So, I’m a vegan now. Can I say that after just a few weeks? Going vegan has been remarkably easy with no feeling of deprivation and is sustainable. Whenever I’ve tried a “diet” in the past, it’s become increasingly difficult as time goes by, to stick to it. Not so with this way of eating because I’m not restricting calories or portion sizes. Why am I doing this? I’ll answer some questions in the video and more in the story that follows.
Going Vegan for Three Reasons
Why am I doing this? The reason I started this is because of my health. I have struggled with weight issues all my life. As a very young child, I was called “Pudding” and I’m sure that was meant as an affectionate term of endearment but in fact when I look back at photos of myself, I was not an obese child. However the self-image was set and I believed I was fat and commenced dieting when I was 11.
Dieting! Calorie restriction. That was the beginning of decades of eating, dieting, eating, dieting, Weight Watchers, allergy tests, Jenny Craig, appetite suppression pills, Israeli Women’s Army Diet, nutritionists, Pritikin, meal substitution products, pills to prevent fat-absorption, fasting, eating, until eventually I was morbidly obese and got fitted with a gastric band. That was seven years ago. At first, I lost weight with the band and I was as pleased as punch and thought it was the best thing I’d ever done. The nutritionist at the bariatric clinic told me how to eat with this device in place. Eat the protein first, then the carbohydrates. Don’t worry about the vegetables until last and if I couldn’t fit them in, it was OK because I was to take vitamins for the nutrition. Really? OK, you’re the expert.
After a couple of years, other problem arose. I developed Nocturnal Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and started another merry-go-round of antacids and proton-pump inhibitors. My gastric band was loosened, tightened, loosened, tightened a number of times. The weight started to creep back on, and the acid reflux continued. And finally last year I was diagnosed with mild hypertension and put on medication for that.
The situation at the end of 2014 was that I had gained almost 20kg of the 40kg I had lost with the band. I was taking blood pressure medication and acid reflux medication each morning, and swigging a liquid antacid through the day as needed. Along with that I had a list of other things such as joint stiffness, arthritic swelling in finger joints, dry skin, painful knees, and so on. Expect these things with ageing? Or see if something could be done?
Going Vegan for Health
YouTube is a wonderful thing. Anything you want to know about, someone has put up a film about it on youtube. Over the years, I’d watched a lot of things about traveling light, packing light, capsule wardrobes and make-up. More and more, I was seeing things about minimalism and cruelty-free beauty products and using less packaging and veganism. After a while it became obvious that there are connections between living lightly and simply and having good health. Lowered risk of heart-disease, diabetes, cancers. My daughter has been a vegetarian for years, her partner is vegan and then my younger son became vegan. It was time for me to research.
There are different ways of eating and being vegan but the main thing is not consuming any animal products. Mindfully Bliss has some helpful definitions of different styles of veganism and different vegan eating styles. Since I was going into this for my health, I don’t want to be a junk-food vegan. I’m eating fruit only until mid-afternoon, then a cooked meal in the evening. There are a number of elements I’m incorporating: raw-till-4, high-carb-low-fat, low-sodium, eighty-ten-ten and lots of water. I won’t go into details of what these things all mean, suffice to say that I’m very happy with how things are going.
Since I went into this for health, you will want to know what effect that’s had. Firstly, it’s only been five weeks, and it can take years to heal after decades of metabolic abuse so I didn’t expect to be walking on air after a few weeks. But, … I have lost 4kg. This was a surprise because I expected that I might even gain weight in the beginning. The problem I had in the first couple of weeks was eating enough food. Tracking my nutrients on cronometer.com is really useful. Since I’ve discovered I can make smoothies in the food processor, I can eat a lot more bananas and dates to get the nutrition. I’m told my skin looks better. My mouth feels cleaner. I only wear deodorant every two or three days. My nails are a little stronger (they’ve been like paper in the last few years splitting and breaking). I’m still suffering acid reflux and will be having an endoscopy in a week or so to see what damage has been done and if there is any obvious physical reason why it’s happening. I’m now feeling confident enough to talk about getting the gastric band removed.
