Vegan Month Update, and Some HAPPY News!

Dear Friends,

This post will be a blend of my blog and an article, since I’m sharing a little bit of personal with a lot of information.

For the month of March, I went 100% plant-based to see what effect it would have on my overall health. In trying to figure out issues with my sleep, mood and thyroid nodule, I needed to see which variable was effecting the others. The one variable I could control was diet, so I eliminated all meat and dairy from my diet entirely (normally I am 90-95% plant-based) and charted the results to see if trends would change from previous months on my mood and sleep.

Before I get to the results…as you all are aware, right in the middle of the month we were grappled with COVID-19 nationwide. So many things changed for me during this time, as I transitioned to working from home, then got slammed with PPP loans working my day job as an SBA Processor and was working overtime. It was also the end of the semester, which brought another type of busy as I had end of semester projects to complete. In addition to that, I had a final project for my last assignment for my nutrition certification. So long story short – this post is coming two months later than I had planned!

First, for the happy news, because I’m too excited to contain it! According to my degree plan, I should have had two more classes to go before graduation. When I reached out to my advisor to ask why I couldn’t get in to register for fall classes, she emailed me back and told me I’d completed my requirements for graduation and didn’t need anymore classes. She sent me my intent to graduate form, I signed, and I am officially a UMASS AMHERST GRAD with a journalism degree!!

What an exciting day and happy surprise that was! You may not know, but when I first registered for classes in 2004, I found out I was pregnant with my now 15-year-old son two weeks later. Everything changed. I became a wife and mom full-time, and a college student part-time. I settled for my associates degree, figuring I could go back later and get my bachelor’s. I finished my associates in 2009, by that time a single mom, and finally began my bachelor’s in 2012. In 2018, I changed course from business, to journalism – where my heart has always truly been. I also changed schools from Southeast Missouri State University, to University of Massachusetts Amherst University Without Walls.

After eight years, it feels SO GOOD to be finished with my degree and able to call myself a journalist at last! Right on the heels of my bachelor’s degree, I am finishing up my holistic nutrition certification as well. I just finished my last assignment, which included working with my first volunteer client. I’ve already started my exam and have about 100 more questions to go before I’m officially certified! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be completing both of these goals at the same time!

The next step is to start coaching. I have already built the website for my coaching business – Planted Nutrition & Wellness Coaching, and will be launching it the moment my certification is complete. It will be linked here to my news and blog site, and this site will also be linked to my coaching site. They will be sister sites that are fluid and compatible with each other. My Instagram will be changing to focus on coaching, and I will also be launching a YouTube channel this summer. I’m over the moon about all of this forward momentum!

And now for my Vegan month results! I should really call it my plant-based month, because veganism is not necessarily healthy, as it allows foods that are not nutrient-dense as long as they are free of animal products. I eliminated all animal products entirely, all oils, and even caffeine. The worst was definitely the caffeine, because even though I was only drinking one 12 ounce cup per day, I had a couple of days of withdrawals, which included mostly headaches and extreme fatigue.

The first thing I noticed once I made it through the caffeine withdrawal was that my constant low energy level and sleepiness went away, as did my anxiety. By this point in my life my anxiety was well-managed, but I would still get that jittery feeling in my gut over little things that should not have been a big deal. I would dwell on things and feel it in my stomach and my chest. That stopped immediately. The first time something popped up that I should have felt anxious about, I instead felt calm.

My sleep improved pretty much immediately. I might still have nights where I didn’t sleep as well as a I wanted to, but the big difference was that when I had those nights of mediocre sleep, it didn’t ruin my whole day. Before, I could get seven hours of sleep instead of eight, and I would be good for nothing all day long. I would be in a state of grogginess that I couldn’t break out of and just felt awful all day long. Now, I might feel a little on the tired side, but I’m not fatigued or in a fog. My brain still functions well and I can focus…which has been a life changer.

In studying a book for my nutrition cert, which is actually not required reading for the course but I felt would better prepare me to assist people with weight loss, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fhurman, I learned why:

“Halting stimulating behavior…unmasks the fatigue that was always there. The power reserve in a battery is proportional to its use. The less we use it, the more life it has and the stronger it remains. Likewise, when there is continual stress on your body from stimulating foods and caffeine, it gives the false sensation that we have energy, when actually we are using up our nerve energy faster. This ages us. The fatigue is hidden by the stimulating (aging-inducing) effects of sugar, caffeine, and toxic protein load.”

