I still remember the first conversations I had with my parents concerning my choice of turning down medications to treat my Multiple Sclerosis, and deciding to treat through diet and exercise instead. There was trepidation at first, but as much as they were fearful for me embarking on such an unknown path to both of them (and me!), they trusted me and my instincts just as much. I knew changing to a plant based diet, low in saturated fat, would heal my MS. And it did. However, it changed much more than just my life.
Growing up, we had family dinners like most other families. We all sat down together and each had a plate filled with a meat protein, some vegetables, and maybe a carbohydrate, like rice. We would wash it all down with a glass of milk. I remember there were nights I didn't want to eat my dinner because all I wanted was Velveeta Macaroni and cheese, and when my Mom told me just a few more pieces of chicken before I could be done, I would swallow them like pills with my milk. By all accounts, we were doing exactly what we were all raised to do: eat meat protein and dairy, because everything around us told us to: commercials, TV shows, newspaper ads, society in general, etc.
So when my husband and I went plant based, they were supportive... for us.
I have never been one to be a "preachy vegan" but I will throw out little tidbits of plant based nutrition and health facts into conversation where appropriate. Over time, as my health progressed and I slowly started losing my symptoms, my tidbits of facts really starting piling up. Couple those things together with the fact that my Mom does most of the cooking in the house and would drool over my recipe photos, she started to incorporate more plant based meals into her and my Dad's diets.
Now, my Dad was never a, "meat and potatoes" kind of guy, but I think he believed what we all are taught to believe: a balanced diet includes animal proteins and dairy. So while he thoroughly enjoyed the meals that my Mom made, he also continued to incorporate what he felt was important for his own health. I feel like everyone can make their own choices to continue to eat meat and dairy if they want to, and the peace I find with that, is that I know I have given my opinion and facts to at the very least give them something to think about.
Meanwhile, my Mom is loving the recipes. She's a lot like me in that, even before I went vegan, I very rarely went out of my way to eat animal proteins. I was fine with mostly veggies, grains, nuts, seeds, etc. She got herself a few vegan cookbooks, I gave her a few of my favorite vegan recipe bloggers, and she raided my Pinterest board for recipe ideas. She became more and more willing to figure out this "new" way of cooking, and was really enjoying it. My Dad as well. It was becoming second nature, and I think they were surprised at how easy and flavorful a lot of the dishes were. She made the recipes more and more. She was eating plant based the majority of her time.
My Dad lives with Rheumatoid Arthritis, or RA. RA is a form of arthritis that can cause intense pain, stiffness, swelling, and even loss of function in your joints. He was taking medication off an on for it, basically trying to only take it when the pain was unbearable. He told me that he gauges his pain level by how well he thinks he could hold a golf club that morning, when he wakes up. As an avid golfer, he told me that some days while he was playing, it would feel like a spike was being driven through his wrists.
While I know the power of what I'm doing with my diet for myself, I wanted it so badly for him, too. I knew getting over the protein myth regarding veganism wouldn't be too easy, so I actually found this book on Amazon that is a cook book specifically for people with RA. It's not plant based, but it involves cutting out inflammatory foods known for those with RA. I bought it and sent it to my parents house and told my Mom. I thought OK, maybe I can't get him plant based now, but I want to alleviate some of his pain.
That book turned out just to be the seed.
He took this book very serious (thank goodness!) and followed some of the recipes, and cut out certain foods from his diet. He started to feel better. He cut out red meat. He felt better. He cut out chicken. He felt better. He cut out dairy (aside from his coffee creamer, I believe). He felt better. Aside from eating fish occasionally, my Dad was now eating primarily plant based.
He hasn't had to take his RA medications or steroids in four months (when he started these changes).
I come back to the Hippocrates quote again and again, "Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food." FOOD is what is keeping him pain-free, not his side effect-inducing pain medications. FOOD is allowing him a freedom and a peace of mind he has not had in a long time.
Words can't express just how proud I am of both of my parents.
I'm proud of their openness to listening to me gush about a plant based diet and asking thoughtful questions. I'm proud of their willingness to make small changes that slowly added up to big changes. What started out as an answer for me, turned into an answer for them, but I can't take the credit. I helped plant the seed, but they were open to allowing it to grow and thrive. They rave all the time to me about what they are eating. My Mom always sends me pictures of their dinners that she cooks or that they get when they order out. We ate so much vegan food on Mother's Day. My Mom even texted me tonight that she was speaking to the owner of a local restaurant about allowing vegan options on the menu, and guess what... the owner is going to do it.
My parents are both making their own positive impact not only in their lives, but in other people's lives, because they now know the power of eating this way. They rant and rave about me and my progress, and I now I am so happy that they can say the similar things for themselves.
My Dad can now proudly hold that golf club pain-free every single morning.
Just in time for Golf season.