“Research your own experience; absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”—Bruce Lee

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I flirted with the idea of becoming a vegetarian or vegan to boost my immune system and live a healthier life. However, the idea of transitioning to a plant-based diet was easier said than done, more specifically for someone who loved meat and boasted that a meal was incomplete without it. Thereafter, March, April, and May passed, and I had yet to make any changes, but I did complete a lot of research on various diets from alkaline to pescatarian.

One day, I was talking to one of my best friends, who informed me that he recently transitioned to a 100 percent plant-based diet and recommended I watch “The Game Changers” documentary on Netflix. Eager to see what had him so excited, my brothers (19 and 23 years old) and I watched the documentary later that evening, and I was sold! Shortly after, my brothers and I decided to give the plant-based diet a 2-month (June through August) trial before determining if we wanted to continue or scratch it all together. But as soon to be ex-carnivores, I could not fathom the idea of not having meat at all, so I opted for a pescatarian diet (where we could eat seafood).

The first week was brutal. We struggled to find things to eat, and the idea of replacing fried cauliflower for wings or grilled portobello mushrooms for steak was not pleasant. Therefore, we opted for hearty amounts of potatoes in every form imaginable and salads. After a week, we became bored with our new diet, but we wanted to hold ourselves accountable. Fast forward to August at the 2-month mark, one of my brothers and I both completed the challenge with no mishaps and decided to reward ourselves with a cheat meal from Wingstop. Our other brother didn’t make it past the second day. At that point, my brother, who did continue the diet, was not convinced to continue; however, I was.

The transition for me was almost therapeutic. I started following more Instagram pages with plant-based education, recipes, and fitness tips for athletes. Additionally, I became fascinated with juicing and completed a 3-day juice detox, where I did not consume any solid foods, something that I would have never done prior to the transition. My body felt light. My mind? Free! Energy? Through the roof! I mean, I love a good nap, but it is not a necessity anymore. While I was happy to be aligned mentally, the significance of my lifestyle change came to me after I received my lab results from an annual checkup. My blood work came back great, and I could not be more excited. It truly was the icing on the cake for me.

Shortly after—here comes Thanksgiving. Like most American families, holidays are rooted in traditions surrounding food and other memory-creating activities. One of my favorite unspoken traditions is staying up all night with my mom as she cooks and preps for the next day (#ProudMommasBoy). Our conversation topics vary between the occasional, “I forgot to get this while out, can you run to the store for me?!” and moments that I would not trade for anything. One of the things I have enjoyed most over the years is being the taste tester for each meal as flavors evolve.

Like every Thanksgiving, when my mom came into town, I was right there as she prepared the food. This time, she was aware that I made dietary changes and was committed to my lifestyle. As we talked and she cooked, she would catch herself, asking if I wanted to sample any of the food. It was interesting to see how supportive she was in person to my lifestyle changes and encouraged me that I made the proper decision. But as I sat on the barstool, watching, talking, and enjoying my mother’s presence, I noticed that familiar glimmer in her eyes. It’s a glimmer people who truly enjoy cooking have, especially mothers as they think about the nutrients their labor will provide for their children (like a lioness after a kill for her cub[s]).

As the family sat down the next day, I indulged and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. I ate some of everything my mom cooked, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the simplicity of being with my family. In that moment, I realized, this one day does not determine my fate or commitment to consuming a plant-based diet. However, it did allow me to capitalize on my own experiences with health and wellness, and “…absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.” Thanksgiving was a testament to my pescatarian lifestyle—learning, growing, adjusting, and being true to Kevin.

As I continue my journey, I hope to educate my family more on the health benefits of a more plant-based diet (even if that means eating plant based 1 or 2 days out of the week). I also plan to research more recipes so I can enjoy alternatives to traditional meals for holidays, such as mustard greens, corn-bread dressing, stuffed bell peppers, etc., without them losing the flair that makes me enjoy them so much.

(Disclaimer: I actually love cauliflower wings 😊)