About/Why Vegan?

Hi, I’m Somer McCowan. I’m a vegan, Mormon blogger. My cookbook The Abundance Diet, will be released on June 2nd, 2015 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Here’s my plant-based story.

You can also view my testimonial on the Fork’s Over Knives website here and on ChooseVeg.com here

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease that causes severe abdominal pain, thousands of tiny sores in the colon, and bloody watery stools.  My gastroenterologist also removed several pre-cancerous tubular adenomas at the time of my diagnosis. Sometimes I would have to go to the bathroom 30 times a day. At times I couldn’t leave the house and had a difficult time sleeping because I was so sick and had so much pain. I was 28 at the time. I was put on a super high dose of a prescription steroid and lots of other heavy-duty prescription drugs to control the disease. I went from a healthy weight of 125 to over 200 lbs in 9 months on the drugs. Not only did I gain the weight, but I also developed horrible acne. I grew facial hair. I felt crazy and was not a nice person to be around. I would cry when I looked in the mirror.

After I started feeling a bit better, I worked out 2 hours a day at the gym for a year and at the end of the year I ran a half marathon. Yes, I lost all the weight.

I have since had a colonoscopy every year, and have often had to go back on prednisone or other terrible drugs in order to get my colitis symptoms under control every time I’ve had a flare up. Each time my weight would balloon and I would feel miserable again and have to work hard to get it back off. It was like a terrible roller coaster and I couldn’t get off.

One weekend, my brother Abe was staying with me and we watched “Forks over Knives” I didn’t really pay attention to it at the time because I was watching kids, making dinner and generally a little uninterested. Fast Forward to January 2012, our family had just returned from Disneyland and a fast food nightmare vacation. I felt like crap, I was sluggish and I had no energy. At this point somewhere in my head I thought of the film “Forks over Knives” again. I decided to re-watch it, this time with my eyes wide open, and realized maybe I could heal myself by changing my diet. I talked with my spouse and we agreed to go on a whole-foods plant-based diet as a family.

The reason I differentiate this from a vegan diet is that many vegans are compassionate, but don’t eat healthily. I didn’t start this journey as an animal advocate, but I’ve since realized its impossible to switch from the standard American diet to a wholly plant based one and not feel remorse for living a life that harmed so many animals. I can tell you that I can’t walk near the meat department in a grocery store anymore and I’m horrified by the treatment of animals that are intended for consumption. So yes, I’m a vegan too by those standards.

I am completely off prescription drugs and my Ulcerative Colitis is in full remission. I’ve never felt better, and I know all of this is a direct result of my diet. I wish I would have known years ago that I could heal my own body with what I was putting into my mouth. It’s really amazing that the cure I was looking for was harnessed through plants.

Research shows that a plant based diet not only can help or reverse auto-immune diseases like mine, it also gives you protection against or helps with the treatment of cancer, high-blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and many, many more ailments and diseases. I can dig that.

Read the Next Chapter: After the Injury, The Healing Series.

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294 comments

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  2. Somer, thank you for sharing your story… frankly it’s amazing that you’ve managed to conquer your colitis without taking regular medication. I was inspired to switch to a vegan diet after watching Forks over Knives, as there was such a strong arguement for it, for health and for my own moral reasons. I definitely have some issues with food, maybe a little intolerance to dairy and some starches, but I’ve never had an evaluation to get to the root of it all and I still eat cheese and eggs occasionally, but I’ve incorporated a lot of vegan meals into my diet. I’ve tried to get my parents to watch the film since they both have heart and cholesterol problems, but that hasn’t really panned out. Maybe I’ll give it another shot!

    1. Good for you! If you can get your parents to watch it, please do. It could save their lives (I know, dramatic, but true)! Best of luck my dear.

