It certainly did for us! We have no intention of going back, especially when we consider the challenges and inconveniences that we have to face with our old eating habits.
True, making the switch didn’t happen overnight. And we’re still perfecting our eating habits today!
But the point is that we now have control over our health, and we have the ability to live our lives free from unnecessary health conditions simply by choosing whole plant foods instead of animal products and highly processed foods. It’s a power we don’t take lightly!
I want that power for you too. So if you’re ready to take the plant-based plunge, then I highly recommend you dive in head first! You’ll never look back.
Other Plant-based Lifestyle Articles You May Enjoy
- The Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Explained
- Plant-Based vs. Vegan: The Major Differences You Need to Know About
- How to Start a Plant-Based Diet: The Ultimate Transition Guide for Beginners
- Plant-Based Shopping List: What to Buy When You Follow a Plant-Based Diet
What about you? Would you be willing to try a whole food, plant-based lifestyle to improve your long-term health?
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