From Eating “Dis-order” to Plant-Based Peace

I was 12 years old the moment food became the enemy.  It has taken 22 more years to realize that food, the right food is the ally.

I remember the very moment my opinion of myself changed.  I was sitting in my middledownload school health class, watching a movie with Calista Flockhart- The Secret Life of Mary Margaret. Before this movie, I didn’t even think about my body or the way I looked. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be ashamed of my looks until this movie was shown to my class.  This movie was a ‘How-To” for eating disorders.

The moment this movie was over, I remember thinking that I wasn’t attractive enough, that I wasn’t pretty enough, and I needed to be ‘skinny’.  I was 12 years old! Why in the world was I even thinking these thoughts? I remember starting to deprive myself whenever I was around the other kids at school, drinking Slim Fast chocolate shakes and starving myself until I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I will never forget the feeling of my heart stopping dead in its tracks when I saw my dad walk into the Middle School Counselor’s office.  She had called him to talk to her about my eating ‘disorder’.  I use this word lightly -not because I truly believe I had an eating disorder- in the term we are all used to- but in the way I describe my sons’ playroom – The playroom is in disorder.

Once I started high school, I remember running, running A Lot.  I hated running.  But,  I remember the guilt that came with it.  I remember feeling guilty if I didn’t workout longer than 45 minutes or run that day.   The guilt got ahold of me so strongly that it became unbearable. I remember the feeling of being out of control. I remember the negative self-talk and the feeling of not looking like my friends. I remember my own body shaming and disappointment in the way I looked.

In college, I remember buying my first cookbook. I remember listening to my first podcast (if that is what it was called back them) about nutrition and health by Dr. Andrew Weil (now known as the Origins guy). I also remember watching my first documentary, Super Size Me; the legendary documentary by Morgan Spurlock.  At this point, I started to really use my body and treat it like it was the only one I was ever going to get. No more McDonalds! I signed up for my first of 13 triathlons.  I trained and ran my first half marathon. I remember cooking a lot, learning a lot about food, and starting to troll the local book store for nutritional advice, and grocery shop at the local Whole Foods.

6fd84b896347cf8a58625ad3397f7e80Moving in with my husband had us both learning together. We became Clean-Eaters after watching Food, Inc the documentary from 2008. I started cooking from Tosca Reno’s cookbooks as much as I could-  from scratch; mostly fish and chicken because of the horror stories I was hearing about red-meat at the time. This was probably the time in my life where food started to actually make sense.

I became a personal trainer and aerobic instructor for the local gyms leading at least three classes of either cycle, yoga or a weight lifting class 3 times a day.  I look back at this time in my life – I should have felt great.  I should have been in the best shape of my life. I should have been flaunting my toned body all over the place, but I don’t remember being or even feeling that great.

  I do remember being taken to the emergency room for severe dehydration and exhaustion.

Once I became a mom, I remember trying to make the best decisions I possibly could forIMG_4807 our family.  I started reading about the effects of sugar in the system; liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity. My husband and I decided that limiting the sugar in our diets to fruits and the occasional treat was the best and one of the most important Food decisions we could make.  I still get a lot of laughs because my boys think Pedialyte popsicles are delicious and Pedialyte is ‘juice’.  I have happy, healthy boys that believe in the value of food, know that there are foods that aren’t good or healthy for them and they think about how their food decisions can effect their bodies. I am proud of that. Now, do they get excited to go hangout with friends because they might get something they normally don’t- of course– They are kids! But, they are the kids that ask for broccoli, ask questions when there isn’t a vegetable on their dinner plate, eat a salad and they know when their food choices don’t make them feel good.

I know this recap makes me sound crazy, but keep in mind this has been 22 years of growth toward understanding my wants and needs.  I am finally comfortable enough to share this personal, outrageous summary.

Why am I sharing these very personal moments with you all?In the last 22 years, I have never felt better about myself. I have never felt more confident in my own skin.  I made the researched decision to become plant-based (no animal products; focus on vegetables, whole, unprocessed grains and fruits, nuts) to start caring for myself and for my family in the most primal way.  I want to live for a long time, enjoying all the moments without being or feeling sick from hypertension, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.  If I can prevent it, I want to try.  It is important to me to be as active as I possibly can in the life that I am currently living.  I want to be around when my son cures cancer 🙂 I want to be able to travel the world with my healthy husband when we retire.