  3. Somer-Your challenge sounds great! I’m excited to try it! Congratulations on your successes. You are an inspiration!

    Miriam (sister of Eliora)

  4. Somer! I am so happy that I came across your blog! I can relate to your story; I was diagnosed with Colitis 5 years ago. At the time, I was to young to understand what Colitis was and how to take care of myself! Every time I ate something “bad” or was stressed out with university, I would have to deal with a flare up- I thought that this was going to be the story of my life. (I am lucky in the sense that I have only been on medication a few times for my colitis). I’m not sure what happened but I woke up one morning two years ago and decided that I was sick of feeling yucky, being bloated, in pain and the many other symptoms of colitis. So I completely changed my diet no more fast food or beer (I was a university student), no more prepackaged food, dairy products or bread! I started slowly by cutting certain foods out of my diet and adding in more fruits and veggies. I started to feel amazing and then there was no turning back and I’ve never looked back! Food is such a powerful tool! It is so nice to hear your inspiring story! You are beautiful! I look forward to following your blog!
    Paige

    1. Paige! Thanks so much for commenting! I was told by my physician when I was diagnosed with colitis that diet wouldn’t make a difference. WRONG! So glad I found the healing power in plant based foods. Sounds like you’re on the right track as well. I hope you are well! xx

  5. As an FYI – I have been a vegan since high school (now 45) and I was diagnosed with UC while a vegan and have had many, many flare ups while a vegan. I am glad you are in remission, but be careful to make a direct correlation between your disease and diet.

    1. I hear you. I have been in remission since I went plant based, as have many others who follow my site and have gone plant based. I get comments and emails from people conquering their autoimmune illnesses, diabetes, reversing heart disease and more on a near daily basis. I can’t dismiss my experience or the experience of others. I have to argue though that diet/disease is the biggest thing overlooked in the medical industry. My doctor told me that it wouldn’t matter what I ate. I think he was wrong. I feel best when I’m eating completely clean, as in not just VEGAN, but whole foods and plants with no processing- Similar to the way I eat when I’m doing my green smoothie challenge. I think there’s a huge difference in that explanation. Many vegans eat plenty of processed junk foods/fake meats/fake dairy. I’m not one of them. The only time I’ve felt close to a flare up in the last year is twice when I ate dairy (not knowing it was in something). I know that individuals differ, but I think many circumstances come into play, for example, stress used to be one of my biggest triggers. I still get an upset tummy when I’m stressed now, but never enter the flare up stage. I take care of myself and my emotions/diet/health far more than I used to. It’s definitely a combination thing. I’m sorry you’ve had a different experience, but I don’t think that giving people hope that a change in diet can change their life is irresponsible of me. It changed mine. I need to share that.

      1. Hi Somer! I’ve experienced both what you and Kittie are talking about in this thread. I went vegan at the age of 15 and was later diagnosed with UC and had horrible flare ups all of my adult life (I’m now 40). However, once I had a wheat allergy diagnosed (after two excruciating, seemingly out of the blue flare ups a couple of years ago), my UC appears to have gone into remission. I also eschew processed foods/meat and dairy analogs, and I think that is a huge component. I’m trying hard not to make a direct correlation, but at the same time – how can I not? Either way, I feel a trillion times better. Oh yeah, and I’m a marathoner, too – looking forward to reading about your running experiences on a vegan diet!

        1. Yeah, a wheat allergy will do it to you every time. Thank goodness I was tested for celiac sprue at the same time I was tested for UC. I have no issues with gluten thankfully, but the symptoms are so similar that I believe they now test for both for most patients.

          I’m so glad you’re doing well now! xx

        1. Have you happened to read The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell? It’s a long but good read and lots of info. One thing he said that caught my eye because I have Crohn’s is that an autoimmune disease is a bit different than someone with heart disease other preventative diseases. Autoimmune diseases are not something that can necessarily be “cured” because it involves antibodies that have turned on the body and once activated are always there. We can do our best to help the body be the healthiest it can be but ultimately our diseases are always there, whether active or not. But that being said I feel that a plant based diet is going to give my body the best chance to stay in remission compared to any other eating style out there. Plant based foods reduce the inflammation in our bodies which is what we want.

          1. I couldn’t have said it better. I’m in remission, but I’m sure if I started eating really poorly and not taking care of myself, my disease would rear its ugly head all over again. My diet keeps my inflammation down and keeps the disease at bay.

