About the Author
Hey there! Welcome to New Vegan Heart! I am so glad you decided to join us!
My name is Marybeth and I’m a 30-year-old medical professional who recently made the switch to a vegan lifestyle. Over the last 10 years or so, I have been back and forth with plant-based nutrition, but I've re-evaulated my personal journey within the last year. Originally, when I was about 20 years old, I cut animal products from my diet in an attempt to quickly lose some weight. I had read Dr. Furman’s Eat To Live and was enticed by the idea that I could lose about 20 lbs. in 8 weeks. That was it. There was no moral or humanitarian motive behind the switch. I just wanted to ditch the 35 lbs. that I had gained while in school. I had great success with the change. I lost about 30 lbs. and was the thinnest I had ever been in my life. In my mind, however, veganism was just a means to an end, and eventually, when I got my weight under control, I would go back to eating burgers and chicken wings (in moderation, of course).
A few years later, 10-15 lbs. had crept back into my life (from resuming my normal eating habits), so I decided to try the process again. This time, I was a little older and a little wiser, and I had started to really feel the damage that animal products were doing to my body. I lost a little weight that second time around and I was feeling pretty good. But, I was not yet strong enough to stand up for what I was doing and resist the temptations or pressure from the world around me to stick to the change long-term.
Then, about 3 years ago, one week before Thanksgiving, life gave me a whopping smack to face. My father, my best friend, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Cancer that had spread to his brain. What followed that diagnosis was probably the worst 4 months of my entire life. I watched as he lost his ability to care for himself in basic ways, have seizures at random, and lose weight at an alarming rate. My life became solely about caring for him, and naturally, taking care of myself took a back seat on my priority list. We went through a successful brain surgery that gave us a glimmer of hope that he could survive this discovery. Next, there was chemo 3 days per week, frequent hospital stays (through which I never left his side), and finally, pneumonia from the brain surgery. Due to the chemo treatments, his body just could not fight much more. In the end, I spent 5 days sleeping on an air mattress next to his bed, in a hospice facility, sobbing as he took his final breaths. My whole world was shattered.
During the 5 days in hospice, I asked my father if he was proud of his life. He had worked so hard and accomplished so many amazing things with his work. He earned his doctorate, retired as a hospital executive, and he had two kids who he taught to be self-sufficient, hard-working adults. At the time, I thought, "You've done great, Dad. How can you not be proud of your life?" His response, however, was a bit unexpected. He said, "No, I am not proud. I have been so silly, and none of that matters now. I’ve wasted my life chasing money, and it was never enough. I haven’t contributed anything meaningful to the world. If I could go back, I would do something that mattered, something that I was passionate about." Those words stuck with me and they ring in my ears almost daily. What can I do that will make me feel proud of my own life?
After he passed, I moved to Nashville, TN for work. I needed a new life. I was tired and devastated and tired of being devastated. I met some really great people, including my amazing boyfriend, within 3 days of moving to town. That felt like a sign from above that my Dad was helping to guide me! I fell in LOVE with the South and this city. And, all of the "new" was a wonderful distraction from the grief I was dealing with. So, I went out almost every night with my new friends, and I ate more fried chicken and drank more beer than any one person should consume. I also continued working away at my 9-to-5 healthcare job that was okay, but really just provided me with a steady paycheck. I kept on moving, as fast as I could, because I knew if I stopped, all of my pain and sadness would hit me like a ton of bricks and I might not bounce back. I told myself I was just having fun after a hard road, and I deserved a little bit of disorganized fun after all I had been through! But, within a year, I had gained almost 30 lbs. from what I can only define as emotional binge eating and drinking. I begrudgingly shuffled through work all day and partied all night, and my Dad’s words kept creeping up from the back of my mind.
"What are you doing with your life?
Is any of this going to matter in the end?"
So, there I was, about to be 30 years old, feeling fat, and growing more miserable in my profession as the days passed. The partying had settled down to that of a normal 30-year-old's social calendar, and I began to wonder if was heading down an unfulfilling career path and if I would regret parts of my life just like my father. I spent some time soul-searching and trying to pinpoint what really makes me happy. What am I passionate about? What is the one thing that feeds my soul more than anything else? What am I lacking in my life? A few things came to mind: Helping people achieve success, maintaining a healthy body and mind, and...animals! Duh! I am an enormous animal lover. I'm that annoying person in the car that "ooo's" and "ahh's" at every cow farm along the highway, but c'mon...cows are so cute, right?! I also spend hours researching the horrible injustices that animals face at the hands of humans, and I have ALWAYS, ALWAYS wanted to be a person that could actually do something about it.
But, what can I do about it? How do I translate this love into some sort of meaningful action in my life? I’m not a Veterinarian or a Zoologist, I lack the time or funds to go to school to study another profession, and I don't have enough money in the bank to simply travel the world saving all these precious animals. Besides, I’ve got bills to pay and responsibilities that I can’t just walk away from to start trying to save the planet, one animal at a time.
Suddenly, I had my "Ah-ha" moment! What I can do is start with myself. I can start trying to do my part to reduce the amount of suffering that takes place in this world. It can start with me, and I already have an idea of how to start implementing changes, so I should be able to hit the ground running! The added bonus? I can get healthy at the same time! #winning
I began the Vegan journey once again, only this time, it meant more to me. Sure, I had some weight to lose, but who doesn’t these days? I began feeding my body with amazing, nutrient-rich food, but I was also feeding me soul. I started to feel more and more like my purpose was emerging. I felt a need to share my journey in an attempt to help others who have considered a Vegan lifestyle, and this need began to feel like the calling I had been desperately searching for. If I can, perhaps, just help one other person make the transition to a meatless existence, then maybe I can leave a mark on this planet. Maybe I can save a few thousand chickens, cows, pigs, or fish over a lifetime, and that will feel pretty great when I’m in my own hospice bed, looking back on what I've done.
So, here I am, just trying to spread the love and knowledge I am gathering along the way. I'm not perfect and I'm not an expert, but I'm learning new things about this lifestyle every day. I'm also learning new ways I can get involved with animal advocacy, and I'm learning about the impact that our daily decisions have on this planet. I would simply like to share this journey with as many people as I can. I’m on a mission now, baby! A mission to make my Daddy proud and ensure that my life means something. A mission to make a difference!
Let's teach each other how to make an impact on this world together. Let's share ideas and build a community of love and peace right here. We may not always get it right, but we can try, every day, until we eventually do. Let's be awesome humans who do what's right for all of the world's amazing animals, and let's get healthy while we do it!
Love yourself today! We only get one shot at this!