19 In wellness

Finding My Food Happy Place

Finding My Food Happy Place // thoughtsbynatalie.com

I was first a vegetarian when I was little, though it didn’t last long. My dad loves to remind me that I changed my mind about it while we were out to dinner at a steak house. Ha!

That being said, meat was never a super important thing for me. I of course ate it regularly (I recall my mom making a seriously delicious slow-cooker beef stew), but easily could go without and never really craved it.

My next experiment with vegetarian eating was done with all the wrong motives. In an effort to control and restrict during my struggle with anorexia, I used all of the sound science behind vegan eating to justifying barely eating. The principles were true, but my mind and body we’re not healthy enough to handle such a big dietary change, and of course when I finally found my way to my healing journey, I welcomed animal products as a source of calories and essential protein to help me get back on track and to a healthy weight.

Fast forward to 2009 when I have no money and am working as an intern at a church in Malibu. I quickly learned that canned beans were just as filling (and way cheaper) than the sliced turkey I was buying every week, and slowly found my way back to a vegetarian diet, eating fish on occasion when at a nice restaurant with good quality, wild-caught seafood. I wasn’t very public about it, since I still felt shame about experimenting with this way of eating while anorexic. In fact, Brian didn’t even realize I was a vegetarian until we were engaged! (As a Texan, he thought I was kooky, but thankfully still loved me enough to say “I do” and deal with the vegetarian dinners I cooked.)

It wasn’t until September 2011 that we had a major shift in food perspective as a couple. After a week-long road trip to Northern California (complete with a trip to In ‘N Out, I might add), we returned on a Sunday night with time to spare before bed, and turned on a documentary that changed our outlook on what we eat, and literally changed our lives for the better. Within 30 seconds after watching Forks Over Knives, Brian turned to me and said that he thought we should try eating vegan. (Yep, you read that right, my Texas-raised, meat-loving husband was the one who suggested it!)

Since then, we’ve done a full year and a half of strict vegan eating with literally no exceptions (which, I have to say, was way easier than anticipated). Then we started to experiment with fish last summer and sort of had a seafood binge for a while—something that was pretty awesome while spending time near Cape Cod, where the fish is so fresh and locally caught. Later in the year, dairy entered the picture, too, and we just figured pescatarian was where we’d settle. But lately I’ve been going back to the books I read in 2011—Veganist and The Kind Diet—and adding some new reads to the list, including Crazy Sexy Diet.

I’m remembering all of the reasons why we were so adamant about eating strictly vegan for so long, and feeling inspired to return to that way of eating again. But this time, as more of a “veganist,” leaning into this way of eating day by day, rather than being a 100% strict follower. It’s been a long journey toward wellness for me in many ways. I’ve overcome mental illness and found a healthy relationship with food again. And now I’m truly finding a happy place with my eating habits in general.

The bondage of calorie counting is a thing of the past, as is eating meat (something I have honestly not craved since I gave it up, even now that I’m pregnant). Although cheese is quite possibly one of the more delicious things on this planet, I feel best overall (and my skin and hair look best!) eating a mostly vegan diet. I’m settling in on a way of eating that is 95% plant-based, and am totally okay with dabbling every once in a while in a cheese plate or a bit of sushi or wild-caught seafood.

If this is a way of eating that interests you, I’d recommend reading my friend Bonnie’s posts on her switch to vegan eating—I have these bookmarked and always share them with friends who are curious because she just wrote such awesome posts on the topic…

>> 20 reasons to go vegan
>> Why becoming a vegan was the best thing I ever did
>> Why being vegan is easy

And if you’re looking for inspiration and info, these are some of my favorite veggie-related cookbooks and blogs…

>> It’s All Good (not a vegan cookbook, but full of vegan recipes, which are all labeled for easy finding)
>> The Kind Diet
>> Veganist (my best recommendation for those interested in “leaning in” to vegan eating like me lately, rather than being 100% strict about it)
>> Crazy Sexy Diet
>> Oh She Glows (also, now available as a cookbook!)
>> A House in the Hills
>> Going Home to Roost
>> My New Roots
>> My V E G pinterest board :)

What’s your food happy place (or are you still figuring it out)?


  • Reply
    April 28, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I could totally see the appeal of all of this, especially when you mention that your skin and hair are better for it! My main concern though is the cheese. I imagine I would have a pretty hard time giving that up. What has been the hardest part for you? And what are the best ways for you to get your protein still?

    • Reply
      Natalie Lynn Borton
      April 28, 2014 at 7:47 am

      Hi Emlyn! Yes, cheese is hard to give up!! And I have to say, I do think that’s the hardest part—especially those soft cheeses that make salads taste so much better. I’ve learned that adding avocado helps quite a bit to replace the creaminess, and I also tend to go for much more flavorful dressings. Regarding protein, two things: 1) We don’t need as much protein as we think we do—the standard American diet gives WAY more than necessary. 2) Beans, lentils and nuts are the easiest and the ones I incorporate everyday. This is a handy list in more detail, though: http://kriscarr.com/blog-video/my-crazy-sexy-guide-to-plant-based-protein/

  • Reply
    April 28, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Natalie, great post. This story is so similar to mine! Do you know about Alicia Silverstone’s new book, The Kind Mama? Perfect for you right now!