  6. I have had Crohn’s for the past 19 years. Some good some bad. Lots of medications! No surgeries though. I’ve been attracted to the vegan lifestyle for years and would give it a try only to end up in a flare so I would stop. But I’ve always had a nagging feeling that eating healthier food should help my condition. I have never been comfortable with the theory that eating white, refined, processed foods and animal proteins would make my condition better. About a month ago I happened upon FOK on Netflix and it confirmed what my initial feelings were. SO…here I am again with new motivation and better tools to try going vegan again. I’m easing into it this time using more smoothies and juicing to get my body healthier so I can move onto more solid dishes. I’m really loving it and I’m noticing the difference in how I’m feeling and how my family is feeling. I decided that they should all go this route with me 1) I’m the one that does the shopping and cooking so I get to decide what the menu is 2) they have a strike against them with my medical background so why not try to prevent it in the first place 3) some of my kids were getting too concerned about access to junk foods and I wanted to curb those . Overall I think it’ll be a VERY good thing.

  7. Hey there! I was impressed by your plant-based story. I too have recently transitioned to a plant-based diet, but my story isn’t as extreme as yours is. A year ago my husband came home from the doctor and told me he had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I knew these issues were related to diet, so we took a healthy cooking class at Whole Foods market that really opened our eyes. Anyway, we’re passionate about a plant-based diet now. I’m happy I found your blog – you’re an inspiration! Celeste

    1. Celeste! So happy that you’ve found some good information related to diet. Whole Foods is the best! I hope you find healing for you and your husband! Best Wishes! -Somer

  8. Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog while searching for soap-making recipes and came across your vegan section. I too, struggle with an auto immune disease, endometriosis, and have been researching a plant based and low inflamation diet. Do you know anyone else who’s become vegan/ vegetarian for this? I’ve read nothing but good results from this..Anyhow, keep up the beautiful soap making!

    1. Cherie, have you watched Forks Over Knives? I think thousands of other people have switched to a plant based life style to solve their health problems like me. I get comments on this site and on my facebook page all the time with success stories of people lowering medication, reversing diabetes, arthritis, auto-immune illnesses and more. It couldn’t hurt to try! Glad you found me through soap 🙂

  9. Somer, your story is very inspiring. I’m so glad eating a plant-based diet has changed your life. A couple weeks ago, I watched Forks Over Knives and it completely altered my way of thinking about making healthy eating choices. I recently eased into becoming a vegetarian and I have been thinking about becoming a vegan since seeing that movie (among other things). For me it’s about having compassion for animals, as well as about managing my hereditary high cholesterol (I’m only 26!). It’s people like you that make me feel excited about making the choice to become a vegan (and that I’m not crazy after all, as some of my family members look at me like I am when I tell them I’m thinking about it). Your recipes also look amazing and I loved your post about the 20 things that happen to you when you become a vegan (some of them are already happening to me haha 🙂 ). I will definitely be back to visit your site again!

  10. Hi Somer. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease call Polyarteritis Nodosa and put on prednisone too. I suffered flare-ups until age 21 when it seemed to go away. I was even left handicapped for a couple months due to the inflammation of my blood vessels in my legs, arms and hands. I’m 25 now, so there’s no telling if or when it will return. I feel the pain you were going through, but I’m really hopeful going on a plant-based diet will help. Thanks for sharing your story!

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s truly wonderful to hear of people conquering their illnesses and living healthy lives. I’m a nurse and see many lives destroyed by disease. I was also a sales rep for several years for a company that sold colostomy supplies. I can only imagine with what you had to deal with and I am happy to hear that this too can be overcome without major surgery.

  12. Thankyou for liking my post and congratulations on your transformation!! Hard work really does pay off 🙂

  13. Hi Somer – I’m so happy I found your site through WordPress. I am also a (mostly) vegan and a huge fan of Forks Over Knives. As a mom of 3 young children, I am always on the lookout for family-friendly recipes and I see you’ve posted a ton. Can’t wait to try those pancakes!
    Lori

  14. Hello Somer – I am so glad I found your blog. Your story is truly inspiring! It is amazing how healing (or not) the food we choose to fuel our bodies with can be. Look forward to seeing more of your recipes as well 🙂
    -Sophia

  15. Somer,

    You are a true inspiration. Just now reading your bio I got chills down my spine to think what we, Americans do to ourselves by eating horrible food. I relate to your story for many reasons:

    My mother has many health conditions, autoimmune disorder called Scleroderma as well as muscle disease in the same sub category of the first so they go hand and hand with each other. (Doctors diagnoses) Anyway she is on a lot meds, she carries one overnight bag full when she visits me. Lots of side effects with her fusion therapy as well which lasts about 6 hours.