So as we continually fuel ourselves with caffeine, we are actually depleting the body of its ability to self-regulate its energy levels. The very thing that we are using to try to fuel our energy is actually depleting it at alarming rates. This was shocking to me, because I truly did not think that my one cup of coffee per day would even have an effect, but I had read as I was starting this experiment that even one cup of coffee in the morning could potentially disrupt sleep, and so that is the one reason why I chose to give it up. Now that I have, I realize it’s the thing that has made by and large the biggest difference in my sleep and my energy level, and I will not ever give caffeine that kind of power over my body ever again.

The other major difference I noticed is that my acne cleared. I have had chronic acne since I was 11 years old and first started having periods – which I now know from my studies is too young to start puberty, and increases the risk of developing breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer later in life. Historically, before we were consuming dairy products at alarming rates, puberty happened in later teens, around the same time we would be graduating from high school.

Now, thanks to an influx of hormone-disrupting levels of milk, cheese and ice cream prevalent in the American diet, we are not only seeing puberty at earlier ages, but a significant amount of acne along with it. Dr. Neal Barnard explains that all dairy comes from a pregnant cow, and that a pregnant cow is flooded with estrogen, which we then consume when we eat and drink dairy. Those estrogens are harmful to our health and disruptive to our body’s natural estrogen balance, leading to conditions such as acne, endometriosis, infertility in both women and men, thyroid complications, even reproductive cancers such as breast, uterine and ovarian in women, as well as prostate cancer in men. In fact, dairy is cited as a leading cause of all of those cancers.

I am 90-95% plant-based, meaning I would still have a serving of cheese or so per week. Which was apparently just enough to keep my hormones from being able to come back into balance. It’s the equivalent of a smoker choosing to cut back from two packs a day, to one pack per week, and expecting the damage caused by the habit to heal. Healing cannot occur until we stop damaging ourselves, completely. As long as we continue to fuel the fire, even just a little at a time, it will continue to burn.

For the first time, my skin was clear – aside from some scarring and permanent redness from having acne for 23 of my life. And when the month was over and I had cheese again for the first time in four weeks – the acne immediately came flooding back, after only one serving of cheese.

Another wonderful side effect of cutting out the meat and dairy completely for a month – my period came and went almost unnoticed, with no cramping, no breakouts, no moodiness at all, and no sugar cravings. It’s truly amazing what happens in the female body when we stop engaging in activity that disrupts our hormones.

In Dr. Michael Greger’s book How Not to Die, he talks about how uncomfortable menopausal symptoms like hot flashes do not exist in cultures where dairy consumption is virtually non-existent. Historically in Japan, for example, dairy was not a part of the diet, and in the Japanese language a word for “hot flashes” did not exist – because the condition did not exist. According to the book, an entirely plant-based diet free of all meat and dairy makes for a mostly smooth and seamless transition from our child-bearing years, into menopause, as our hormones are able to “do their thing” naturally without an artificial elevating of estrogens from our diet.

Since this experiment I am now caffeine- and dairy-free, except for on the very, very rare occasion. I learned that these two things were the biggest culprits in the ongoing issues I had, even more-so than the meat and oils. Meat and oils tend to create problems more internally, that are less noticeable until we develop cancer, or chronic conditions such as heart disease, type II diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Often times people don’t even know there is a problem until they have a heart attack or a stroke.

Inflammation is also another major factor, which has been implicated especially in autoimmune conditions. I was lucky enough to have a question answered on The Exam Room, a live broadcast done daily on the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine YouTube channel. Because my grandmother and my boyfriend both have identical types of Non-Hodgkins Lymphomas, cancers that are autoimmune, I asked about the connection between diet and immune system cancers like these.

Dr. Loomis said that unfortunately there have not been a lot of studies done on these cancers and diet, so a lot of detailed information is unknown. However, he suspects that the main link between diet and these cancers is the same as diet and other autoimmune conditions – inflammation. This is something I will be discussing more in a future article, but consumption of meat and oils is also connected to this silent condition within the body, as is dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

I am still occasionally having some meat or seafood, but I also am now eating more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, fresh fruits and legumes than I ever have, and I feel better than I ever have. My energy is higher than it’s been since childhood, my mood is good almost all of the time, I feel consistently motivated and productive more than I ever have, and I made it through a time of extreme stress during the month of April without anxiety. Most importantly – I am sleeping so much better!

It started as an experiment to find the secret behind my poor sleep, and ended with positive changes that will last me a lifetime.

