Good afternoon guys, I'd like to start off this post by explaining to you that I am writing this with only the best of intentions, I am not out to criticize your ways of eating or anything like that or to make out that I am superior as I no longer eat dairy and meat. I am writing this post because I want to share my experience and hopefully help you out in some way.
I know that vegans have a name for being pushy and I certainly agree with this. Most of them are and most vegans aren't even healthy. Yup thats right - being vegan or vegetarian does not automatically mean you are the picture of health. There are many types of Vegans but I'll talk about that later.
I ate a typical Irish (Western world) diet for 22 years - dairy and meat on a daily basis. For the majority of those 22 years I was plagued with flu's, sinus problems and carried excess weight. I had low energy in my teens due to the fact that I was eating utter trash everyday for lunch. My low energy level lead to low self esteem and instead of dealing with my problems I brushed them under the carpet whilst burying myself under my blankets for the most of my time when I wasn't in school.
What you eat is what you effectively become. It affects every part of you - your body and mind.
Throughout my childhood and early adult years I lost and nearly lost a lot of important people in my life due to many diseases - mainly cancer and various heart diseases. All but one of my grandparents had died before I was born. My granddad suffered two strokes before I was 10 and died of a heart attack when I was 12 years old which was very painful for me. Looking back I shouldn't have been surprised, he regularly high in fat meals of meat and dairy products.
In January 2008, a couple of months before my leaving certificate I was sitting at home with my parents. It was a few weeks before my mock exams and I was stressed as you can imagine. As I was sitting at my computer, my dad was sleeping in the chair next to me. My mother told him to wake up as he had to go to bed and he mumbled a few words at her. My dad was playing the fool with us when he wasn't away at work. She told him to stop messing and wake up. Again, he mumbled but there wasn't any humour in his voice and instantly I turned around and realised all was not right. I helped him to up and he sat on the table. I noticed that his left arm was hanging down and the left side of his mouth was also dropping. I knew that he had suffered a stroke.
I rang for an ambulance and before I knew it the neighbours were at the house and we waited ( and waited) for an ambulance to arrive. At this stage my father was lying on the floor as my 12 year old sister was talking to him and trying to stop him to slip into unconsciousness. An effort that thankfully paid off.
Soon my dad was rushed to hospital and I walked back into the living room. All the furniture had been moved back and my dad wasn't here anymore. He wouldn't be back in my house for many a month.
He had to go to the national rehabilitation centre in Dun Laoighaire and learn to eat, walk, write and talk again. I won't go into anymore detail but it was a traumatic time and it still haunts me. I may be in class with my 6 year olds or lying in bed at night and the image of him lying on the floor will pop into my head.
All I knew was that I didn't want to live the same fate as my father and his father before him. But what could I do?
It wasn't until 2011 that I decided to stop eating meat. It was easy to give up as there are so many vegetarian options out there. My boyfriend also became vegetarian and whilst I was happy to continue being vegetarian he started to do some more research into diet, health and exercise etc.
He began reading a book called 'The China Study' which is basically years of research between animal protein and prominent Western world diseases such as Cancer and strokes. To get to the point, people who live on a plant based diet like people in rural areas of China have a lower chance of getting the diseases that are the main killers in our part of the world.
I became vegan and switched from dairy to soy products. However, it is important to stress that if you switch to vegetarian or vegan options, most of the time these are high in oil and salt so that is why you may know lots of former vegetarians and vegans who say they put on weight living this lifestyle. Of course they did! If you eat food high in salt and olive oil you will put on weight whether it's vegan or not.
At the moment I am doing my best to live a plant based diet which means that I eat lots of fruit and vegetables. I can be bit of an emotional eater at times so if I haven't eaten enough I will feel a bit sorry for myself and go to a Vegan restaurant. I think it would be pretty impossible to go straight from eating meat and dairy to being a plant based vegan so here is how to begin if you are reconsidering your eating habits.
Switch from dairy to soy milk in your cereal and gradually try and wean yourself off of the chocolate. It is not easy as we are addicted to these types of food but it is possible.
But where do you get your protein?! I get my protein from fruit and vegetables. Us humans don't actually need that much protein so what I get from my current diet does the job. If you are vegetarian or vegan and you are taking supplements than you are doing something wrong. I won't sugarcoat it.
If you are vegetarian or vegan and you are feeling low in energy than you aren't eating enough calories. It's common to hear people who have returned to a paleo (meat/dairy) diet saying that they feel so much better since they started eating meat again. Of course you do! Your body was craving calories and you are now giving it calories. It's not the meat, it's the increase in calories.
I haven't been vegan for very long but the changes to my body and mental state have been astounding.
- My hair which needed to be washed every second day or even every day now only needs to be washed at least twice a week. I always had very greasy hair and I know now that it was down to what I was eating. My skin has cleared up completely. I only get a spot if I eat food with olive oil in it or around my TOM. Long gone are the spots that would give Everest a run for it's money.
- I don' t sweat as much and when I do it doesn't smell as bad, it hardly smells at all.
- I've gone down two jean sizes which has significantly increased my self esteem.
- I have more energy ( I've taken up running and did my first 10k in April) and I recover faster from workouts.
- My sleepless nights are also behind me.
This all happened as soon as I stopped eating meat and dairy. I only wish that I had discovered this lifestyle sooner.
It isn't easy, giving up pizza and chocolate was almost impossible for me but I did it and I'm certainly all the better for it. I enjoy my food, I don't deprive myself and I've never been as healthy or as happy in my life than I am right now.
I've seen people who I love go through horrible experience. The one thing they all had in common was
their diet. I don't want to go through what my father went through and is still going through. He has lost the use of his left hand and had to retire in his early 50's.
If you want to know more about 'The China Study' then click here. This is a very interesting article about a plant based diet and here is a pdf of the book itself.