How I Learned To Eat In A Different Way

I’ve become a vegetarian and a low-carber at various points in my life. For a long time, whenever I had the chance, I found myself reaching for the cookie jar. I wasn’t even convinced that there were cookies to begin with; it was just that I wanted to consume so many cookies that I would get hungry, and that’s exactly how I thought about it at the time. When it seemed too easy, I tried dieting. And then I tried self-control in spite of my craving.

I’ve been a vegetarian since 2011, and I’ve never consumed more than about 2,950 calories a day (which is, to my knowledge, less than anything a human can reasonably consume). I’ve always eaten mostly raw vegetables. I’m a veg-free vegan, and I consider myself a semi-vegetarian when I eat meat products, though I still enjoy seafood and dairy.

My dietary intake was largely determined by necessity, as I wasn’t always able to eat out or cook for myself. I learned to cook at a friend’s house in my mid-20s, and after working a series of jobs, I finally started my own business back in 2014. I’ve learned that self-care is important as an adult — particularly for healthy living and long-life — and that I do my best to make it part of my lifestyle.

I’d just completed writing an 8,000-word dissertation for my English Ph.D, and on the day of my exam I had a hard time getting out of bed. Even though it was my exam day, I still had a lot of work to catch up to as I didn’t get the necessary hours in sleep. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I also wanted to eat lunch. So that’s how it started: I grabbed a bagel out of my bag and decided to skip lunch and instead just hit the kitchen sink to whip up a healthy meal at home that I could eat later that afternoon.

I made the whole thing vegan.

Now, I don’t normally eat salad on salad days, so I added vegan ranch cheese, but it still tasted so much like fresh produce — it was really good. It was also nice to feel more energized and to have a more balanced diet than during my days in academia.

I’m usually the one that’s responsible for cooking — I don’t really have the patience for the dishes at the dinner table. It was nice to know that the dish that I had in store would be ready to eat the night before — and I was actually able to cook the dish that I made that day.

I made myself a salad, and I started with cucumber and carrots. I then added some broccoli florets and sliced avocado, and I added the cooked chicken breast I had on hand (after a quick sear on the pan on all sides).

This dish became a meal, and it worked! After putting the salad on the plate and enjoying it, I began to think about what I’d like to eat next. The next thing I thought: “This chicken is fantastic!” So I tossed on the fried chicken breasts. This dish was delicious — and I wasn’t even hungry for dessert! (I usually like to keep some of those leftovers).

One thing I’ve learned about my body over the years is how much it does for people who care about me. It has allowed me to find myself as a full and healthy human for the first time in my life. I’m not going to lie — it was not an easy thing to go from being terrified that I was going to get cancer or die of anorexia to being confident in my body and knowing that it is healthy. I was scared, yes, but I’d been through a lot more than I had to know this was normal. And it’s not hard to take it a step further.

I’m a vegetarian, a low-carber, and I try to be more conscious about what I eat than about what other people consume. Because, after all, I’ve always had the most important things in life — a home, a partner, friends, and food.