    • Reply
      Natalie Lynn Borton
      April 28, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Thanks Catherine! I actually downloaded a sample of the book and was trying to decide if it was different enough from The Kind Diet to purchase. But maybe I should just go for it!

  • Reply
    Megan @ Lush to Blush
    April 28, 2014 at 8:16 am

    I love this post! I have been a vegetarian for seven years and I have literally never had a craving for meat. Like you, I have never really been a fan of it. I did try going vegan for about 6 months in college, but it was too hard to balance it with my social life, so I had to ditch it (profound reasons, huh?). I’d like to try it again, but like everyone else it seems, I don’t know if I can give up cheese! It is something that truly gives me delight every day. But cheese is the only dairy I eat, so maybe I can just try to cut back for now – I know my skin will thank me! Thanks for sharing your food journey, Natalie!

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

    • Reply
      Natalie Lynn Borton
      April 28, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Haha, oh cheese—it really is addictive!! I totally can relate to what you said about social situations. That’s really the root of where I found my happy place—eating vegan whenever possible and especially at home, and giving myself a break when I’m out with friends or at a really special restaurant. Let me know if you decide to cut back on dairy and if you find your skin gets better! I’m always curious to hear about others’ experiences :)

  • Reply
    April 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I have thought about going vegan or vegetarian but I am so bad with meal planning as it is. I like variety and feel like I would get in a rut. I would love if you shared the different things you have for meals and snacks. Also, I never wanted beef until I was pregnant. I had never before craved a burger but did then!

  • Reply
    Natalie Lynn Borton
    April 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Great question. I, too, HATE meal planning, so that’s still a big obstacle for me. I actually just came across this post from Kris Carr on the topic, and am finding it helpful. But to answer your question, my easy go-to meals and snacks are these: green smoothies, avocado toast, canned veggie chili (yep, I’m lazy like that), veggie burgers, veggie tacos for dinner, and even a picnic sort of meal of just bread, oil, vinegar, fruit and a simple salad or veggies and hummus. Simple is better in my book! Blogs help with inspiration, too :)

    Also, so funny about the beef thing—that happened to my friend Karen, too! She’s normally vegan, but went for it and got a burger at In N Out. What baby wants, baby gets ;)

    • Reply
      April 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm


  • Reply
    Carissa @ Pretty/Hungry
    April 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Lots of interesting resources you’ve pointed out!! Thanks. :)

  • Reply
    Bonnie @ Cocktails + Quinoa
    April 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I have a very similar story with bouncing between vegetarianism and veganism. As a huge cheese addict, I was surprised how easy it was to give up by simply not keeping it at home. Since switching to veganism 5 months ago, I have definitely felt the healthier I ever have and I eat on a clear conscious. As someone who grew up near the ocean, giving up seafood has been the hardest. I think that’s because it is the hardest to replicate or substitute, but I’m working on it! Reading a vegan book from time to time has definitely helped keep me on track. I just finish “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer and would highly recommend it. I really want to check out Veganist because I feel like veganism can be a slippery slope towards unobtainable perfection. Thanks for this post! It’s nice to know that whatever my food journey goes, I’m not the first person to go down it and I won’t be the last.

    • Reply
      Natalie Lynn Borton
      April 30, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Oh yes, Veganist is probably my favorite book on vegan eating! I love Kathy Freston’s perspective and voice, and of course it’s filled with tons of data and expert interviews. It’s a great read!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I feel the same way about meat. It’s so funny now being 30 weeks pregnant though. I cannot eat most meats they make me gag just thinking about it but I have been getting intense red meat cravings. It’s satisfied after eating a few bites but still so very weird for me. So I’m taking it with grace and eating it and then returning to my vegetarian diet afterwards until the next cravings hit. :)

    • Reply
      Natalie Lynn Borton
      April 30, 2014 at 7:55 am

      Yes, that exact thing happened to my friend Karen! She normally eats the same way as me, but had some major meat cravings with her pregnancy and just decided to go with it. It turned out that she was anemic (just during pregnancy, not normally), so perhaps that was why. I figure, pregnancy is a unique time to honor cravings and give ourselves tons of grace :)

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I highly recommend reading Real Food for Mother and Baby. Eating a vegan diet is actually extremely rare for pregnant mothers in most cultures around the world and you should consider incorporating meat, dairy and eggs into your diet until September. We are due at the same time, and along with Bringing Up Bebe, Real Food has been the only other Pregnancy book I’ve read.

    • Reply
      Natalie Lynn Borton
      April 30, 2014 at 7:56 am

      I absolutely loved Bringing Up Bebe! I even got the “Day by Day” version of it as a quick reference guide. So many amazing nuggets of wisdom in there!

  • Reply
    May 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Hey Natalie! I’m catching up on your posts and this one especially caught my attention. I’m vegetarian and have been since reading Crazy Sexy Diet about a year ago. I don’t miss meat one bit and there are so many ways to make amazing meals with veggies. I can’t give up cheese tho, and I do eat organic eggs from veggie fed free range chickens just because it is a lean source of protein and a good breakfast staple. I eat a low carb diet as well to keep my weight down (I relate to your struggles in that area too).
    I loved reading your honest account of navigating through vegetarian, pescetarian, and vegan territory.
    Thanks for sharing!
    XO, Gina

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