What? Dr. Cudjoe is Vegan?!

Yup, that's right!  I have decided to eliminate all animal products out of my diet. 

I can hear my fellow Texans asking, "but why???" Well, I believe this has been a long time coming actually.  Though I am a Texas girl and have had my share of good ol' barbecue chicken, pork and beef as well as plenty of dairy, the short-lived enjoyment of eating those foods inevitably faded as their side effects took over-increase in body weight and abdominal bloating, decrease in energy level and mood! 

I have toyed with my fair share of diets and "lifestyle changes" over the years and I have always done better when the diet of the moment was predominately plant based.  I don't like deprivation diets- I love to eat- but I have always had to put my mind in a "suspended state of disbelief" when eating meat.  It was always harder for me to eat fish that looks like fish or to see meet at a butcher shop- I opted for fillets, nuggets, boneless, skinless- whatever.  So, after searching for a way of eating that made sense to me intellectually and physically- a vegan diet is what I found.

I decided to attend the International Conference on Nutrition in Washington, D.C. this summer to increase my knowledge base on the subject.  (Physicians get very little if any training in this area of health believe it or not).  I wanted to be a better resource for my patients who were on the same journey as I was.  I knew there was more to it than a "calories in-calories out" equation.    I also knew you can't exercise your way to health, eating an unhealthy diet.  I chose this particular meeting because it is held by Dr. Neal Barnard's Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine a group of health care providers focused on providing evidence-based information on the benefits of healthy food on disease prevention and treatment. 

For 3 days, I soaked in information from varying well known speakers arguing the case for a whole food, plant-based diet.  We discussed peer-reviewed research studies and meta-analyses on the state of obesity and chronic disease in the US, behavioral studies, governmental policy, behavioral effects, food addiction, and even how our gut is connected to our overall health through our food choices.  To prove that a whole food-plant based diet was also tasty and filling, we ate only from a vegan menu the entire time!  That really made an impression on me.  Not only was the food good, but I didn't crave junk food, and I didn't get sleepy in the afternoons!  I also saw that I did not have to skimp out on my servings!  Veteran Vegans in attendance loaded up their plates and bowls with each meal and seemed to really enjoy the different flavors and textures of the food!  There was way more variety of food at this conference than any conference I had ever attended. By the end of that weekend,, my belly was flat and my mind was filled with possibilities...

When I got home, I knew my current cooking and food knowledge would not allow me to dive right in without some preparation, so I started with a pescaterian diet (Vegetarian, + seafood) minus the dairy.  Then I began doing more research online and reading books about the Vegan movement.  Several books and movies kept coming up in my research- "Forks of Knives", "What the Health?", "Food Inc.", etc.  so I decided one day to watch them- all of them- in one afternoon.  That pretty much sealed the deal for me.  I could not unhear and unsee what was portrayed in those documentaries and coupled with my personal research and the information I learned at the conference, I decided I would adopt a vegan diet. 

I am just in the beginning of this transition and really enjoying it.  I have cooked more than ever (but not difficult things) which increases my mindfulness and appreciation for the food that I've prepared.  I am discovering other people making the same transition and can't help but tell anyone who wants to listen what I am doing!  I can still have chocolate, chili, pizza, burgers, etc.  I just have made an adjustment- no meat/dairy.  At first I thought it would be tough, but now even my daughters are starting to participate (I am in no way forcing them to be vegan however I remove as much dairy out of their diet to decrease the potential effect on their asthma and allergies).  

In the end, I want to practice what I preach.  Adopting a vegan diet falls right in line with BloomMed's health approach.  It gives me the clarity of thought and energy I need to take great care of my patients.  I am transitioning to a more eco-friendly way of life and I am making more objective dietary decisions for myself and my family.  

In upcoming blogs, I will share updates on my health status, pictures of meals I have prepared and links to videos or websites I have found helpful.  Maybe it will inspire someone else to start their own journey towards a healthier and more satisfying life.  

What has been your health journey so far?  Comment below!  

Author Dr. Stephanie Cudjoe, M.D.

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