Happy Herbivore Blog

Herbie of the Week: Kaley (and Family!) - Changing Children to a Plant-Based Diet

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

This beautiful (and honest!) email came in from Kaley, about all the amazing benefits her family (particularly her little ones!) have experienced since going plant-based. Kaley and her husband were barely in their 20s, and feeling horrible -- wretched with insomnia, exhaustion, chronic pain, depression, severe anemia, ulcerative colitis diabetes, eczema and they were borderline overweight, just to name a few of their troubles. Their kiddos also suffered numerous "bad" behaviors like moodiness, irritability, being anti-social, temper tantrums... and it all went away!) THEIR STORY IS INCREDIBLE!

Without further ado........

I know I have thanked you briefly several times for your cookbooks as they have been instrumental in us being able to stay on a whole foods, plant based diet without starving or giving up, but I would like to take a moment to share my story in hopes it will help others with young families. I am often asked how the children did when making the switch to a whole foods, plant based diet.

Few listen long enough to hear the dramatic effects it had upon my whole family. Only those truly desperate for a change, to cure their own adult onset diseases of affluence, listen long enough. But the effects on children are dramatic in multiple ways. Sometimes I am truly appalled at myself when I look in retrospect between how my children are today and what they were like then.

Many of the "childhood behaviors" we associate with simply being a child is the desperate cry of their bodies and minds for a healthy diet. They experience the same uncomfortable symptoms of early disease that we do as adults; exhaustion, irritability, emotional overreaction, and mental sluggishness.

Hopefully my family's story will clearly show how a whole foods, plant based diet not only changed two adults' lives, but three (soon to be four) children's lives as well.

On March 26, 2005 I married the man of my dreams. A man who loved God, loved me, and loved life. I should have been set for ultimate happiness, but in the years to come my diet robbed much of my joy and good feelings.

I was eighteen years old and we had been together for years. Shortly after getting married we became pregnant for the first time. Pregnancy did not settle well with me. I had horrible morning sickness for ten weeks. The day of my wedding I had weighed a beautiful 128lbs at 5'8". Slightly short of a year later, after my son was born, I had gained an excess of 23lbs while pregnant. The end of my pregnancy, the last eight weeks, was wrought with terrible back pain, depression, exhaustion, and insomnia.

My first child was born! I was supposed to enjoy his birth. Instead of enjoying my precious firstborn as much as I should have I was plagued with moodiness, exhaustion, and back pain all down my right side that never went away. Not to mention that even though I was not considered overweight, I hated the way I looked with the additional pounds.

Less than a year later we became pregnant with our second child, a daughter. We did not know it at the time, but my daughter had an extra full set of chromosomes. I went through a very rough pregnancy between morning sickness that was so severe I had to be medicated to not lose weight and at the end being hospitalized for pre-eclampsia for six weeks. My daughter lived for a day, then passed away unable to maintain blood oxygen levels.

We had never been so devastated. The doctors told us triploidy, a child with 69 chromosomes instead of the usual 46, was a fluke chance. We felt blessed to have ever known her, held her in our arms, and given a chance to love her before she passed. At the same time we ached to have known her for her entire life. [Editorial note: My heart is breaking and I am so deeply sorry for your loss].

A year later we had our third child, a son, to ease our grief and begin the family we had always wanted to have. Due to some grieving, my husband and I both put on an extra 15lbs during this time.

The pregnancy was not too difficult, but after my son was born my health took a downward turn. At the time I was twenty-one years old. I should have been in the prime of my life! Instead I was nearly overweight, exhausted, severely anemic, experiencing the beginning stages of ulcerative colitis that ran in my family, developing diabetes, irritable, and exhausted.

My son didn't seem to feel much better. Why would he?! Drinking juice, eating french fries and chicken nuggets and mac & cheese all the time. But in my mind at the time my son was healthy compared to most because he ate a home-cooked dinner of a lean meat and a side of vegetables. If only I could have known then that his partial insomnia, hyper and irritable mood swings, and general sluggishness was due to our diet as family, rather than the "terrible two's," what could life have been like then?

Due to my misery I began to "clean up my diet." I removed soda and ate less fast foods. I was somewhat happy with losing 15lbs and felt a little better. Sadly my diseases did not go away, nor did the general unhappiness of my family.

