A Journey To Self-Healing
This is a story about how my dad’s illness became a turning point for my lifestyle change and how my journey to self-healing began.
My dad has always been a role model to me, especially when it came to health. Whenever I picture my dad, I always saw someone who was strong, able-bodied and health conscious. He was the kind of person who would wake up in the early in the morning to go jogging around the village; the kind of person who explored organic products and alternative medicinal treatments.
At a young age, he inspired me to be conscious of my health and how I should take care of myself. I was a sickly kid. Monthly visits to the doctor and constantly being hospitalised was something that I vividly remember.
But despite his guidance and his constant reminders, it still took me years (and a crisis) to put the learnings he instilled in me into practice. As I grew up, I generally didn’t care much about what I ate, what I put onto my skin and so on. As many of us do, I simply got caught up in life and as a child, health wasn’t really on the top of my list. It was a concept that I couldn’t fully comprehend yet.
MY DAD'S ILLNESS
Around three years ago, a turn of events changed the dynamics of how I viewed the concept of health and life. My dad was diagnosed with ALS or some of you may know it as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Let me define this for just a moment:
ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis comes from the Greek Language: "A" means no. "Myo" refers to muscle, and "Trophic" means nourishment. When translated it means, "No muscle nourishment."
It's an incurable, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Basically what it does is it slowly paralyzes the body until you become bedridden which eventually leads to death.
With my dad's case, he was told that he only had a little less than 3 years to live with the progress of his illness. At that time, his nerve cells were already affecting the way he walked. With each passing day, it became harder and harder for him to control his legs because he was slowly losing control over them. Seeing him like that broke the hearts of me and my family. All of us were in denial, especially my dad.
I remember the day he delivered the news. He broke down and told us how much he was struggling. He never anticipated nor predicted this would happen to him. He advised us to take care of ourselves. “You’ll never know what might hit you.” He said. At that point, I came to a decision: 1) I didn’t want to end up with the same condition as my dad, 2) I wanted to learn more about health, about diet and how this affects our body in the hopes that maybe my findings and learnings can somehow contribute to my dad’s disease or at the very least, inspire him with alternative ways to heal himself and slow down the progress of his illness.
So with that, my journey towards health awareness began.
JOURNEY TOWARDS HEALTH AWARENESS AND VEGANISM
A couple of months later, my dad asked me to go to Hawaii with him so that we can get possible medical treatments with the help of my Aunt, Tita Chelly. My Aunt is the type of person who upholds certain beliefs and has a strong mindset. One thing she strongly believes in is veganism. Being vegan for more than a decade, she has seen the effects of adapting a plant-based diet and how it can alter health on a significant and positive level.
With that, she set out to educate and introduce us on the concept of veganism. She showed us documentaries and gave us research readings to ponder and plow through. She also prepared delicious and healthy meals for us and I became fascinated with the idea of this lifestyle. From then on, I made my ultimate decision. It was a slow transition from becoming vegetarian to becoming vegan and sometimes I still make slips but it’s a learning process.
For those of you who still have a difficult time grasping the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan, let me explicitly define the concept of being a vegan: it is one who doesn’t consume any animal products and that includes meat, eggs, dairy, and yes honey. There are different levels of veganism and those who are on the extreme end are also conscious of the products they use (like their shampoo, soap, etc.). I’m not on the extreme end yet. I’m somewhere between mild and moderate. There are also different reasons why people go vegan: mine is geared more towards health. Although, I do consider the aspects of the animals and the environment as important factors.
Being a vegan has never been easy but I came to realize that there is a better way to approach our body and give it the love and care it needs. That’s what motivated me to maintain this lifestyle and strongly uphold my beliefs.
LEARNINGS AND INSIGHTS ON VEGANISM
Coming from a place where meat is a staple, people have a hard time visualizing my lifestyle. Vegetarians and Vegans are not as common back in the Philippines as they are here in America. If I’m being honest, being a vegan is not as easy as it looks. I have to be constantly aware and conscious of what I eat, looking at labels – not to count calories – but to double check ingredients. Preparing specific meals and constantly questioning the preparations of a dish at restaurants became the norm. I learned how to prepare food for myself. I also had to adapt and bring my own food to parties because all of my friends weren’t vegan. There was a lot of curiosity about my lifestyle and I was constantly questioned about how I’m able to manage it. I took those curiosities as opportunities to share my story, my beliefs and try to inspire and educate people on having a healthier lifestyle.
