Vegan Challenge Update!

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Yesterday officially marked the halfway point of my vegan challenge! I had planned to post, but things have been crazy this month and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. I am VERY excited to finally share with you guys my thoughts and progress on this vegan challenge. But before I dive into the full update, I do want to talk about something a little personal today and why I decided to start this journey to begin with. (Disclaimer: This post is LONG, maybe my longest yet. You have been forewarned)

This isn't something I've openly talked about before or have even admitted for that matter until recently. It's still kind of weird for me to say out loud, especially since I pride myself on being this strong, easy-going, and bubbly girl. And not to say that I'm not or haven't been those things, but looking back, I definitely had moments of weakness. I've always looked at a positive attitude as being contagious so as long as I presented that, it would make all those around me feel great. But while I was trying to make others feel good and comfortable, I wasn't allowing myself to feel the same thing.

In 2010, I developed a VERY unhealthy relationship with food. I had moved out abruptly due to family issues, worked at a place that was physically and mentally exhausting, and was living paycheck to paycheck.  I was sad and unhappy and used food to cope because at that moment, it was the one thing that made me feel "good." I never gained my "freshmen 15" in college, but it's safe to say I gained it a few years after and on my 5'2" frame that becomes very noticeable.

Binge-eating is an eating disorder that doesn't just happen to those who are 30lbs or more overweight. It happens to people just like me too and it took me a long time to realize that. I was always "hungry" and never knew when to stop eating. If I went out to eat, I would go home and shamefully eat more by myself. I once bought a double layer red velvet cake WHOLE at a supermarket and ate half of it before going to bed, which happened to be on a twin air mattress that would deflate by the time I woke up. I'd lose all willpower and would buy myself a burger and fries after trying to eat a healthy dinner and then proceed to eat dessert...a lot of it. I had no control and I didn't know why I couldn't stop.

I wasn't sure what the worst part was...seeing the looks on people when they've noticed my weight gain or hearing all the comments. If I haven't mentioned it before, I have a twin sister who is hands down one of the two most important people in my life. She never made me feel insecure and always protected me as best she could. She also happened to weigh 20lbs less than I did at that time and well, being a twin gives people a reason to compare. And if you're Asian then I'm sure you can understand the unnecessary truth/comments that happen. Even my employees at the time were a very honest bunch so hearing that I had gained weight or how big my face got was pretty common. I also remember visiting my sister in CT and stopped by her workplace. One of her coworkers, who also happened to be a twin decided it was okay to tell me she was "the bigger one too"...within minutes of meeting me. Situations like these happened a lot and these comments were becoming a norm. And If anyone has gone through binge-eating before, it's a vicious, vicious cycle and all the negative attention wasn't helping my case. So many nights I found myself crying or being on the phone with my sister and asking why I couldn't get myself back to "normal."

In 2011, I eventually quit that awful job and ended up back to a workplace that lifted my spirits and thus began my journey back to a healthy weight. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to think that being healthy was to be super restrictive during the week and allowing myself to go all out on the weekends. But things happen during the week...friends want to get together, coworkers want to go out and the mindset of only eating oatmeal, fruit and salads became really difficult. And at that time, eating things that were "unhealthy" (i.e. anything that wasn't what I just mentioned) that meant falling off the wagon so completely gorging myself and then telling myself I'd "start over" the next day became a usual thing...losing weight and gaining it all back became a usual thing.

I  didn't know how to stop when I was full and that was the problem. Eating a whole family pack of peanut M&Ms was okay as long as I "started over" the next day. Instead of listening to my body, I allowed food to control my eating habits and that mindset lasted until June of 2014. So yes, it wasn't until this past summer that I finally stopped allowing food to control me...THREE YEARS of feeling powerless. It was a slow progress and the transition was far from perfect. I came home from Japan and realized I had only 4 months until the wedding and it just clicked. I wanted to feel my BEST and this lifestyle wasn't cutting it. I was sick of stuffing my face when I didn't have to, I was sick of making excuses to buy new clothes because I was tired of my old ones - when really, nothing was fitting, I was sick of hoping that others around me would keep eating so I could help myself to more without feeling judged and I was sick of beating myself up when I realized my sister was still so much skinnier than I was whenever I saw her. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to be healthy mentally.

