Wanting to meet Vegan Nutritionista? It's me... Cathleen Woods.
I grew up in a typical household and ate a typical American diet, though it was a bit healthier than most because we ate tons of fruits and vegetables.
We drank milk like it was our job. I remember a time when I was at the pediatrician and she asked me if I drank enough milk. I nodded and said that I drank eight glasses a day. Yikes, right? Well, I thought I was doing the right thing, and I was very proud.
My mom, like most then and even now, considered it one of the ultimate health foods, and so we really drank a ton of it. When other kids got soda at dinner, we had a few glasses of milk.
And, whole milk at that. Not until I was 12-years old was I able to convince her that I would be just as healthy drinking skim milk. So, for the first 18 years of my life, I drank copious amounts of milk.
We also ate plenty of cheese, chicken, fish, turkey, and red meat.
Right around the age when I protested against whole milk, I began my protest against meat and gave it up. I truly can't remember my exact reasons for going vegetarian.
Part of it was because I heard through a friend that farm animals suffered immensely for us to eat them. I loved animals too much at that young age to be strong enough to actually investigate how they suffered; it was enough for me just to know they did.
Part was that I had a feeling it just wasn't good for our bodies to eat it. Ultimately, I was stubborn and because I decided I wasn't going to eat it, I didn't eat it. And it wasn't that hard for me, really.
And that was that... for years and years I was a lacto-ovo-pescatarian. I ate nothing that walked or anything that had hidden meat in it.
In early 2007, I started to crave more information. I had been in too many professional situations where someone would ask me why I was a vegetarian and I couldn't give a good enough answer. I wanted to know more.
The funny thing is that almost the instant I allowed myself to truly learn about vegetarianism, I decided to go vegan. I didn't stop eating everything overnight, but I just knew I would have to give it all up. For any reason that I could want to be a vegetarian, whether to protect animals, the environment, or my health, it was better not to eat anything from animals.
I started by cutting out milk and bought soy milk. To me, that was easy enough because I had cut back dramatically on milk in college. Soy milk has a different flavor, but I got used to it quickly. Later I added in other types of nondairy milk.
My next battle was fish. I truly loved the taste of fish and I truly believed it was healthy for my body. But after reading about the destruction to the ecosystem, that alone made it easier for me. Eating it felt like a selfish act. Plus, I learned more about how most of the fish we eat today is actually not very good for us.
I tried for a month or so to find only sustainable fish, but even in high-end restaurants I was appalled at the almost-extinct fish on the menus. So I said goodbye to seafood.
Cheese was the last battle. Now, I had cut back dramatically on dairy products already, but the idea of it being gone forever was very scary to me. I had learned that many humans have an addiction to cheese and that it's very hard to break this addiction, and that rung true to me. Most of the cheese we eat is complete junk, and for me, that junky kind was easy to put behind me. But what about those awesome high-end cheeses that taste so good??
I experimented for awhile with free-range cheese and raw cheese and anything else I believed to be produced in a more humane fashion. The problem for me was I didn't think "more humane" really equated to "humane."
I learned that cheese provides very little nutrition. We are raised to think it has all kinds of calcium, but its calcium (from animal protein) is hard for our bodies to digest and can actually lead to more bone fracture rates because it encourages calcium leeching from the bones.
At any rate, I wavered for a few months. Looking back on it, I wish I could have been "strong" enough to drop everything over night, because it seems like I wasted valuable time. But, I really believe that everyone has to move at their own pace. Some people take even longer to figure out what works for them.
As I tell my mom, "You have to do what you believe in."
What's completely amazing to me is how much better of a cook I became when I started to think outside the box. Some people imagine that food without meat and cheese is going to be bland and boring. On the contrary!
Because so many other cultures eat neither meat nor cheese, there are incredible international dishes with intense flavors that are vegan. I love to learn their methods and develop my own dishes based on them.
I have found my true passion in helping people to learn about a plant-based diet. I always wanted to do something with a true impact on society. I feel that I can help people not only to become healthier, but to help them reduce their responsibility for the destruction of the environment and the economy, and increase their compassion for other beings.
Over the years I've written a variety of eBooks, from meal plans to cookbooks about baking vegan bread and starting out as a vegan to even a guide to cutting cheese out of our lives. I'm always amazed at the positive feedback about these eBooks and the spirit of our website.
I am always open to new ideas on how to help people, so if you are reading this and can think of a way I can help you, contact me using the form below. Please also feel free to check out our FAQs and forums first to meet our readers and see what discussions we're having.