My mindset on the concept of health changed as time went by.
I transitioned from having a raw plant-based diet, eliminating anything that was cooked in oil and other processed food, to slowly incorporating cooked meals back and doing my best to figure out and balance what I eat. It was a journey of self-discovery – of what worked for my body and what didn’t. And it still is an on-going journey. That’s the thing about the human body. It’s constantly changing, constantly adapting, that you have to keep up in order to understand how your body works and under which conditions it thrives.
On this journey, I picked up some facts and learnings along the way. Let me share with you a few things that I gathered and the reason why I believe that this lifestyle is optimal for human health:
1. WE ARE NOT DESIGNED TO EAT MEAT.
We are not designed to eat meat but we were conditioned to eat meat.
During most of human beings evolutionary history, we were largely vegetarian. Study shows that our diet is similar to that of an ape. The introduction of meat began with the discovery of fire. We used fired to destroy the bacteria in meat. But despite this event, our body never adapted to digesting nor processing meat.
When we kill animals for food, they end up killing us, because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings. Eating meat leads to several illness such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
2. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
When animals are slaughtered, fear and aggression enzymes are shot into their muscle tissue. So when you eat the flesh of a dead animal, you basically absorb all the negative energy from the meat into your body, thereby not only affecting your physical body but also your state of mind.
Fruits and vegetables don't have these aspects. The enzymes found in a plants supply the body with sufficient nutrients that upholds a healthy state of mind.
Our body is naturally designed to be on a plant-based diet. We process, digest and absorb nutrients more optimally and efficiently from plants than from meat. Moreover, fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients; the very thing the body needs to thrive and live a long life.
My take on health and veganism is to eat the rainbow. This is how we can get the most out of the nutrients on a plant-based diet. That being said, when I became vegan, I noticed significant improvements in my health and awareness: gone were the monthly visits to the doctor, the allergies, and the constant flu and my digestion improved significantly. Furthermore, I became more aware of my body which resulted to being more active and giving me more energy. The food that I ate fueled my mind and my body.
When you start to take care of your body, it shows. You become more vibrant and energetic.
OUR BODY IS OUR TEMPLE
When I began this journey of adapting a plant-based lifestyle, it took me a year to fully heal my body of the junk that I filled it with over the years. I noticed a lot of changes when I underwent this lifestyle change. But the end result is the most uplifting and liberating thing I have ever experienced.
Looking back, I realized that despite my dad’s health practices, he was missing a key factor: he didn’t explore the aspect of a dietary change or lifestyle. No matter how hard we exercise, no matter how conscious we are of using organic products, if it doesn’t serve your body it will break down no matter what.
That’s the thing about human bodies, its purpose is to serve us and our job is to take care of it for it to function at its most optimal state.
Diseases, cancer, terminal illness – these can easily attack you and your body and it’s not only going to change you but the people around you, your family, your friends. Don't wait until the day your body decides to give up on you.
As for my dad, he moved here to the U.S. with the help of my relatives. He started to be more conscious of being on a plant-based diet and miraculously, he proved the doctor's prognosis wrong. He was told he only had three years left until he would become bedridden, but up to this day he could still walk. Albeit, it's a struggle and he needs to use certain aids to help him like a cane, but that was worth more than anything. That's the power of giving your body the nourishment and care it needs.
Start the journey of self-healing. Treat your mind, body, and soul like it's the most precious thing in this Universe. Because that's exactly what it is.
Most of the learnings and insights cited in this article are backed up by Scientific Facts. Here are the resources cited and mentioned in this writing:
- What Is ALS? (Lou Gehrig's Disease)
- Shattering The Meat Myth: Humans Are Natural Vegetarians
- Is It Really Natural? The Truth About Humans And Eating Meat
- Are Humans Supposed To Eat Meat
- Lactose Intolerance
- How Humans Are Not Physically Created To Eat Meat
- Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts
- Does Becoming Vegan Affect Your Body?
- Vegan Food and Vegetarian Diets Linked to Good Health
- Most Human Beings Are Lactose Intolerant: Here's Why