It’s never too early or too late to reconsider your healthy life choices. Recently a high blood pressure scare prompted me to reconsider what I was doing with my health, and if I actually was as healthy as I thought I was. I guess I would have always considered myself to be a little bit of a health nut, at least compared to what my friends were doing, and certainly I was known as “the healthy vegetarian” of the group. I never would have considered myself to be “the unhealthy one”, but was I?
About 16 years ago I first adopted a vegetarian diet. Admittedly I knew nothing about healthy eating or the necessary nutrients for optimal health. My main reasons for the dietary change at that time were animal welfare and honestly, a way to stick out and be quirky and unique through high school. Since then it has been and on and off again love affair with fruits and vegetables. For most of my vegetarian career I was what I would call a “junk food vegetarian”. My diet was high in fats, sodium, and carbohydrates. Most of my meals would be drenched in cheese, sauces, or riddled with highly processed fake meat alternatives.
As I aged, I noticed I just didn’t feel good anymore. I erroneously self diagnosed myself with needing meat. After all it’s what people had been telling me for years. I slowly started to integrate meats into my diet and was surprised to find that not only was I not feeling any better, I was feeling much worse. I, just by chance, had my blood pressure checked and was shocked to find it was dangerously high. Having a family history of heart problems, I was in absolute
disbelief! I exercised a few times a week, and ate healthfully enough, I thought.
Despite being a vegetarian that hardly ever ate fruits or vegetables, I was at the top of my game. I rode my bicycle often and routinely enjoyed playing basketball. How could this be? Was my diet really that bad? The answer was yes. Finding out that my blood pressure was through the roof, I immediately knew that it was based source of why was feeling so bad. I was going through a period of increased stress and also in retrospect, was medicating myself with unhealthy comfort foods. The issue was no longer being vegetarian or not, the issue was completely unhealthy eating habits, high stress, and the reduced amount of exercise.
Health experts recommend 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, in addition to a well-balanced healthy meal plan. Are you getting that? I know that I sure wasn’t. I was living in denial of my own existence! I was a little overweight, but didn’t face the facts until now. You could say I was scared straight. Knowing what a life on blood pressure medicine, amongst many other things is like, firsthand from family experience, I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to change this pattern. I had to take a serious look at what I was eating, how much I was exercising and make a commitment to do something about it.
Although some might have you believe differently, there is no magic diet to become a part of, only what works best for you and your individual body. Some people without a family history of disease might never have high blood pressure, and some people despite their best efforts might suffer from it regardless.
As a last ditch effort before I spent some serious time getting to know my regular doctor, I decided to do an experiment. I remembered recently watching a documentary that touted the benefits of a
plant-based diet and what it could do not only for your blood pressure but also your overall health and weight management. I measured my blood pressure three separate times before this experiment, and they all were in the stage one hypertension range. I figured I would give myself at least a month but found that I didn’t actually even need that long. I promised myself that I would get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day and would start eating a plant-based diet effectively right now. I also made a commitment to try and relax at the end of the day be at with a hot bath, some mellow music, or a nice cup of tea. Occasionally I would combine all three of them.
Now I’m not saying that a plant-based diet and exercise are the cure all of all man’s ailments, but I will tell you this, I went from having high blood pressure to having mid normal range blood pressure in less than a week. I noticed while staying on this diet my blood pressure maintained and a healthy range, and I haven’t felt this good in years. I have more energy, I’ve been craving fruits and vegetables instead of starchy sweets, and after workouts my recovery time has been cut in half. I don’t wake up feeling tired and sick anymore I feel refreshed and ready to take on the day. My main focus has become my overall health, not just for myself but also for my loved ones around me. I want to live in long, happy, and healthy life with them. My focus now, which it should have been in the beginning, is a healthy lifestyle. I just happened to find the one that works best for me. If you are feeling low, perhaps you two would take a look at your diet and lifestyle and see what, if any, changes you need to make.
If you see me out on the streets, I would probably be the last person on earth that you would think is eating a plant-based diet and exercising daily. But as I have started this routine, I’m looking less and less like the lazy vegetarian and more and more like someone that takes their health and fitness seriously. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. The proof is in the (soy-based) pudding.
This conversation is sponsored by Alomune. All opinions expressed are strictly my own.