    My daughter 26 weeker preemie, now 13 years old still on a lot of lung meds for her chronic lung disease, asthma and allergies. Recently, put her on a gluten free diet.

    So you see your story is embarking great advocacy for many and I wish more of us out there would take it a step further. Thank you for sharing. Allie

    1. Thanks so much Allie, I hope that changes in your diet will improve your family’s health. Autoimmune disorders are debilitating. I truly feel for your mom. There was a time when I felt like I could never leave the house things were so bad. I was completely tied to prescription medications.

  16. Somer, I have been following your blog for a little while now and absolutely love all the recipes and the beautiful photos. Your story is a great testimony of how a plant based diet can positively affect disease. My nephew was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis 1 yr ago at age 20. The doctor told him his diet really didn’t affect the issue! He was prescribed meds and told he would be on them the rest of his life. I’m not one to “force-feed” the plant based diet on anyone and I have talked to him about his diet but sending him your story and those of others with the same condition may have a greater impact. Thanks for sharing. Carol

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m so sorry to hear about your nepehew. His story is exactly the same as so many others (I was told the same thing by my gastroenterologist) Please feel free to send him my story. I would also be willing to help him if he is interested. He can email me at vedgedout@gmail.com

  17. What an incredible story! While I’ve never faced anything like ulcerative colitis, I grew up thinking it was normal to have constant digestive issues. I went plant-based for ethical reasons, and the unexpected side effect was that my stomach issues completely disappeared, not to mention that I also stopped experiencing daily joint pain. It’s incredible to me that the mainstream medical field still hasn’t recognized the importance of diet.

    Anyway, thanks for raising awareness! Looking forward to following your posts!

  18. Thanks for sharing. I’m a Mormon doctor who eats a whole foods plant-based diet. You may be the only other Mormon I’ve found who follows a similar diet. Congratulations on improving your health. Keep it up!

      1. Hey nice to hear you are mormon too and follow a similar diet that has completely changed the way I feel. The first video I watched was also FOK and loved it! I am just happy, as you probably are as well that we don’t have to take more of those horrible medicines

  19. Radiology – mainly cancer diagnosis. I’m in Kentucky. I try to follow Joel Fuhrman’s diet mostly. I’ve kind of merged philosophies of multiple plant-based doctors & my own knowledge re: dietary prevention of cancer.

  20. Hello Somer,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am relatively new to the world of vegan eating. I have been vegetarian for over a year, and recently made the switch to a fully vegan diet.
    I have been doing tons of research and I love to cook so I feel that I am doing a pretty good job nourishing myself. But I am a teenager living with my family who are all still meat eaters.
    My Mom has ulcerative colitis, and she, like you has been on and off of all the nasty medications. About 3 months ago, she agreed to let me prepare her breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and she started feeling a lot better.
    But, she is not someone who is at all interested in food, or cooking :b, and so she gradually went back to her old habits, and as a result is feeling much worse again.
    I was wondering if you have any tips regarding vegan foods that would be the most gentle and healing for her right now. I really want to help, and your story is so inspiring for me. Thanks again,

    Micayla

  21. HI,
    I have had Crohn’s for over 25 years. I have always eaten a healthy diet. I was a vegetarian for 4 years before I decided to go vegan. And I have to say that the vegan/plant based diet has been the best thing I have ever done. I feel great, and have cut down on my meds. I love your blog, I am always looking for new recipes to try.

  22. Good for you !!! I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian, but whole-heartedly Paleo … BUT, I have tremendous respect for ALL mindful eaters – those who’ve stepped out of the mind-numbing world of processed foods, sugar-mountains and CRAP! … Cheers to your wonderful new body and future 🙂

  23. Hi! I saw fok in tree weeks ago and started plant based diet. I belive that this is the cure for colitis and every other horrible diseace..

    I have had colitis about 6 years now and I take asacol 1600 mg per day.

    I will stay on the diet for a one year and take my pils and after that I will go to doctor. Dream to get healty and stop takeing pills.

    Good luck and all the best to you!

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