Alishea Sutton

Strategic – Intentional – Visionary

Don’t Call Me a Vegan

The title sounds angry, but I want to share an abbreviated personal food and fitness journey and some lessons I learned along the way.

First, I love food!

Me at the Toledo Museum of Art

Second, I love healthy food! Eating healthy was definitely a journey for me. I didn’t grow up with the best eating habits. Most of what I learned came from researching articles online and reading health and fitness magazines.

Third, I eat mostly plant-based. Why don’t I like the term vegan? It puts limitations on what I can enjoy. I don’t like to conform and I like honey. I do care about the environment and the treatment of animals. But I enjoy deliciousness in moderation (some things just aren’t meant to be made vegan, i.e, meatloaf).

So here it is. Prepare yourself for……….

Photo by Tatiana on

The Journey

I was a vegetarian for about a year after two bouts of food poisoning in 1999. The experience scarred me, so stopped eating beef for a year. In 2000 or 2001, I suddenly decided to stop eating meat and became a vegetarian. I didn’t do research or supplement with additional vegetables or beans or vitamins or herbs. I just stopped eating meat.

It was somewhat healthier than when I was suffering from anorexia. I didn’t want to admit it, but that’s what it was. I had meals until about 4 pm and wouldn’t eat until the next day. I was so determined to lose weight even though I wasn’t overweight at the time. But all through junior high and high school I was overweight from overeating and greasy foods. I didn’t want to be that chubby kid, so I made poor eating choices by not eating.

Fast forward to 2002 when I started eating meat again. Not sure if it was pressure from my family or friends. But I did. I ate beef, pork, whatever. I overindulged at buffets because my metabolism was high. That is something I don’t recommend. Take my advice, gluttony is not worth the pain.

Thinking back, I don’t think I was too concerned with eating healthy, I just wanted to maintain the size and weight I had achieved to make sure I could fit into my clothes. I will say I consumed water often, so that could’ve helped keep my weight consistent and I’ve always been a lover of fruit. Other than that, I was on the Standard American Diet.

Then came 2007, when I became pregnant with my son. Food aversions and bland foods guided my diet. Red dye was my enemy. The first trimester was a diet designed for Picky Eaters: 101 – boxed macaroni and cheese, cheeseburgers, and chocolate milk were my go-to items. They were the only things that kept me from wanting to puke every five minutes. As time went on, things got somewhat better. Throughout my pregnancy, I could only eat small meals due to changes in my body and organs shifting. Lucky me, right?

Once my son was born, I started cooking more since I supplied breast milk. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving him junk. When he was able to eat table food, I made sure to always incorporate fruits and vegetables. We developed decent eating habits; I was proud of myself.

So now we’ve delved into my past, let’s fast forward to August 2014. I decided to start a clean eating challenge. I was dating someone at the time and our dates consisted of eating out almost every weekend. I put on about twenty pounds over the summer. August 2014, several friends and I participated in a Clean Eating Challenge. It was awesome! We supported each other on Facebook, shared recipes – the works!

It was a cool idea, but I didn’t lose a pound. The next year, I decided I needed help – or rather help found me through a Beachbody® Coach. I officially joined December 2015 after months of the coach trying to convince me to join. I lost weight and attempted to coach myself. In the beginning of 2016, I thought that Beachbody® was going well and I could kick it up a notch by going vegan. I was already participating in team workouts and had joined a gym. Why not, right? Well, because the only thing I knew about being vegan at the time was that you didn’t eat meat. I ate mostly pasta and some veggies. That was it. I gained about ten pounds during the process. I eventually went back to the Beachbody® meal plan.

The rest of 2016 was amazing for my fitness. In addition to Beachbody®, I started a 12 week meal plan with my co-worker, I was working out consistently at home and with my teammates.

Then came 2017.

It started off well. I was working out at least three times a week and eating well. Then I became obsessed with bulking* and started to eliminate meat a couple of days out of the week.

Bulking in fitness is the process of adding more calories to a diet with the intent of gaining muscle.

On top of working out, I got a second job while trying to maintain motherhood and a full-time job. Then something went wrong. I’m not sure if it was my diet, exhaustion, or something else, but my body turned on me. Headaches, shortness of breath, stomach pains. The worst! I went to the doctor and specialists and no one could pinpoint anything. Everything seemed to be on a decline, so I decided to do a cleanse. The cleanse (and herbs) helped tremendously. I began researching alternative methods for healing. I prayed (more like begged God for relief). I changed my diet after the cleanse.

My workouts ceased because I felt awful and didn’t like the new gym I joined. I eventually tried going back to my normal routine, but my motivation was shot. I did another cleanse in 2017 and 2018.  I found herbs that worked for me. I even had to endure a colonoscopy.

Do I feel like the diet and herbs helped? Absolutely! Did I learn anything? Yes. What did I learn? That there is no one size fits all when it comes to health and fitness.

As time went on, I found a combination of things that have worked for me. I tried yoga, dance fitness, and Zumba. I adhere to a primarily plant-based lifestyle with my meals, but I’m not perfect so I do have my moments of not being “vegan”.

My next feat in this health and wellness journey is consistency, mindfulness, to practice positive self-talk, and to stop being so hard on myself. I’m hopeful that I’ll find my groove and get back on the fitness track. Until then, send good vibes and prayers.

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