Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kat's Story: "Hold the Meat, Cheese, and Oil"

This week I have a very special post to share with you all. For nearly a year now, I’ve been writing about how eating a whole food, plant-based diet can change your life. I’ve included recipes and reviews of all sorts in the hopes that I’ll convince others to give it a try. I’ve been told by many of you that while you’ve greatly increased the amount of fruits and veggies in your diets, the idea of going vegan is too abstract or difficult to actually follow through on. However, today I’m sharing an open letter from a good friend of mine. Someone who never imagined they would go vegan, but then tried it and watched their life dramatically change for the better. Her husband and I went to school together, and he is also enjoying increased health since making the switch. I can remember a time when I would be hanging out with the guys eating a lentil salad while he and the others would be stuffing cheese steaks into their faces. I now look forward to sharing a lentil salad with him. This post is a post about courage, about change; about the possible. So now I turn the mic over to my friend, Kat and I hope you are as inspired by her story as I am, and hope you are willing to try a whole food plant-based vegan diet. 

“It all started when I was nine months old. My mom was eating crackers with peanut butter and just as any nine month old would, I picked up the lid to the peanut butter jar and put it in my mouth. It wasn't long before I was a swollen, hive-ridden infant. I had already been diagnosed as being lactose intolerance but that day we discovered my allergy to peanuts as well. Little did I know it was just the beginning. As I got older, my reactions became more frequent and more severe. At eighteen, I developed four new allergies and I had been in anaphylaxis (a life-threatening state, caused by an allergic reaction) twice. In between these severe reactions I was constantly having gastrointestinal upset and eczema. By the time I was twenty two I had been in the emergency room a grand total of six times for anaphylaxis, receiving intravenous epinephrine, prednisone, rinantidine, and antihistamine. Food was my mortal enemy.

Somehow, I was still able to find love, and beyond that, he turned out to be a man who wanted nothing more than to help improve my broken relationship with food. He started by cooking everything from scratch for us when we ate in; and asked more questions at restaurants than my mind could even fathom. Unfortunately, it seemed I was still stuck with unexplained symptoms like constipation, diarrhea and an unruly dermatitis. My allergist suggested that I try eating completely organic to rid myself of these symptoms. This helped some, but in the interim I developed a condition known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) where I would react to uncooked, or undercooked foods that grew close to my environmental allergens. These reactions remain localized to the mouth and throat and rarely require any more treatment than a low dose of Benadryl. Still, it was annoying, to say the least.

While my relationship with food was slowly improving, my relationship with that man continued to grow and eventually he became my husband. Together we experimented with different types of diet changes with the hopes of it further reducing my sporadic reactions. Everything was hit or miss, and I was ready to give up. After twenty-two years I was finally accepting that, I would never really be able to enjoy food.

Recently, however, that all changed. This past July my husband and I were on vacation and he said to me "you remember Ant? He is a vegan, we should look into that" and the research began. He messaged Ant on Facebook asking for tips and I started reading "Skinny Bitch" (knowing that vegan activist, Ellen DeGenerous, had recommended it). Once again I started to believe that my diet could change my life. I read articles, watched "Forks Over Knives" and my husband and I started to eat less meat... Instead of going cold turkey as the saying goes, I decided to throw the turkey out completely along with all other meats, dairy, and eggs from my diet.

It only took a few weeks of eating this way before I stopped having the gastrointestinal symptoms, the eczema, and the OAS. I now have more energy, feel more nourished and have also been able to greatly reduce the amount of daily medications I need to take. Because of these results I now have the full support of my allergist and primary-care doctor. Both of them were shocked by my success and have voiced their desire to share what I have done so other patients who have similar symptoms can learn about how food can help heal us.

I now keep a record of my daily intake just to be sure all my nutritional requirements are being met. As any reader of BYOL will tell you, it’s no surprise that they always are. Never once have I been protein deficient. I get all the vitamins and minerals I need. Neither is my carbohydrate intake too high or anything of that sort. Becoming a vegan has changed how I live my life. Although I still have numerous severe food allergies, the complications that made them so difficult to deal with are gone and that has significantly improved my quality of life.

On top of that, my husband has also found new vitality. He still eats meat occasionally- about once or twice a month- typically when I work late, but he believes in the results I've had and also finds he feels better eating less meat. He also loves coming up with new recipes.

Our favorite recipe is probably my husband’s vegan stuffed mushrooms but I also want to add that we tried and loved BYOL's sweet potato curry recipe - we actually made that for my parents and they loved it as well. It helped them realize they could afford to cut some meat out of their diet while still enjoying their food. Now they are only eating meat two days a week! 

Going out isn't a problem either. Almost everywhere I go has a soy milk option for my coffee, and I can get an awesome fresh salad or vegan taco anywhere, even if I just have to ask them to hold the meat. When I order, Steve and I give them the run down on what I'm allergic to, how serious it is, and then finish with “hold the meat, cheese, and any oil or sauce.”

Finally, I'm eating more than ever before, and yet my weight is more stable than at any other period of my life. It truly is a thrill for both of us. I firmly believe that becoming a plant-strong vegan has repaired my broken relationship with food. I've learned about diet, lifestyle and health will continue to impact me personally as well as professionally. The answer is not a new pill or medication; the answer is spinach. I encourage you all to try a vegan diet, if only for one month. I am willing to bet that, similar to what I experienced, the change will be so profound you'll never look back. I know I'm not.

Thanks for everything, wishing you all good health,




  1. I personally and publicly would like to thank Kat for sharing her story with us.

  2. ME TOO!!! This is beautiful. <3

  3. I also would like to thank Kat for sharing. I'm currently dealing with some very stubborn eczema and I've just recently began looking into diet as a way to solve the problem. I am very encouraged by Kat's positive results!