Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Year Down. Many, Many More to Come.

Yesterday I celebrated one year of following a healthy whole-foods based vegan diet. 
A year ago, when I made the decision to eat vegan it wasn’t for moral or ethical reasons and it wasn’t to help reduce my carbon footprint. Nope it was entirely selfish. It was only about me, about being healthy and feeling good; the two things that had eluded me up to that point in my weight loss journey.
Here I was, almost 8 months in, losing weight, following the Weight Watchers program to a T, being active and still feeling like shit. I thought to myself when would I ever feel good?  I was still lethargic. I was still not sleeping well. I didn’t have much energy. I was losing weight but I did not feel healthier, I did not feel good. And damnit, I wanted to feel good.
So I decided to take a closer look at my goals (being healthy and active) and what I needed to do to achieve them.  I adopted a practice of mindful eating. Changed my perception towards the food I ate and its purpose. If I wanted to be active then I needed to look at what I was eating as my fuel. But at this point I didn’t know much about food; about what was really good for MY body so I started to monitor my reactions to what I ate. As part of mindful eating I made sure to eat slowly in an environment without distractions and then document how I felt after everything I ate.
Did I have energy or did I feel lazy?
Did I have indigestion/upset stomach or did I feel normal?
Was the food I was eating making me want to be active or plop down on the couch and watch TV?
After time I realized which foods were making me feel good and which ones were making me feel bad.  The offenders- animal proteins/ animal products. So on a whim I said let’s try a week without any animal products and see how I feel.  
It didn’t take but two or three days for me to notice a change. I felt freaking phenomenal. My energy levels were through the roof. I slept like a freaking baby at night. I was regular for the first time like EVER which is huge deal for me. I had been battling IBS for years. I just wanted to be active and I felt like eating these foods would allow me to live an active lifestyle. It was great.
But could it really be that simple? Change the foods you eat and reset your body?
Not sure it was really possible, really that easy, so I decided to splurge and treat myself to some frozen yogurt. And guess what? That was all it took to show me how badly my body was affected by what I ate. I think it took 2 or 3 days before I was ‘regular’ again. Sorry if that is TMI but it’s the truth.
That was when I realized that there was no food out there that was worth sacrificing my body, my health, my wellness for and decided to live my life following a vegan diet.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I don’t just survive on a vegan diet, I thrive.
Is it always easy? No it’s not always easy; especially when I am traveling or at a friend’s house or I want to go out for a romantic dinner. I have to plan, I have to research, and I have to be prepared.
Did it get easier? Heck yeah. The first few weeks were rough trying to figure out what I could eat. Thankfully there are so many blogs and websites with recipes not to mention what seems like an infinite number of cookbooks. Whole Foods marks their products as vegan (I am pretty sure Trader Joe’s does as well) which makes life much easier. I actually a wider variety of foods now than ever before.
Today I feel like a seasoned pro when it comes to what I eat. I base my diet around whole foods and try to follow the 80/20 rule. It is easy to be a junk food vegan – I could eat French fries and drink Coke all day long if I wanted but then I would be back at square one. I could also fall back on vegan convenience foods and fake meats/cheeses but they are just as processed and preserved as there non-vegan counterparts so I really try to limit my intake of these products as well.
Ultimately I believe that if you limit the junk food and the processed crap and try to stick to more real, whole foods then you will be much, much healthier and happier- regardless if you are a vegan or not. Give your body what it really needs; vitamins, minerals, essential aminos, fats, protein and carbs and you will be kindly rewarded.
I am not trying to be preachy. I am just sharing my opinion and my story. Do with it what you will.
A year into this I have come to learn so much about veganism, animal rights, the health of the planet, the crazy shit in the foods we eat, and now I choose to be a vegan for health reasons as well as for animal rights and to help the environment.
 I listened to my body and gave it what it wanted and I am so thankful that decision has a positive impact on the world I live in. It’s really pretty cool.
"My refusing to eat meat occasioned inconveniency, and I have been frequently chided for my singularity. But my light repast allows for greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension." ~ Benjamin Franklin

This cracks me up. Just had to share.