For the last five years, I've built my career around food. Specifically, talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet. I have a cookbook and podcast, and give talks around the country about the power of eating more plants. I talk about food a lot. I mean, a lot.
But talking about a plant-based diet isn't just a career. A plant-based diet gave me my life back.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet, in case you aren't familiar, is composed of minimally processed (or not processed at all) vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, and legumes. It means eating whole foods that are as close to the original source as possible.
For example, if you're looking for a bottle of maple syrup, the ingredients on the back of the bottle would just be "maple syrup," instead of a bunch of other weird oils and coloring. A typical plant-based meal would be something similar that you are used to, but made with plants. For instance, creamy mushroom lasagna made with cashew cream instead of dairy cheese. Pretty straightforward, right?
Read more: What Exactly Is a Plant-Based Diet?
How a Plant-Based Diet Changed My Life
Before coming over to the green side, I couldn't make it out of bed most days because of my Stage IV endometriosis (an often painful reproductive disorder that affects one in 10 women). Back then, I suffered from every endo symptom a woman can have (I've always been an overachiever, even when it comes to my diseases!).
During this time, I was also severely depressed from living with my chronic pain. I had this running fantasy of magically being able to sleep and only be awake if I wasn't in pain. I didn't want to be awake most days.
I had this running fantasy of magically being able to sleep and only be awake if I wasn't in pain. I didn't want to be awake most days.
But then an angel friend intervened. She emailed me a link to a website that explained how a plant-based diet could help with endometriosis. I thought she was nuts for thinking I'd try it. For starters, I didn't cook. So how was I going to now cook all this "healthy food"? Second (and more importantly), cheese, candy, and steak frites were not on the "approved" list of foods I could eat. This was going to be a pain in the ass to stick to. But I had nothing to lose, so I said I'd try it for three weeks.
Within weeks, my pain started to fade. Within months, the fog of my depression started to lift and many of my symptoms disappeared. After trying everything under the sun to feel better (surgery, legal drugs, not-so-legal drugs, and therapy), I had finally found my medicine: a plant-based diet. There was no turning back. I taught myself to cook and learned everything I could to help other people change their diets too. My passion for plants turned into my career.
But then this summer, everything was put to the test.
After a pretty intense workout session, I started experiencing pelvic pain that was so severe that I landed in bed for two days. I knew there was something terribly wrong and after getting a pelvic ultrasound, I learned I had a 10-centimeter ovarian cyst.
I'm not sure about you, but I had no clue how big 10 centimeters was. A couple inches? The size of a golf ball? Well, 10 centimeters is roughly 4 inches. To give you a better idea, an iPhone 5 is 4 inches long. So take that iPhone and make it round. Or picture a newborn's head. That's what was inside of me. It needed to come out immediately.
After a 5.5-hour surgery, I woke up to my husband telling me that the surgery had been a success. The cyst was gone and two more cyst friends left the building too (thankfully all benign). He said my surgeon was able to save my ovary and even reconstruct it. But they did find 30 spots of endometriosis.
Thirty spots of endo?
I didn't have cancer and they were able to save my ovary, but all I could think about was my husband saying "30 spots of endo." Hearing those words was the single happiest moment I've had living with this disease.
I get how you might be confused right now. How could this woman be happy about having a disease she works so hard to not have? Here's the thing: My endo isn't going anywhere. There is no cure for it and no amount of plant-based food is going to stop the disease from coming back. I am fully aware of this. So, how could I be so happy?
Because I didn't know those 30 spots were there.
Before changing my diet, I would have been very aware of those 30 spots; they would have made their presence very known. Back then those spots would have impaired my work, put strains on my relationships, and kept me in that very dark hole.
Hearing those words was the single happiest moment I've had living with this disease.
Post plants, I have my life back. Those spots have got nothing on me. There are days I don't even think about my disease. I don't want to sleep my life away. I want to be awake. My diet and lifestyle changes have enabled me to thrive with a disease that not so long ago I didn't think I'd survive. And that is something to truly be happy about.
Will this diet be as powerful for every woman with endo? Maybe not. But what if it could help her with one or two of her symptoms? What if it could mean the difference between her lying in bed all day and being able to spend time with her friends and family? Or to go to work? That small change could mean the world to a woman suffering.
I encourage you to share this piece with any woman you know that suffers from painful periods or endometriosis. You could be that angel friend that intervened with a link too.
About Jessica Murnane
Jessica is the creator of the One Part Plant movement, author of the One Part Plant Cookbook, host of the One Part Podcast, and a wellness advocate. She's working to get everyone on this planet to start eating one plant-based meal each day.