After 22 years of focusing on food (what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, when to eat) I have finally found something that doesn’t stress me out, doesn’t consume me, and makes me proud to share with others.

A Plant-Based Dieters’ 6 Must Haves

I have tackled this life-style change for just for 5 months, but I have discovered so many wonderful things even within the first month of my journey.  (previous post about those discoveries)

Omnivore 2 Herbivore

in the last 20 or so weeks, I have survived…

  • spaghetti and meatball cravings (for the most part, I only gave in twice)
  • Thanksgiving dinner (never was a HUGE fan of the turkey anyway, I usually come for the sides)
  • staff luncheons
  • brunch with the girls
  • lunch out with my two favorite
  • boys  dinner with omnivores
      • Just for that, I should give myself a pat on the back.  As I look back over the last few months, I have learned a lot about the staples of plant-based eaters that has made my life a lot easier than I had ever expected.
        • There is an entire section at Barnes N Noble for Plant-Based Cookbooks!!!

        My two favorite so far include…

        thugThug Kitchen by Davis and photos by Holloway

        • This is not your normal cookbook as they use a lot of cursing, which is probably why I gravitated towards it over all of the other cookbooks. Their tag line on the cover is “Eat Like You Give a F*ck” There are beautiful photos of the food, simple recipes, and it only cost me around $16.

        fokForks Over Knives by Del Sroufe

        • This book made my transition from meat eater to plant-based eater simple. There aren’t a lot of photos, but the recipes are easy to follow, enough for every part of the day, and gave me a starting point.

        Thank goodness for Pinterest!!!

        I am not sure how vegans survived without this wonderful app because it is my go to when I am in a funk. There are so many recipes out there that are plant-based. This life-style is no longer about the salad bar—- It goes BEYOND.

        There is a true purpose for lentils.

        In just 1 cup of lentils you can get 17.9 grams of protein with just 230 calories. Plus, the added bonus of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and B-6!!! This is a staple.


        Lentil burgers

        taco ‘meat’ substitute

        sloppy joes


        • Quinoa!!! No wonder they call it the ‘Worlds Healthiest Food” (Thank you Dr. Axe for the photo)Quinoa-Nutrition

        Move over Kale, you’ve got a new contender.

        • “Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit- The More you eat, the more PROTEIN you Consume!!!!”

        1 Bag of Black beans costs (on average) $1.57

        1 can of Black beans costs (on average) $ 0.74

        1 bag of black beans can last an entire week if you need it to – thank goodness for the Insta-pot

        1 can of black beans can be added to just 1 recipe.

        Do the math people!!!!

        Let the Nutritional Chart speak for itself. (Thank you to for the photo)


        Last, but certainly not the least because without this final ‘must-have’ I would not be able to go out with friends, my son’s, or co-workers at any restaurant.

        The Sides’ Menu

        Check it out- baked potato, black beans, side- salad or steamed broccoli can make for one heck of a meal while the rest of your group enjoys a juicy, mouth watery steak! ( yes, I still remember how good they used to taste).  It will fill you up, it won’t break the bank, and most waiters don’t even notice how strange it seems.

        I am so thankful for these ‘Must-Haves”- my ‘must-haves’. I can be very honest and say that without these I would be at a loss, and I would have never survived the 5 months’ journey without these discoveries.

        Omnivore 2 Herbivore

        I am taking a break from my usual posts about teaching pedagogy to confess something:  To teach about another Tough Topic.

        “My name is Aubrey Steinbrink, and I am a whole food, plant-based eater.”

        Now what would make a meat-eatin, Kansas kid turn to a plant-based diet? It ultimately came down to health. I want to wake up without a fog. I want to be able to spend time with the boys and have energy to keep up, and I want to be able to live a healthy life that allowed me to forgo all of the pills/chemo/doctors that I saw lurking in my future.  I’m not swearing off all animal products- I will still sit in a car with leather seats, and I am sure my banning red meat won’t  hurt the cattle industry one little bit. I am not trying to make a statement. All I know is that once I started focusing more on vegetables, fruit and legumes, my body responded in a way I was not expecting (in a good way).