Let me tell you though, the struggle was REAL. Last summer I decided to take baby steps and really started thinking about what I wanted to achieve and made a few promises to myself:

1. Don't buy anything that would tempt me to overindulge
2. Eat veggies with every meal
3. When I have a craving, take a deep breath and think about how I would feel the next day.
4. Don't eat anything after 8pm.

My biggest downfall during those few years was gorging late night on the weekends (by myself) and I have to say #3 and #4 were the best things I ever could have done to get myself back to a healthy mindset. Waking up became less guilty and I became more excited about taking care of myself. Six months later, I can happily say that I'm the healthiest I have been in a really long time. I've been able to steadily keep off the last 10 pounds and I continue to apply the list that I mentioned. Nowadays, they have become a lot easier and more natural so when I do "fall off the wagon" I don't feel that guilt anymore. But as always, there were challenges along the way:

1. There are BAD days. But I kept reminding myself why I was doing this - I wanted to love myself and see what my husband, my friends and my family saw.
2. I ran into people who just didn't understand - Wanting me to eat because I was already "small." I refused to let them take me down. It's none of their business and at the end of the day, this was for me not them.
3. Realizing there weren't any instant fixes - I realized this was a lifestyle and if I was going to see any permanent changes, I had to do this the right way. I stopped "dieting" and it changed my life, mentally and physically.

In 2010, I tried really hard not to be in photos because I hated the way I felt. I did find a picture from that time and I wanted to compare it to a more recent photo.


It's not a huge difference, but on the right, I remember exactly how I felt: sad, insecure stressed and as Tyra Banks would say, I wasn't "smizing." And on the left, I was 100% in a happy state of mind. I mentioned before that having a positive attitude is contagious and it couldn't be more true. I just had to start with myself.

So now this FINALLY brings us to my vegan challenge. A lot of us make the choice to start fresh come the new year and instead of doing the usual "working out and eating healthy," I wanted to try being vegan for 30 days. I truly wanted to test myself and see if I could continue this healthy mindset, while significantly changing my eating habits. The first 5 days were ROUGH - craving textures and flavor that came from meat, I was tired and cranky and often felt lazy to prep, BUT as each day went on, it became easier. And now at the halfway mark, I feel better than ever! (Check out my instagram for meal photos and what I've been eating during this challenge!)

Since meat and eggs were out of the picture, I've been relying more on carbs like brown rice, whole grains and plant-based proteins like beans. At first I was nervous having to incorporate so many "carbs" into my meals, but it's safe to say my body is loving life. I feel energized, awake and crave veggies more and more everyday. My sweet tooth has even lessened, which is AMAZING.

With another 14 days to go, I'm not sure what I plan to do after this challenge is over. I do know that being vegan has allowed me to fully see that I CAN have a happy and healthy balance with all different types of food and that alone is the best feeling ever. You've heard it all before, as long as you stop dieting and eat in moderation, you can feel and be the best YOU. I no longer feel powerless and I'm proud to say my relationship with food is officially healthy.

And finally, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has loved me from the start and have supported me through not only this challenge, but through this long journey whether you knew it or not. I really am so blessed to have each and every one of you in my life.

You Might Also Like

11 comments

  1. Wow! So brave of you to share this. I'm proud of you and how far you've come. We are all human and make mistakes over and over again. I had no idea and love and respect you so much for offering your struggles into the light like this. You made a giant leap toward healing, girl. Thinking about you and pray for best in your journey. Lots of love, My Nho. XO

