It takes an average of 21 days to make or break a habit (depending on the habit) and I do remember the first 21 days being some of the most difficult. But before I dive in to my experiences over the past year, let’s take a look back at why I started.
How It Happened
To summarize what I outlined in Accidentally Vegetarian (little did I know at the time that I actually meant Vegan):
I had decided and truly thought in my past that I couldn’t ever become vegetarian, let alone vegan! I was a hard-core carnivore; I loved chicken and fish but most of all it was red meat that I adored. I would go out for dinner with friends and family and order steak and potatoes, only my steak had to be done “blue rare.” For those who are unfamiliar with this fairly uncommon term, it basically means the meat is seared on both sides and served…it’s not on the grill long enough to even heat all the way through so the middle is not only mostly raw, but still cold. Yeah – you read that right; I wasn’t kidding when I said “hard-core carnivore.”
So how does a person go from a diet like that to being completely vegan? When your body no longer gives you the choice.
I had been sick pretty consistently at the beginning of 2015 with flus and never-ending stomach issues. It had gotten to its worst around the end of March and I was visiting my doctor just about every week. After blood tests, allergy tests, and *ahem* other tests there still wasn’t an answer for what was causing the issues. My skin was dreadful with eczema and spontaneous acne, and my mood and mental health were suffering at the hand of whatever it was that I was dealing with. Beyond that though and what caused me the most grief were my digestive issues. It had gotten to the point where I could barely eat so I stopped trying to eat at all (NOT a healthy way to deal with things but at the time I believed it was my best and only option).
Admittedly the stress of work and personal life probably didn’t help and could have played a significant role in my internal distress but clearly something needed to change.
I started paying careful attention to how my body reacted to certain foods and committed to eliminating them from my diet. Long story short (ish)…what I was left with was fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Translated: a vegan diet.
One Year Later
It makes me a touch emotional to think that it’s been a year; for me this is a huge accomplishment. Such a dramatic, personal lifestyle change and move towards a healthier and ultimately happier me.
I’m not typically known for finishing projects unless they’re work related, but I supposed somewhere in me I knew that this wasn’t just a project and it wasn’t really temporary. I needed a serious and drastic change to save myself further pain. So here I am, one year later and while I’ll admit, I do still have the occasional craving, I don’t see myself reverting back, possibly ever.
The Changes I’ve Seen
I don’t desire to be “that vegan” who preaches their lifestyle onto others; I understand that it’s not a lifestyle fit for everyone and each individual’s needs are different. That being said, these are some of the changes I’ve seen in myself!
- Within 2-3 months of committing to being vegan, I had lost almost 30lbs and a dress size due to decreased internal inflammation and water weight that my body was clinging to
- My skin cleared up! My eczema is pretty much non-existent and acne breakouts are minimal
- I still struggle at times with mental health and I suspect I always will, but my bad days aren’t nearly as bad as they were before
- I sleep better, I still toss and turn a bit but I sleep deeper and feel more rested when I wake
- I have more energy. Not everyday and it does come and go but overall I don’t feel nearly as sluggish and fatigued as I did before
While I don’t always notice the changes in myself, friends and family have pointed out on several occasions that my appearance is different from what it used to be.
What I’ve Learned
I believe the most important lesson that I’ve learned over the past year is to listen to your body and be honest with yourself about what it’s saying. It’s smart and more aware of its internal ‘goings on’ so be patient with yourself and honour your body’s requests. To hell with our society’s beauty standards (that goes for the guys too!) and just do what feels right for you! The same beliefs, values, standards, sizes, diets, and moulds aren’t meant for everyone – we aren’t carbon copies of each other so what works for me may not work for you. Stay true to yourself and focus on you!
These Are a Few of My Favourite Things
Here are some of my favourite resources, recipes, and food! Please note that I haven’t been paid or given samples as incentive, all of these are places/things that I’ve tried and quickly fell in love with!
YamChops Vegetarian Butcher in Toronto. Yes it’s a butcher shop of only vegetarian ‘meats’ and you may have seen them on Dragons Den! I ordered a whole bunch of stuff and of the things I’ve tried so far I have not at all been disappointed! The black bean veggie burgers and caesar dressing are hands-down my favourite items though!
Thrive Energy Bar in Waterloo – also has a cookbook – has been my saving grace! New job, new place, don’t know the city but Thrive had all I needed and everything I craved. From quesadillas that were to die for (and the perfect light summer lunch) to incredible smoothies and their newest feature, the firecracker mac & cheese, there’s always something to please my hungry tummy.
Democracy on Locke in Hamilton. This little gem has the coziest atmosphere and the most delicious menu! I’ve had donuts, cauliflower ‘wings, and my fav: the mac and cheez. All of which are vegan and just scrumptious. If you’re ever in Hamilton I highly recommend stopping by!
Chimes Ginger Chews. Even though changing to a vegan diet has helped my digestive issues, I still have days when I over-indulge or I’m just feeling a bit off. Ginger is great for the stomach and these yummy little ginger chews are not only vegan but they come in a bunch of different flavours and are super handy to keep in your purse or car for those time when your stomach needs something to settle it, or even if you’re craving something sweet!
BeRaw Chocolate – in 7 divine Chakra flavors
Daiya – vegan cheese, cheesecake, cream cheese and all things ‘dairy’ that you’ve been missing.
– Oh She Glows honestly has so many that have become staples. The Tex Mex Casserole is incredible and her overnight breakfast oats (and thumbprint cookies) are to die for!
– Thug Kitchen, while I haven’t been able to do the recipe justice, the roasted sriratcha cauliflower and peanut dipping sauce is the perfect snack if you’re craving some good ol’ fashioned chicken wings!
– Blueberry muffins, these little beauties are more like cupcakes than muffins but packed full of good ingredients so you can indulge without too much guilt.
– Green Pea Pesto: for new vegans or anyone looking to get a little extra protein in their diet, green peas are loaded! This recipe for green pea pesto tastes like MORE but it’s got a nutritional kick that packs a punch!
Stay tuned for future posts as I’ll likely be posting more of my favourite recipes as we start getting into the summer weather. You can LIKE my Facebook page so you don’t miss a post!
Until next time!