The story of the month for October 2010 comes from Chrissy Scivicque of Eat Your Career.

I had the pleasure of getting to know about Chrissy and her story thanks to an online connection and discovered that Chrissy loves food and helping others. She brings these two areas together in unique and fun ways through her writing and consulting work. She is a Certified Nutritionist and an experienced Career Coach. Her work focuses on nourishment and balance, in both our health and professional career life.

Chrissy’s story is awesome and inspirational for many reasons. Many of us find our greatest inspiration for making diet changes when there is a problem in our health. Chrissy took that opportunity and this took her on an awesome journey towards a more healthier, sustainable and loving diet.

Please welcome Chrissy and share in her story below:

Area(s) of My Health and Wellness that Needed Change

About four months ago, I contracted a severe virus that landed in my chest. At the same time, I was experiencing seasonal allergies for the first time ever. I’m a California native and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia about three years ago so, according to everyone I’ve talked to, this kind of thing is pretty normal. However, the allergies and the virus combined really impacted my breathing and my energy levels. I was wheezing and coughing so badly, at times I worried that there might have been something more serious going on.

My health philosophy (and really, my LIFE philosophy) has always been that everything is connected. So, I started analyzing my lifestyle, as well as my nutritional patterns and behaviors. I had a good friend recommend that I go vegan for a month to just clean out my system. I’ve never been a big meat eater but, I’m a cheese-aholic so I wasn’t quite sure this would work for me. That month went very well though, and I actually started to feel better. My cough still lingered a bit but my energy definitely improved.

At that point, I decided to make the “vegetarian” thing official. Like I said, I’ve never been a big meat eater but I’ve depended on things like chicken in my diet because it was easy. But, over the course of a month being vegan, I really evaluated the role that meat and animal products played in my life. Along with that, I evaluated my personal values. I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to be a meat eater anymore; I certainly believe I can and will maintain a very healthy, nutritious diet without it.

As for permanently abandoning all animal products, I’m not quite there yet. I’ve made some small changes that get me closer to it, but there have been challenges. I’ve seen that a vegan diet is possible and I’ve experienced the wonderful benefits, so I know that it is ultimately what I’m aiming for… slowly but surely.

Strategies I Implemented & Their Results

First and foremost, I don’t beat myself up. I truly believe that anything I can do to minimize the amount of animal products I consume is a benefit for me and for the planet. However, I’m not such a stickler that I end up frustrated and hating my decision. Sticking to “no meat” is fine, not a problem at all. Animal products in general are much harder for me.

So, I’ve made small changes. Like, instead of using regular cow’s milk in my coffee, I now use almond milk. Instead of butter, I use vegan Earth Balance. Not a big deal but both are steps in the right direction. I’ve also been experimenting with a bunch of different foods and preparing things in different ways. I’m a little picky about texture so things like tofu don’t always work for me. I’ve had to play around to figure out how I like it. I’ve bought about a million different kinds of soy cheese and have yet to be pleased. But every time I try one, that’s one time that I’m not eating regular cheese. So, I give myself props.

How My Changes Benefitted Me

My energy has always been my biggest health issue. After having mono in college, I’ve just never been the same. I go through periods where I just have to take a nap in the middle of the day. Usually a few times a month, I go to bed before 8 pm. For a 32 year old, that’s embarrassing. Being vegetarian certainly helps and I’ve noticed over the years that, the more I decreased my meat intake, the more sustainable my energy seemed.

In general, I know that I have to closely monitor my diet because of the fatigue. I eat a lot of green leafy vegetables (like kale and spinach) and that also seems to help. When I allow myself to indulge in heavy, creamy or buttery things, I always feel more fatigued (which I think is pretty common). When my diet is heavy in fruits and vegetables, I feel my best.

I’m also a Bikram yoga enthusiast and I know that going three to four times a week is optimal for my energy levels. Any more than that and I get over-tired; any less and I feel sluggish.

Next Steps on My Health and Wellness Journey

I’m going to continue to make those small adjustments in my diet until (hopefully) all the animal products are gone.

It’s a slow process and I feel no need to rush it. I’m finding it really enjoyable to try new things. I just got a great vegan cookbook so my goal is to find 10 new vegan dishes (five of which would be acceptable for my usual dinner guests) that I enjoy cooking and eating. I’m looking at it as a fun, culinary adventure.

Wisdom & Inspiration for Others

Whatever kind of change you’re making, realize that every small step is a success.

Give yourself credit for being willing to do this. It’s not always an easy road and there will be plenty of people who don’t understand why you’re bothering. It’s not about them. It’s about YOU.

Remember that you have a lot of control when it comes to your health and wellness. Too many people relinquish that control and just give in to the junk that surrounds them. You can make any change you want to make.

Think it, believe it and soon enough, you’ll do it. No rush. Just start stepping.