Friend or Foe? Here’s the Truth About Carbs

Since the popularity of low-carb diets has taken the country by storm, carbohydrates have been getting an undue bad rap. From the Atkins Diet of yester-year, to the more popular Keto of today, people across the nation have been convinced that carbohydrates are the true evil of the American diet, causing them to get fat and develop diabetes. As a result, carbohydrates are being drastically reduced in these fad diets in an attempt to accelerate weight loss. In reality, our bodies need them to thrive.

The Truth About Carbs:

They are one of the most key, essential nutrients that the body needs to live and thrive. Yes, protein is also important and we cannot live without it. But there is a reason that the macronutrient we need most (50% of our diets) is carbohydrates — because carbs are the fuel for every single cell in our body. From our brain function, to our muscle mobility, to the pumping of our heart and rhythm of our lungs, carbohydrates fuel it all [1].

People on low carb diets very likely find themselves feeling sluggish, slow-moving, and in a brain fog a good deal of the time. The reason is that their diet is deeply restrictive of carbohydrates — reducing them from 50% of the diet down to only 20%, or sometimes an even more dangerously low 10%. This is the equivalent of ignoring your car’s low fuel light and trying to drive 60 miles up the interstate.

The Truth About Fat:

Perhaps even more concerning is that these diets promote a high level of fat intake. I find it quite interesting that these diets are suggested as a healthy way to treat Type 2 Diabetes in particular. While it is true that lowering the intake of carbohydrates will lower the amount of glucose in the blood (more on that later), that only treats a symptom of the disease rather than the root cause. What is the root cause? A high-fat diet [2].

Type 2 diabetes is known as inuslin-resistant diabetes, meaning that the pancreas is sufficient at producing insulin (unlike its Type 1 Diabetes counterpart), but it isn’t able to attach to the body’s cells to allow glucose in. Why? A diet high in saturated fats — the kind found in meat, dairy, eggs, oils, and fried and processed foods — clogs our cells with fat, and that fat blocks the insulin from pulling glucose out of the blood and into the cell [3]. The problem with Type 2 Diabetes is not carbohydrates, but too much saturated fat.

These same fats are the direct link between diet and coronary artery disease (also known as heart disease). The saturated fat sources named above are also high in cholesterol — the root cause of plaques in the arteries that lead to atherosclerosis, angina, and coronary artery disease. The effect of coronary artery disease? A plaque in one of the arteries ruptures and gets into the blood stream, where the immune system attacks it and a clot is formed. That clot blocks the blood flow to the heart, where the tissue begins to die — this is the long way of describing a heart attack, which in 75% of cases is the first and only symptom of heart disease [4].

So those low-carb, high-fat diets may initially kick your weight loss into high gear, but they also put you at risk for Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease. Sound like a good trade-off for some temporary weight loss? Because the reality of it is, it will be temporary. The moment the diet is stopped and maintenance becomes the goal, the weight comes right back, the end result usually being an even heavier weight than pre-diet.

Carbohydrate Reality Check – What You Need to Know

A high-fat diet is not good for either Type 2 Diabetes — at least not if you want to cure the disease rather than just manage its symptoms — or heart health. But what about those carbs we’ve been told again and again by way of these mainstream fad diets are bad for us? That can be true…but is also very false. Allow me to explain.

There are carbohydrates that aren’t good for us. Those carbohydrates are the ones found in sugar, corn syrup, and refined grains. The glycemic index is a way of measuring the glycemic impact of carbohydrate-rich foods, by ranking them on a scale of 1-100. So where do different carbs fall on this scale?

Corn syrup gets a top ranking, dialing in at = 100

What about sucrose, or refined white sugar? = 62

White, refined breads? The same as corn syrup = 100

White rice, not a lot better = 72

To be considered low on the glycemic index, a carb has to come in below 55. So what are some carbs that come in under that magic number?

Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread = 36

Brown Rice = 50

Oats = 55
*watch the instant variety, though. They come in at 72 because of added sugar

Can you see the difference? Eating white bread is essentially the same thing as swallowing a tablespoon of corn syrup. Eating a high quality whole grain bread, however, bears a small glycemic load. The difference is in the fiber and nutrients. White bread is made of refined wheat, which has had all of the nutrients, the ever-important fiber included, stripped away (and the color bleached out), thereby concentrating the now-refined carbohydrates. It then has artificial nutrients added back in, along with extra sugars because Americans like things sweet, dough conditioners to make it soft, and preservatives to make it shelf-stable.

