vegan = healthy?!

When I was 19 I went to a nutritionist so I could make sure my vegetarian diet wasn’t ruining me forever. This was a long, long time ago. The nutritionist, of course, made sure I was drinking plenty of milk and eating egg whites.

Again, this was a long, long time ago. In addition to this crappy advice, I found that as I was drinking less and less milk and eating fewer and fewer egg whites because I just couldn’t do it anymore, I didn’t have anything to replace them with and ended up eating total crap.

Today, I’m sure a bunch of nutritionists are still telling people to make sure they get their nutrients from animal sources, but I’m relieved that at least one isn’t—and it’s the one my mom is seeing.

About two years ago now, my mom’s body stopped accepting food. It was about the same time as her cat’s body stopped accepting food. While the doctors still think it’s crazy talk that they both came down with the same virus, the fact remains that both my mom and her cat started losing weight fast. The cat, of course, had less to lose and died. My mom just shrank and shrank, had a ton of tests and more tests and retests, and this is what they came up with: sarcoidosis.

Long story short, the disease is being controlled, but my mom’s still tiny. She had some weight to lose (we’re being honest, dear), but not that much and not that fast. A medium-frame, 5-foot, 6-inch woman should not drop below 100 pounds. At that point it is very tough to rebuild, but that’s what she’s doing with the help of steroids, MCT oil (it’s from coconuts!), and advice from myself and her nutritionist.

Believe it or not, when she told the nutritionist that she’d be visiting me and that she was trying to keep a close-to-vegan diet, she was heartily encouraged. She was told it was the best thing for her and she should listen to her daughter. Well, it’s about time. I’ve been saying from the very beginning that to rebuild she’s going to want the easiest food to digest and that even if she didn’t like it, well, it beats a feeding tube, don’t it?

She’s come around over the last year or so and is willing to try anything. Because she needs to constantly snack, I tried to find her things that she can keep at work, in the car, in her purse, next to the couch, things like Nut Thins (which she absolutely inhales) and organic candies—we want her to get her share of nutrients, but every calorie counts at this point. At home, easy-for-one foods (’cause you know my dad ain’t eatin’ it) include the Daiya grilled cheese sandwich and the tempeh stir-fry. Then there’s the avocado, an absolute powerhouse of nutrition; it’s got those amazing oils that her body is going to soak up instead of fight with, vitamins, and for a creamy fruit it sure does sneak in the protein. Of course, whatever hempseed, flax, and olive oil she can dip, stuff, or douse food with is going to help.

It’s not going to be quick or easy—although in the last few weeks she’s gained 4 pounds—but we’re going to put her back together again. And I can only assume her positive response to smart, plant-based therapy will be shared with others. Too many are prescribed those corn-syrupy “energy boosters” like Ensure and left to it. They need to hear the other option, the one that’s helping turn my mom back into that lady nobody can keep up with.

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