After my fourth child, a daughter, was born a couple years later. My husband was desperate to get rid of his chronic eczema which was so severe he would have patches of purple and dark red in areas where his body was destroying his skin tissue.

My husband began reading The China Study. He told me just a bit about the book and I immediately began to read it. Before even finishing the book we immediately made the change to a whole foods, plant based diet.

I cannot tell you how amazing and drastic the changes we saw in our family were! Within six weeks we slept through the night soundly and woke up refreshed, despite a newborn baby in the house! We had endless energy, less mood swings, and more peace in our home.

Within three months my husband's eczema had vanished. My borderline diabetes, moderate ulcerative colitis, years of chronic back pain, and severe anemia had all been healed. I also lost 25lbs! I loved how I looked, but more so how I felt. I could chase my children without being exhausted all of the time! My husband and I had constant, pleasant moods and endless energy and joy.

Even more remarkable was the effect upon my children. My second son had always been a bit slow in responding socially, not making much eye contact or understanding basic instructions. I feared at the age of two he might be slightly autistic since it did run in my husband's family. Both children suffered from the "usual childhood behaviors" of restlessness, irritability, mood swings of manic to melt downs, sluggishness, and constant bickering.

Within three months my sons had constant moods of cheerfulness, no melt-downs, almost no bickering, no restlessness but rather endless energy, slept perfectly, and were truly happy. I was shocked to know the usual parent and child struggles were due to both feeling awful from a horrible diet. I noticed my reactions to the previously mentioned behaviors was finally calm, consistent, and not stressed.

Even more incredible has been the gradual change in my second son. He slowly began to be able to follow simple, then complicated directions. He also began to become social, making eye contact and engaging in conversations and even answering questions! Now, at the age of five, he is reading, writing, spelling and carrying on conversations as though he never struggled when younger.

Though the transition wasn't entirely easy. We struggled to find something simple, enjoyable, and affordable to cook for three months. We felt desperation between not wanting to give up our diet and yet not being able to find delicious food we enjoyed. Then we found Happy Herbivore and our family took a deep breath of relief. We finally had the key to making our new life as a whole foods, plant based family a success because of the delicious, affordable, and easy to cook meals that you had so kindly shared with us all.

Our family, though always enjoyable and peaceful, took on a new level of peace and joy I never thought possible. Instead of dragging myself out of bed to play with my children, only to endure endless emotional upsets between us all, my day started out with my leaping from bed and truly enjoying a day almost entirely free of emotional crises. And when an emotional crises does occur, I have the emotional stability to handle it.

Almost three years later, at the time I am writing this letter, I am 39 weeks pregnant. Pregnancy on the standard American diet was miserable! Pregnancy on the new diet has been amazing! With this pregnancy I never had morning sickness, back pain, exhaustion, insomnia, or malaise. There are times I completely forget I am pregnant as I chase and care for my three children. I am able to do everything I did prior to pregnancy with ease, except clean the bathtub ;)

My doctor says I am the healthiest pregnant woman they have seen in decades. At annual check-ups our pediatrician tells us our children are the healthiest, happiest children they have met in years. My daughter who is now two and should be experiencing the terrible two's has completely skipped over that stage. We constantly receive compliments of how she is the happiest, most pleasant and playful two year old they have ever met.

As a mother and wife, a healthy, happy family is worth everything in life. I am so thankful our eyes were opened to living a truly healthy lifestyle. Also thankful for your three cookbooks that have made living a healthy lifestyle feasible!

The picture of our family standing in front of the big stone face is my absolute favorite because of the experience. Before we changed our diet in 2010 we couldn't go for a 3 mile walk on flat ground with our two boys being pushed in a stroller without coming home tired and drained. That day we hiked, I carried our 8 month old and 20lb daughter, two miles steeply uphill and four miles downhill. Much of the way down we carried our two sons as well off and on, who weighed respectfully 30-40lbs each. We were not winded at the top, nor were we exhausted when we made it back to the car. Sore, but we felt good, full of life, and we were never out of breath. We climbed the two miles up in less than an hour. We climbed the four miles down in an hour and a half. We felt terrific! This was only six months after changing our diets.

Amazing story Kaley! And congrats on the bebe!!!

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