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw, Jen, I had no idea of your long-term struggle with food. I too have experienced binge eating alone and know the vicious cycle you talked about of feeling bad, binge eating, starting over, feeling bad, and so on. I can only imagine how much harder it would be if I were a twin! I'm so proud of you for working so hard to overcome everything and stay on track to feel your very best. Much love to you, sweet girl!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm so glad you decided to share this with us! I know you were nervous, but I'm convinced that sharing your story will not only be beneficial for you but anyone who comes across this post. So many people struggle with self-esteem issues, body issues, food issues (eating too much or too little)... I don't think there is any woman that hasn't. Your story is universal. I haven't had the healthiest relationship with food. I'm definitely a stress- and/or boredom-eater. And in high school I lost close to 30 lbs by severely restricting what I ate. Definitely not healthy! Sometimes I find myself thinking back to that time, like maybe I should do that again because that's the only way I ever lost a lot of weight, but I know that it is not healthy and not a sustainable way to live. I may always struggle with food, but I know that when I eat healthfully I feel better about myself... And when I feel happy and content with myself, I eat better! Funny how that works :) I'm so glad this challenge has helped you forge a new, positive relationship with food. Much love! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words, My Nho! You have no idea how much they mean to me. I was super nervous to post this, but the response has been amazingly positive and I just couldn't be happier. To know that I wasn't alone and that so many people could relate makes me feel even stronger and I'm so thankful for that. And I hope that by sharing my story, I'm helping others who are struggling see they're not alone either and feel empowered to overcome it! Love you lots and miss you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Kristen thank you so much! Binge-eating is a vicious cycle indeed, but one you can beat and I'm so glad you were able to get out of it! It can certainly get tough being a twin, but I know I wouldn't have been able to overcome my struggles without her! It's all part of the territory I guess you could say, but people also need to think twice before they speak :)


    I remember our blogging days way back and you have always been so understanding and supportive! And I remember what I was like at 17...LOL. You have been a part of my life for so long and I'm thankful you're still in it :) Love ya lots!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words, My Nho! You have no idea how much they mean to me. I was super nervous to post this, but the response has been amazingly positive and I just couldn't be happier. To know that I wasn't alone and that so many people could relate makes me feel even stronger and I'm so thankful for that. And I hope that by sharing my story, I'm helping others who are struggling see they're not alone either and feel empowered to overcome it! Love you lots and miss you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Kristen thank you so much! Binge-eating is a vicious cycle indeed, but one you can beat and I'm so glad you were able to get out of it! It can certainly get tough being a twin, but I know I wouldn't have been able to overcome my struggles without her! It's all part of the territory I guess you could say, but people also need to think twice before they speak :)

    I remember our blogging days way back and you have always been so understanding and supportive! And I remember what I was like at 17...LOL. You have been a part of my life for so long and I'm thankful you're still in it :) Love ya lots!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you so much Carissa, for your support and for encouraging me to write this post!! It was a little scary clicking that "publish" button, but I'm so glad I did. I hope by sharing my story people see that they're not alone and that they CAN overcome this battle.


    And I totally understand the feeling of wanting to go back to a restrictive diet! That thought still crosses my mind sometimes, but like you I know I wouldn't be happy. I'd also be a VERY cranky lady, which is something I doubt Matthew would appreciate lol. You are BEAUTIFUL and I hope you continue to find that happy balance!! xoxo!! Love you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Agreed! It's been like, 43 years since we first met online! So crazy, right?! You've always been a peach and I love you!
    Binge eating is bad, and I 100% related to everything you said about tanking one day b/c tomorrow will be a "back on the wagon" day. It's easy to get sucked into a downward spiral. You sharing your story will help anyone who reads it and relates. Bravo to you both for kicking the habit AND for sharing your struggle with the world.
    Mucho love! <3

    ReplyDelete
  10. Your words are so encouraging. You have succinctly stated what I have thought since high school about food. I know I am lazy when it comes to planning, the old adage of "Failing to plan is planning to fail" could be the story of my life. Thank you Jen for your candid experiences, you are the voice of reason in a crazy world. I've got some thinkin' to do. :) Love you and Matthew madly!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, this must have been really hard for you :( I'm so glad you are in a healthy place now! I'm a vegetarian and I used to be lactose intolerant, so I used to eat pretty much like a vegan for many years! If you are looking for another health challenge/experiment I am doing the I Quit Sugar challenge. The main idea is that sugar makes you crave sugar, so if you eliminate a lot of the hidden sugars in your diet, all your cravings will go way down. It has worked really well for me, but everyone is different. There are a bunch or recipes on the site for free if you want to check it out! https://iquitsugar.com/recipe/

    ReplyDelete

Like us on Facebook