Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

Rejoice Denhere

The struggles and my wins

Annette Larkins is the picture of health. At over seventy years of age she’d give a fifty year old a good run for their money. This is all thanks to her vegan diet. Her looks could inspire almost anyone to change their relationship with food.

I am one of those people that she inspired to change. You, too,may be thinking about changing your eating habits to improve your health, or to shed a few pounds. You may even be thinking about switching to a vegan diet to help you achieve your goal.

Here I share my transition to a vegan diet and what I learnt along the way.

Your Body Is More Than What You Put On It

You are what you eat

Whenever I visited the supermarket, the first aisle I headed for was the one where everything is packaged to last a long time. Chocolates, sweets, crisps, more chocolate, anything coated in chocolate.

There was a price to pay as my health starting failing and my energy levels deteriorated.

I suffered from migraine headaches, nosebleeds, high blood pressure, RSI — okay I could write a whole article just listing what was wrong with me but that might not be of much interest. I am not here to share my badge of suffering. I am here to share my journey to becoming a vegan, including the struggles and the wins along the way.

The wakeup call came the day I found myself in an ambulance, on my way to the hospital, because I was probably on the verge of having a heart attack or a stroke.

I was put on medication. Being on medication for life was not something I had envisioned for myself. After watching vegans like Annette Larkins and reading related articles I set myself a challenge to try the vegan diet. It would be for just one week, I told myself. It was worth a try.

1. Hydration

Staying well-hydrated is an important part of any diet, vegan or not.

According to Dignity Health:

Water is critical for digestion. It prevents constipation and keeps the bowels moving by helping to process soluble fiber and fat. Staying hydrated also helps to eliminate toxins from the body, which can damage the gut by causing inflammation and irritation. Drinking more water can also aid with weight loss.

The Struggle

When I was diagnosed with hypercalcemia I was advised to drink at least two litres of pure water day to flush my system. Not following this guideline meant I risked calcification in any part of my body which could have resulted in serious consequences.

With my new diet I was supposed to drink at least one litre of water as soon as I woke up, or at least within an hour of waking up. It took time for me to adjust because I usually woke up hungry, and the first thing I wanted was food not water.

My Wins

I trained myself to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. I started carrying a bottle of water with me wherever I went. When eating at a restaurant I opted for water instead of soft drinks. This helped flush my system of toxins and kept me hydrated. The benefits of drinking water also included an improved complexion and younger looking skin.

Drinking water is now part of my lifestyle. Sometimes I drink it hot infused with lemon and ginger.

2. Power Smoothies

Mention any kind of healthy eating plan and power smoothies are sure to come up. The ingredients will differ depending on each individual’s perceived benefit. The main thing is that they provide a lot of nutrients which your body needs, especially at the start of the day. They kick-start the engine, so to speak.

The Struggle

Deciding on the best power smoothie for my situation required thought. I eventually settled on a combination of garlic cloves, fresh ginger, lemon and Manuka honey. I know it probably sounds unappealing. You’re right. It was. I worried about garlic breath too.

My Wins

The power smoothie lived up to its name. It really powered up my brain and boosted my immune system. Once I got over the taste and started to enjoy the benefits — reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure, less aches and pains — I was okay with it. The ginger masks the strong garlic odour and honey sweetens things up. I definitely recommend Manuka honey. It is better than the cheaper runny honey you normally get in supermarkets but it will do the job if you don’t have Manuka honey.

I also alternated with the better tasting smoothies like vegetable and fruit smoothies.

3. Meal Times

A lot of thought and planning had to go into my meal preparation. Being on a vegan diet meant I would miss out on certain nutrients found in a meat-based diet such as vitamin B12, calcium and iron. I put in the effort and created a meal plan on a spreadsheet.

The Struggle

The appetising smell of an English breakfast is hard to resist when all you’re eating is a bowl of oats. I found I got hungry really quickly too. Sometimes the thought of oats reminded of a scene in the film the Matrix. I felt totally unplugged.

I also missed barbeque chicken wings, and lamb roasts. Who wouldn’t?

My Wins

The meal plan helped me to add variety to the menu. The bonus was when I discovered the wide range of products available in the vegan aisles and freezers in the supermarket. I felt like I could eat “normally” again by recreating a vegan version of any meal, including an English breakfast, if I fancied one.

In between meals I snacked on fruit (fresh or dried), corn nuts or vegetable crisps, instead of chocolate, sweets and crisps.

I guess my biggest win is now being able to make snacks from scratch for a fraction of the cost of buying the same product from the supermarket.

Another win was that I started my transition at the beginning of spring. It was the perfect time to enjoy meals consisting of generous servings of vegetables or vegetable based dishes. By the time temperatures started dropping again I was a seasoned vegan.

I am living proof that when you follow a meal plan you are less likely to spend money on things that are not good for you or that may end up in the bin.

How It’s Going So Far

What started as a challenge is now a way of life. I am healthier and stronger than I was before. Best of all, my way of eating helped reverse medical conditions that had become part of my identity.

Disclaimer:

You must not rely on the information in this article as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

Article originally published on Medium

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