I’ve been a perfectly healthy vegetarian for 41 years. Or so I thought. Then, my bad habits caught up with me. I’m now battling not one, but two autoimmune diseases (Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis). Both are known to be impacted by inflammation. Where did the inflammation come from? My doctors have assured me, my vegetarian diet is not the issue. In fact, they believe it’s the reason I didn’t get sick sooner. (A vegetarian diet is loaded with disease fighting nutrients.) Unfortunately, my unhealthy American habits were undermining the positive effects of my vegetarian diet.
1. Sedentary lifestyle
The new American dream is working at home. It sounds so good, doesn’t it? I still consider myself lucky to have stumbled into a career that lets me do just that. Unfortunately, it has it’s down side. As it turns out, I was literally killing myself, sitting at my writing desk for hours at a time. Doing so discouraged the circulation needed to keep inflammation at bay.
2. Soda pop addiction
Like many Americans, I’m a “Pepper”. Or at least I was. It all started when I worked at a convenience store. I could drink all the soda fountain soft drinks I wanted for free. And drink them, I did. I became addicted to the stuff. When I left retail to pursue my writing career, I kept right on drinking it. Drinking soda pop and working a desk job was a lethal combination. I began to pack on the pounds and the inflammation.
3. Cheese addiction
We Americans love our cheese don’t we? We put it on everything from chili to chips. There’s just something addicting about that gooey melted, molten mass of calories. I grew up in dairy country. My grandfather worked in a cheese factory. My favorite food was cheese curd. I may have been a vegetarian, but I needed to go vegan. Why? As it turns out, dairy allergies and over-consumption of fatty cheese were a contributing factor in the inflammation that caused my autoimmune diseases.
4. Junk food binges
Potato chips are vegetarian. So are cookies and other baked goods. While I ate a vegetarian diet, it wasn’t always a healthy diet. Not only did I have a soda pop by my side while writing, I had snacks too. Working at home may be the new American dream, but it’s not exactly conducive to weight control. All that junk food was conveniently accessible and free. I was already OD-ing on fatty cheese. Adding more fat, plus salt and sugar was a death sentence.
5. Indoor entertainment
Once I was done writing for the day, the sun had already gone down. Now it was time to relax. How did I relax? By sitting in front of the TV set. It’s the great American pastime. What’s so bad about it? I wasn’t getting outdoors enough. Sure, I did a little gardening here and there, but it wasn’t enough to get my daily dose of Vitamin D. By the time I saw a rheumatologist, I was so deficient in Vitamin D, they put me on 50,000 units a week. You see, Vitamin D deficiency causes inflammation too.
Kicking the 5 bad habits that got me here
Right away, I started weaning myself off soda pop, cheese, sugar, salt, white flour and fat, all harbingers of inflammation. I started moving more and getting out in the sun daily. My Dr. Put me on meds to further reduce inflammation, eliminating some of the excruciating pain I was experiencing. I am happy to say, I have lost 45 pounds to date.
The Rheumatologist I see for both Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis is confident that my lifestyle changes will continue to make a huge difference in my recovery. She’s very supportive of my decision to go Vegan. Soon I will be off the meds and controlling inflammation with diet and lifestyle changes alone.
Do you have any of these 5 unhealthy American habits?
If so, I urge you to change them now. You do not want to experience the horrendous pain I was facing daily. Changing my sedentary ways, getting outdoors more and eliminating soda pop, cheese and junk food from my diet has made a world of difference. Still, there is a considerable amount of permanent muscle and joint damage. I will have to live with that damage the rest of my life. I can no longer do a lot of the things I loved doing.
Note: Please, act now to prevent this from happening to you. You don’t have to become Vegan. Just nix those unhealthy American habits. They sneak up on you. They’re worse for you than you think.
Disclaimer: The author is not a licensed medical professional. Her advice is based on personal experience with inflammation and autoimmune disease. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace a professional medical diagnoses.
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