        The boys and I enjoying our summer before Mom has her nap.

        I was in Kansas visiting our family; Fourth of July, cousins, FOOD galore, and pool time.  It got to the point where the thought of food made me uncomfortable.  My husband and I have been clean eaters since I can remember, so the value and quality of food has always been important to me, but it wasn’t until this summer that I started to read more about the effects of an animal based diet; linked to cancer risk, hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.    At this point, I can honestly tell you (if my

        google image

        family is reading) they are either laughing at me or shaking their head in disgust.  I am sure there is even a comment about being a ‘hippie’ being said out loud.

        Through this journey of about two and a half months, I have went through many different emotions and struggles.  To start…

        1. I didn’t know what to Cook.

        My meal prep before this journey consisted of animal protein and two vegetables or EGGS!!!  The Forks over Knives Plan, cookbook and app have helped me navigate my path. To be honest, food prep is so much easier because I don’t have to thaw anything, I don’t have to break down the meat to be edible/tender.  Roasting vegetables or grilling a portabella mushroom takes no time at all.  I have started to understand the love for eggplant, purple onions, mushrooms of all shapes and sizes, quinoa pilafs, sweet potatoes and beans, beans, beans!!!.

        2.  My body didn’t know what the heck was going on.

        WARNING: For about three weeks, I was bloated and gassy.  I thought there was no way I was going to be able to continue this. But, after the third week of my body getting used to the food changes, NO MORE GAS!!!!

        3. There were moments I could have eaten a COW ! or a ‘Chicken fried steak”

        At first, I was starving.  Starving all the time.  There was not enough food in the world that could sustain me.  I wasn’t used to grazing throughout the day because the animal products I was eating were taking so long for my body to digest, I didn’t need to eat as much. My body got used to this change quickly, and I became a smarter lunch packer as well.  I meal prep on Sundays and Silk brand yogurt made with almond milk is so much better than any yogurt I have ever had.

        4.  Energy, Mood Swings, Focus, and Stress

        Before July of this year, I was lacking energy and prone to quick mood changes (just ask anyone).   I was juggling my career change, masters courses, parenting, and on going focus on my well-being. (who knows 🙂 )  Stress got the better of me on most days. Instead of  being able to pull myself away from the moment and look at the situation, I overreacted and tried to stress out about things I had no control over.

        I  currently have more focus (clarity) and energy than I have ever had. I am able to wake up in the morning for a quick workout before school- and that has been unheard of for quite some time.  I have also been able to run for longer distances without allowing myself to quit or needing to quit. I am so excited for my half marathon in December  (I believe it will be my best. )  I am convinced I owe all of this to my new plant-based diet.

        Other Benefits that I have noticed…

        • Happiness- now that my husband is supporting me and eating a plant-based diet – we are both on this ride together and have seen our relationship improve in ways that we didn’t think would after 10 years of marriage and two small boys.
        • positive- As a previous cynical cindy (not that I don’t revert back to that some times) it is so nice to see the rainbow at the end of the rainstorm.
        • Losing weight (10 Lbs in total)- Not that I needed to lose weight or this my primary focus- it was a really nice surprise
        • more time with my boys- not slaving in the kitchen, and not laying in bed feeling terrible has helped us use our time more wisely
        • Feeling great- after dinner, I used to crawl into bed (since I was already in my pajamas at 530) I get to do the things I have been missing out on.
        •  ‘Regular’ (if you know what I mean)
        • taste buds are stronger – I have really started to love sun-dried tomatoes and all the ‘real’ flavors of food
        • meditation is clearer and more focused
        • Yoga practice is more frequent

        (okay, maybe I do sound like a hippie)

        Lunch and Breakfasts that I prep on Sundays to help me stay focused throughout the week.  (it only took me 1 hour )

        I wanted to feel better, and I wanted to live a healthier life.  I am not on my soapbox trying to convince anyone to jump on my bandwagon.  It has just made all the small things in my life that I used to take for granted or parts of my life that I just thought were parts of ME, so much BETTER.

        Here is a link if you want to know more