I am going to say straight from the starting blocks that I will not be marching you straight down to Tesco for some pak choi and mung beans. Nor, will I ever judge anyone for their diet choices. This post is not written to try to convert or preach to you about a vegan diet, but a few people have asked me over on social media to do an update on how I am finding Vegan life, so, ta-daaaaaa!
So I suppose I should start with why I decided to switch to a plant based diet? I had been a vegetarian for 30 years, so what made me take the next step? Well Niomi Smart for a start! Have you seen that woman? She literally looks like the epitome of health! Beautiful lady. That aside, I had been feeling like I needed to re-think my diet. I was feeling a bit lacklustre, not sleeping well and had developed a few bad eating habits (Im talking about you cup of tea and a pack of malted milk), so I knew I needed to get healthier. A couple of years ago, I even started to document what I hoped would be healthier habits in this post – Journey back to Health in your Forties. I have wanted to change things up for a while!
When Nik first got diagnosed with cancer, I went on a massive reading spree about how diet, the environment, your habits etc can have an affect on your health. I started seeing more and more things about plant based diets being the way forward. Now, without being all tree hugger about it, (but if you have been here a while you know that I am an earth child through and through), I have a true belief, that we have been given EVERYTHING we need to sustain and maintain a healthy life, from the ground. The planet was created with our survival at the core of it, so why would we not be given the tools and ingredients we need from the get-go?
It made perfect sense to me, that the power of plants is all we need. If you look at statistics, there are so many positives to following a plant based diet. Its healthier for us, the planet, (obviously the animals) and our minds. I am not going to bore you with the stats, except this little snippet, “If the world went vegan, it could save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion” I think I will leave that there…..Seriously though, you can read lots of fantastic information on The Vegan Society website should you wish to.
So what have I noticed in four months of being Vegan?
For me, the changes that occured were subtle changes that I didnt make the connection with, until I thought about them. It was almost like I would suddenly make the connection as to when I started feeling better. I am going to talk you through the changes, but be warned, some of these could be a little too much information, but you know me, Im always honest and to the point….For example;
Periods – That little treat that us women get roughly once a month. I can’t say that I ever really suffer with my periods, but last month I was talking to my friend about them, (as us girls do) and mentioned that I have not had that cramping pain that I always got the first couple of days, for a few months. It was while we were chatting that it dawned on me that the period pains had not accompanied my monthly cycle the month after I started my vegan diet.
Sleeping – I have always been a bad sleeper. I literally survive on about 5 hours per night, and that can often be broken sleep. Well, for the last 10 weeks or so, I have slept well, despite all thats going on in our lives! I get into bed tired, and its like my body clock is more regulated. I also sleep all the way through the night, which I have not done for about 20 years!
Stomach Issues – I suffer from IBS. It can knock me for six when it strikes, and literally leave me crippled over in pain, exhausted and treat me to days of an upset stomach. Its kind like that! Well, despite having an attack of IBS a couple of weeks ago, it was not as debhilatating as I am used to. It did not leave my stomach feeling tender and sore. I was able to leave the house without fear that the pain would strike as a warning that I had about 7.5 seconds to get to the loo! It was so much more manageable and passed after just a coupe of days.
Weight – I am not going to sit here and pretend that I have a Kate Moss (one of my hero’s fyi) figure and no excess weight to lose. I do. I could do with losing a fair few excess pounds. However, I did not switch to a vegan diet for that reason, but it has been a pleasant side effect! I have to date, lost 19 pounds. I am happy with that as I do not feel in any way that I have missed out. I have still eaten out, still had cake, still drunk my gin. I think a vegan diet just suits my body better.
Mind – Something that only people that know me well would know, (and perhaps those of you that have been with my over here for a while) is that I suffer badly from periods of anxiety. I had a particular bad chapter of it about three years ago, and it affected my life in a big way. It was triggered by something that happened, that I wont go into, but it was a bad time, and my GP wanted to put me on anti-anxiety medication. I have always gotten through my anxiety with mindfulness, meditation, knowing my mind and several coping mechanisms that I have developed over the years.
Well, since I have been following a vegan diet, despite some incredibly challenging times put in front of me, anxiety has not raised its head. I have had times of feeling a bit under stress, (weird that) but I have been able to work through it without it leading me to feel anxious. That anxiety has not built up at all. I feel calm, able to cope and strong. I truly believe that it is because my mind and body are just “right”. They are in sync with each other and working at their most productive. Im not sure if that makes any sense, but it’s the only way I can describe it.
So, what do I eat as a Vegan?
Loads. In a nut shell, I eat loads! I have never been the best cook in the world, ( I once served my kids raw chicken….no one died….), but since becoming vegan I have really gotten in to cooking vegan meals. Thanks to my friends/family as well as books I have bought myself, I have a great collection now of vegan cook books. I am now amazing at vegan risotto, mac n’ cheese, banana bread and jackfruit chilli! Ok, I have a long way to go before Im cooking up a storm, but I’m getting there. I also eat a lot of smoothies (for breakfast), fruit and veg, humous, and of course avo on toast! I will do another post with my favourite meals and recipe’s another time, maybe even a food diary, once I have perfected a few more. So many of the things I cook can be adapted for meat eaters. My family eat meat and we just cook chicken or whatever separate, and they add it to their risotto etc.
My favourite books to cook from so far, (all clickable links in bold) are;
Niomi Smart – Eat Smart
Deliciusly Ella – The Plant Based Cook book
Bosh – Simple Recipes, amazing food
I have not found it difficult to eat out since eating plant based either, and as a family, we LOVE to eat out so this was a big deal for me. Most restaurants have a vegan option, many of them a few choices now days. It is definatley getting better. Two of my favourite vegan meals out I have enjoyed were at a Vegan restaurant in London, you can read about it in this post, Kalifornia Kitchen – Vegan Utopia in London and surprisingly, at chain restaurant Las Iguanas! They have an amazing vegan selection and again, you can read full details in this post, Ethics and Good food at Las Iguanas.
I can only talk from my own experience and for me, switching to a plant based diet has had great benefits. Im enjoying it, really enjoying it and my whole “being” feels better for it. That can only be a positive right?
I would love to know if you have tried any plant based meals, or if you have any recommendations for me? Does a vegan diet appeal to you? Are you interested in learning more about it? Do you have any friends/family that are vegan? As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts xx