Going Vegan for Environment
For years, I’ve been banging on about saving the planet and feeling noble as I refused plastic bags in shops and didn’t use a clothes dryer. As I research further into the benefits of eating plants and not animals, I now realise that the planet can not sustain animal-based agriculture. It uses enormous quantities of water and is responsible for huge amounts of greenhouse gases and destruction of native forests. There is enough food in the world to feed the population, but so much of it is fed to animals that people starve while animals are fattened up for consumption. The United Nations has reported that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. Read the report Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production from the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management.
Going Vegan for Cruelty-free
Beyond just not eating meat, dairy, eggs and fish, veganism also means not causing suffering to animals. You would be shocked at the treatment animals receive, I know I was. I am not going to link horror films here. But I have seen things in the last month that I can not un-see. Oprah used to say, “when you know better, you do better.” Well, I know better now. I will no longer contribute to the suffering of animals so that I can eat them, wear them, use them on my skin and hair. If you want more information, visit People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. Yes, that’s the PETA we know about from protests about wearing fur. Turns out, the meat, egg and dairy industries are just as cruel as the fur industry and before going vegan I had no idea.
What Do I Eat Now?
I try to get in as many calories from fruit as I can physically manage throughout the day. I still need to eat small meals while this gastric band is in place.
Breakfast is usually a smoothie of bananas and/or dates or bananas with strawberries,sometimes with coconut water. On the weekends, there’s a bit more time to chop things up.
A couple of hours after that, I usually have a commercial smoothie with more exotic fruits such as mangoes, pineapple and acai berries. The fruit in the UK is not great, so that mango pictured above might look delicious, but really they have no flavour. Smoothies are a great way for me to get the nutrition and calories in. Lunch is whatever fruit I’ve got – more bananas, dates, nectarines, mandarins, peaches. During the day, I also have two cups of coffee with soy milk instead of cow’s milk.
After work, I often make a shake with bananas, strawberries, soy milk and maple syrup. Dinner is cooked and carb-heavy. Pasta, potatoes, rice, vegetables, soup, with salad.There are some great vegan cooks sharing recipes on the internet. Look at Cooking With Plants or Thriving On Plants for ideas. If you love to cook, going vegan will thrill you with the delicious and innovative recipes. No longer will you just think of an egg when you want to bake, but there are so many other options.
Vegan options are available for just about everything and all you have to do is tell them you are vegan and they will make suggestions. Pizza, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, salads of course, though they are not very filling. Even the cinema has popcorn with no butter (though the salt content is pretty high). Veganuary has links to many popular eateries and what vegan options they have – even KFC, Nando’s, Pizza Hut, Costa – though some are limited.
I must thank Freelee The Banana Girl, Bite Size Vegan and Vegan Gains. Freelee is completely passionate about health and ethical treatment of animals and doesn’t care who she offends to get the message out. Emily from Bite Size Vegan puts an enormous amount of effort and research into her videos – she backs everything up with science and facts. Richard from Vegan Gains is likewise very big on scientific papers and research. You might not like their style, but listen to what they have to say because the message is more important than the messenger and these are the YouTubers that have taught me the most in the last few weeks. There are many others who have influenced and educated me.
Shopping will be different for me. I’ve been shopping for cruelty-free makeup and cosmetics for a while now. Clothes and shoes are something I confess I haven’t thought about in the past but a quick Google search brings up lots of options for stylish fashion that is also vegan-friendly. The minimising journey I am undertaking means I don’t shop a lot anyway.
As for eating – yay! I can eat as much as I like of delicious, sweet fruit and all cravings for chocolate and sweets have gone. Cooking food in the evening means I don’t miss out on warm food, or snack food such as crunchy seaweed crackers. I think this is a great way to live and going vegan is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
What do you think? Would you try going vegan for a month or for one day each week to begin?