My intention was not to become vegan: that is not how I started. I came to the realization that my eating habits were terrible when I started reading articles and magazines that said that the way you eat affects your health. I was eating a pound of shortbread cookies with three pots of coffee a day. Every educated dietician knows that is not a good idea, so I was very lucky that this terrible diet of mine had not resulted in health problems yet.

I am almost 51 years old and I am absolutely sure that if I hadn’t changed my ways that by now serious, terrible things would have happened to me. It was just the logic of all of this that made me do some independent research. I just wanted to improve my health and my children’s health.

I really wasn’t sick, and I really wasn’t overweight, but I was over-fat, and I was tired all of the time. Even the cookie eating and coffee drinking wasn’t working so much anymore. I remember loving weekends so that I could sleep in the afternoon. What a way to live your life, where you are looking forward to sleep. So the fist thing I noticed was instantaneously my energy level was starting to improve. That was a positive thing, and also at the same time, I was burning off fat with exercise, cleaning out my gastrointestinal tract. My body wasn’t used to handling high fiber foods and I can see where a lot of people could experience this on their own without any help and could say this isn’t too much fun and I think I will quit.

I was pretty determined as I saw the super logic of it so I stuck with it because I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew the energy I was feeling told me that it was the right thing to do. The discomfort didn’t last a real long time, it was uncomfortable for a couple of months and after that it was astounding. My whole complexion changed. I used to not leave my house without make-up on my face. Now I wear a little eye make-up and I don’t wear any make-up on my face and I don’t have to. My hair got nice and shiny and thick and overall you could just tell I was healthier by looking at me.

I call myself a recovering garbologist, which appropriately describes what I used to be. I and went off the deep end, which describes my personality. I remember coming home one day and just deciding that we are getting rid of all of the bad food in the house. So I got rid of all of the bad food in the house and there is nothing in my house to eat. I remember my youngest kid saying to me, what are we going to eat?

I told him I haven’t gotten that far yet and that he will have to give me a little bit of time to figure that out. I know what we are not going to have, but I don’t know what we are going to have. That is what part of my business is all about, helping people facilitate that transition and not have to do what I did, which is an awful lot of trial and error of not knowing what to do. I rattled around until I figured it out. I have a Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. in Nutrition and a degree in Naturopathy, which is the practice of Natural Medicine.

Thank God the first books I read were written by Dr. John McDougall and not Dr. Atkins, because it just as easily could have been. I started reading these various books by Dr. McDougall, and I read Dr. Dean Ornish’s book and I started seeing this incredible connection between optimal diet and health and eating more plant foods and less animal foods. One day I went to a juncture [is this the right word?] where I really heard how bad animal foods were for you, and I gave up everything but fish and that happened about 14 years ago. I was an occasional fish eater, once in a while I would eat a little goat’s cheese or something and that went on for many, many years.

About three and a half years ago I woke up one day and realized that months and months had passed since I ate fish, I didn’t miss it, and I didn’t care and I realized that I was a vegan, and have been ever since.

My intention at the beginning of the process was not to become vegetarian or vegan. My intention really was just to improve my diet and improve my health. What I have found when people come to see me is that some of them are very, very sick and a vegan diet is appropriate and I talk to them about it. For a lot of them, we just want them to start down the journey to better health, and a lot of them will end up vegetarian or vegan, not because they intended to, but because it becomes your lifestyle. You don’t have to worry about a whole lot of things like mercury in fish. A lot of things concern me that don’t pertain to me health-wise, that is kind of reassuring.

Most people get up everyday and they are not happy with what they do, I get up everyday and I can’t wait to get into work. I love what I do and part of what makes me love it is seeing positive results in people, and how they thank us so much for turning us on to eating this way. I feel better and look better and I am not afraid about my health anymore.

I ‘m a vegan; I love it. It works for me.

Dr. Pam Popper is the founder and Executive Officer of The Wellness Forum

Dr. Pamela Popper, N.D.
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