I grew up eating what I like to call – the *healthier* Standard American Diet. My mom is a Type 1 diabetic so she was always very conscious of how much sugar was at my disposal- and thankfully I was never a picky eater. I’ve always loved fresh fruit and veggies- but as I got older, more exposed to other ways of eating, and quite honestly more rebellious (haha sorry mom) I dove into a world where I ate bagels and cream cheese like they were cookies, and oodles of sugar in all its mouthwatering processed forms more than just the once a year – Halloween type binge.
Then, the summer before my junior year in high school, I got Mono (edit: I got the sh*t kicked out of me by mono). I kid you not when I say that I slept for the entire month of August 2007 – the summer that I was planning on participating in 2 weeks of running camp to prepare for my senior year cross country season. Long story short- I lost 30 pounds, my immune system was shot (I developed a sensitivity to gluten), and all I was concerned with was staying as skinny as the virus had left me. I spent the next 3 years in a vicious cycle of yo-yo diets and “cleanses” (code for basically running on nothing) while running, literally running away from my self image issues, the toxic patterns I was forming at the time, and how my body actually felt.
I remember my sophomore year of college, I was the lowest weight I’d been probably since middle school. I was so proud of myself. But I was completely malnourished, running at least 8 miles a day, and then getting drunk and eating pizza…again, and again, and again. This cycle, took its toll and after college – I found myself, the heaviest I had ever been. Highly editing all my photos, totally delusional of what I was putting my body thru. This was right around the same time I was preparing to leave for the Peace Corps in Thailand.
Thailand is a beautiful place, the land of smiles they call it- a place where the food is so important we started talking about lunch at breakfast and dinner at lunch. A place where no meal is complete without a large helping of rice and lots of chili peppers. We got our Thai curries from the Sunday market down the road, had chickens and their eggs right behind my homestay, and a whole farm with so many veggies and deliciousness awaiting. It was in Thailand, that for the first time I felt a deep connection to my food – to where it came from, to how it was made, and how it made me feel. On a physical, mental, and spiritual level I was slowly becoming more aware of what and how I was consuming. Mind you, being that food culture in Thailand is THE culture, there was no way I could become vegan or even vegetarian without a big whoop-de-do, plus I am a bit of a people pleaser, so that wasn’t helping me change the way I ate at all. But the way I consumed in general changed a lot during those two years. I lost 20 lbs and was back to a more comfortable weight for myself and I was listening more carefully to my hunger signals. However, I was still eating food that was way too spicy for me, partly because its AMAZING and because I couldn’t say no.
Fast forward to the end of 2016. I was in the last few months of my service in Thailand – practicing yoga regularly again, living on my own at this point, and still putting my body thru turmoil, with alcohol, cigarettes, days of binge eating, and days of starving. Every chance I got, I would hop on a van to Bangkok to meet up with other volunteers, party, eat fast food (I never really stopped eating gluten despite how it made me feel), and the worst part was that these habits- all of which I developed to cope with loneliness and maintain my few social ties, were now bringing me more and more into isolation. I started smoking cigarettes alone at my apartment – sometime I hadn’t ever done, even in college when the habit developed. So I made myself a promise…
As I was to enter my 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training in February 2017, I would stop smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and eating meat, gluten, and dairy before my first day – so that’s what I did. If you know my personally, you understand why I had to do it all at once – i’m very cut and dry, all or nothing. And at that point in my life , it was exactly what I needed to shift the toxic narrative I had been in for the better half of a decade. I am, in no way suggesting to make big changes like that in one swoop – often, and its happened to me on multiple occasions – that big switch in our brains doesn’t take, and we are left exhausted, defeated, and worse than we started (i.e. any trend diet I’ve ever tried). But for me, at that moment – I saw no other option for my life.
From March to July, I traveled extensively, on a voyage we would later call “The Long Way Home”. During those months, I ate meat and cheese here and there – fully experiencing cultures and places I visited, and enjoying the company of my Peace Corps travel companions and people we met along the way. It was an incredible experience and one of the best times of my life.
Then I got home.
I remember the first time I went to the grocery store and had a panic attack about how many options of cheese there were, how many aisles of junk foods, how the animals were minced and wrapped in plastic, and how little I felt I could take. Reverse culture shock is something I’ve dealt with many times after living abroad. But this time was different, it was longest time I’ve lived outside of the United States, and it was the first time I had such a connection to my body, and a larger idea of what humans should be doing for ourselves and each other. I couldn’t go back to the bars, which the old Elora would have done – just numb it until you can’t feel it, duh! I felt even more alone than I had in the middle of rural Thailand. So I started cooking.
I cooked all the veggies I could get my hands on, I made any Thai dish I learned into a vegan one, and had a blast experimenting with food in a different way than I ever had. I watched documentary after documentary about the meat and dairy industry in this country, and after all these changes and re-adjustments I actually started to feel better. My digestive system began to heal, my anxiety levels were down, and my energy was up. I have noticed nothing but positive results since drastically changing the way I existed. Thru my yoga practice and these changes, I have gained a deep connection to my body, my needs, and how to navigate the world. And I am a happy to say that I found myself, even in the depths of depression and confusion, I knew that better days were coming.
My biggest wish is to share my experiences and knowledge with others, so they can rebuild their cells, and find the true joy of living a life free from harming animals and themselves. So thats why during COVID I took time to become a Certified Plant Based Nutrition Counselor from Cornell University online. With this program, I learned the ins and outs of the nutrition, the diseases of affluence, and programing we have been conditioning to in this country, and most importantly how we can truly make a difference for our species, this planet, and all the animals that inhabit it.
I feel so fortunate to have changed my eating (and living) habits when I did. And I want to help you begin your plant based journey! If you are interested in more information, head over to the Plant Based Nutrition section of this website, or contact me for a 1 on 1 counseling session to help you get started! I am here and happy to help.
Thank you for reading and remember to keep growing.