What the two different breads do to your blood glucose level is where the difference in the glycemic index comes in. Foods high on the glycemic index are so because they cause an immediate spike in blood sugar. It does this because those carbs are already broken down (refined) into the form of simple sugars. The body has to do little work to convert them to usable glucose, therefore they are processed immediately into glucose and pumped at high volumes right into your blood stream. This creates a sudden need for the pancreas to work overtime creating insulin to pull the glucose from the blood and into the cells. Your body is working in over drive (which is also what causes that dreaded carb crash) [5].

The high quality whole grain bread, on the other hand… it is a true, whole carbohydrate. That means it has to be broken down into a simple sugar first, and then into glucose. This process is slow, and therefore the glucose enters the blood stream at a steady, manageable pace. Blood glucose levels are not spiked, and therefore insulin is not flooded into the bloodstream at an accelerated pace. You also do not get the dreaded carb crash from eating whole grains, for this exact reason — it is a slow and steady process [5].

So you see, it is not the carbohydrate itself that is problematic, but the form in which it is consumed. If you are eating sugars and refined grains, then carbs are bad for you. If you are eating whole grains, fruits and naturally occurring sugars, then the carbs are not at all your enemy — they are your body’s best friend. The number one compound that your body uses to fuel every function and process throughout the entire body, is glucose. You need glucose direly. Cutting it out of your diet because of a current weight loss trend is detrimental to your body’s ability to function, and therefore to your overall health.

So How do You Lose Weight Healthily?

What I like to tell people to keep it short, sweet, and simple is this:

  1. Take the amount of meat and dairy that you are eating and cut it in half. Maybe even cut it down by 75% if you’re really eating a lot.
  2. Then take the amount of fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grains you are eating and triple it (to accelerate weight loss, do less nuts and seeds, and more beans).
  3. Consume zero added sugars, artificial sweeteners, oils, processed or fried foods, or refined carbohydrates.

It really is as simple as that. The weight loss will not be extreme — in other words you are not going to lose 10 pounds in one week like on those fad diets. But it will be steady, and it will be consistent. You will continue losing each week, and it won’t come back once it’s gone. Why? Because this isn’t a fad diet, this is a lifestyle change. You are going to do this indefinitely, not just until the weight is gone. You can do that because this way of eating is healthy. It has no adverse effects like the fad diets do. This diet is the real maintenance that fad diets don’t teach you, and the only way to stay at a healthy weight.

A person who is not ready or willing to give up the refined, processed, fried, oil-laden foods and the overconsumption of meat and dairy are not ever going to lose weight and keep it off. That is just the harsh reality of it. To be a healthy weight, you have to have a healthy body, and that comes 80% from what you eat, and don’t eat (the other 20% from exercise). Of course other lifestyle factors play into that as well — like not smoking or drinking excessively (my idea of moderate drinking differs from that of the mainstream — not 1-2 drinks per day, but 2-3 drinks per week, like in a social setting or a celebration).

The Proof is in the Pudding

I grew up on a diet of meat and potatoes and processed food. I was heavier than I should’ve been during my childhood, slimming down during adolescence and gaining it back during my child bearing years (for me that was 19 and 21). When my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer about a decade ago, my obsessive learning about diet and nutrition began and led me to where I am today. What does my own diet look like?

I consume meat (although never red meat) and dairy just three times per week. That’s three servings in total, per week. The rest of the time I get my protein from nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. I load myself down on veggies. I have sweets of some kind occasionally as a treat — occasionally being a couple of times per month. What I eat the most of is whole grains, or carbs. I eat them at every meal, plus for all of my snacks in between. I absolutely pig out on them, because they keep me full and satisfied. I never struggle with carb crashes, and my weight has held steady for a very long time (which is even lower than when I was in high school, and I am now 34 years old). I eat all the carbs I want and never gain a pound. My BMI is 20.1, right in the “normal” range.

If the idea that carbs make us fat were true, I would be overweight. Low-carb diets promote carb intakes of around 20%. The suggested macronutrient range for carbs is 50% of your diet. My carbohydrate intake is 55% and my weight is just right. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

Carbs are not the enemy — not if we are consuming the right ones. Carbs fuel our muscles, sharpen our minds, help keep our digestive system moving, and assist cell production and function. Carbohydrates are the body’s best friend, so find the good ones, and don’t be afraid to eat up!



1 – Deeply Holistic: A Guide to Intuitive Self-Care, by Pip Waller
2 – How Not to Die, Chapter 6
3 – Dr. Neal Barnard, video on YouTube
4 – How Not to Die, Chapter 1
5 – Deeply Holistic: A Guide to Intuitive Self-Care, by Pip Waller