When people go vegan, but do not feel the health benefits, I am devastated. Your health should improve when you cut out animal products and if not: I hope this article helps you.
If you are really wanting to THRIVE and succeed on this lifestyle - I beg you to take your diet seriously.
Of course, human beings can survive on anything. We can digest white, refined carbohydrates, we can digest deep-fried crap, we can even digest dead animals. I know I can digest cardboard and cockroaches (thank you childhood).
But, we do not want to just survive, do we? We want to THRIVE.
We want an abundance of energy that makes us burst out of bed and be a bright, shinning person for everyone around us. We want to feel present in our jobs, we want to be able to exercise, we want to be able to think clearly and brilliantly, but most of all: we want to FEEL GOOD.
It's incredible the role that food plays. Good food does have the power to make you FEEL good. Bad food absolutely has the power to make you feel lousy. There are various factors to wellness, but food is an enormous part. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, what you absorb. Your body is a machine and it will only be as powerful and smooth as the fuel you put in.
When people go vegan, they are likely to panic a little, do some googling, read a lot of conflicting articles with lots of different information and get confused. Then they may settle on - if it doesn't have an animal product: let's eat it!
This isn't a bad place to start. Begin by eliminating the animal products.
The next stage for many people is experimenting with fun vegan replacements (all the fake stuff). The fake cheeses, meats, giant vegan sub sandwiches, vegan desserts.... ice cream! Don't get me wrong, this stuff has a place in my life and I love a vegan desert now and then, but if these are making up the bulk of your diet, start examining your energy levels and where most of your nutrients are coming from.
You know where this is headed (I'm a broken record) the emphasis for everyone, vegan or not, should be WHOLE FOODS. That is fresh, ripe, organic, wholesome fruits and vegetables. They are the star, the leading lady, the hero of all meals. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain nearly EVERYTHING you need to be happy, healthy and thriving. I didn't believe this for a long time, but like with anything we naturally rebel against, you get a bit afraid of the truth. Fruits and vegetables are all my body requires to function? But when will I eat cake and sandwiches? NOOO! We must need to eat bread!
You can eat bread, of course you can (I do!) but make the hero of most of your meals fresh fruits and vegetables. And guess what? You'll be bloody ace. Imagine if everything you put into your body gave you something? If every morsel of food had a purpose? A nutrient? A protein? A mineral?
The majority of peoples diets are highly acidic (high in animal products, refined carbohydrates, sodas, sugar, processed crap, caffeine) meaning their bodies are working hard to digest these foods and function in spite of them. Food is meant to HELP your body... help it repair cells, rejuvenate.... thrive. Try flipping the ratio to beneficial foods and notice how your energy levels soar.
When you want to succeed and thrive - the best thing to do is look at the people getting the results you want. Who are the people that look the way you want to look? But also have the energy you want? The lifestyle you respect? BUT, make sure they aren't a con-artist. The most comical thing about a lot of fad diets (and the diet industry in general) is that so many "experts" and "gurus" are actually quite overweight or unhealthy.
Look at people who are genuinely succeeding. People who live this way all year around. People who are honest, bright, thriving and happy. In the vegan world, there are some who I respect above all others. They are healthy LONG TERM and, (funnily enough!) a lot of their advice overlaps. Funny that, isn't it?
Matt Frazier (The "No Meat Athlete"), Colin Campbell (The China Study) Dr Neal Barnard (Author of various books on reversing Diabetes), Harley Johnston ("DurianRider", ace vegan athlete and health activist) John McDougall MD (The McDougall Plan, Forks Over Knives) and many others including my beloved "Skinny Bitch" ladies all are remarkably healthy, happy long-term vegans who have a lot of the same advice.
So, where are the areas they all agree on? And the areas I KNOW have helped me thrive?
YES!! You heard me!! I said the blasphemous words!!
HIGH CARB HIGH CARB HIGH CARB!!! Get Carbs in ya!! (or as DurianRider says: Carb the Fuck Up!)
Nothing terrifies me more than hearing about "low carb" diets. Carbohydrates are literally energy. What your body RUNS on. Which is why they get a bad "rep", as it's easy to just call them "sugar" and if you stop eating them (like the Atkins diet) your body will start to eat itself and yes, you'll definitely lose weight. But at what cost? And how sustainable is that? Do you want to be a skinny zombie?!?! Or would you rather be a skinny ninja? Carbs can make you skinny too, ladies. I promise.
I am coming from my own experience, but also would only pass on information that was well-researched and based people who are THRIVING . When I started trying to get healthy, I listened to any kind of "popular" advice, so thought I had to eat less (around 1200 calories a day) and cut carbohydrates out. I started to lose weight (fucking up my metabolism in the process), but was I anywhere near as happy as I am now? God, no. Going high-carb (and eating healthy food till I feel satisfied) is the most liberating feeling.
Do not put white bread and a potato in the same category. Please. The experts are far better at explaining than I, (video below!) but guess what? The "experts" that are THRIVING are eating carbohydrates! They are not doing a quick fix cleanse or just going vegan for their photo shoot next week. They are long term, thriving vegans who eliminated animal products for health purposes, many coming from biological or scientific backgrounds and they eat fucking potatoes. Eat potatoes.
Obviously, we are talking about GOOD carbohydrates. Fruits and Vegetables are all in the "carbohydrate" family!
Bananas are a carbohydrate. If anyone tells you to be wary of eating bananas - shove one up their A**. Bananas are packed full of nutrition and GIVE YOU ENERGY. Do you want to be a zombie wafting through life?
And... enjoy the "controversy" of one of my favorite people alive (I haven't ever met).
Oil is not going to kill you... but it is not going to help you thrive. I'm sorry people. I do still use oil, but I use it sparingly and do no longer drown my salads in it or use a butt-load to fry onion.
Being aware of how much oil and "fat" I was consuming made a HUGE difference in my figure and energy. I hate saying things like "low fat" because it sounds faddy and weird... but genuinely, be aware that oil is 100% a refined food that has no real place in nature or our bodies. The "nutrion" many claim comes from oil is pretty easy to debunk and is far easier digested just from a real olive. Or from a real coconut. Or from real seeds.
See what I mean?
Use it if you want to - life is for living and olive oil is delicious - but just be aware. Little things like this can honestly make the difference between your vegan diet working for you and not. Examine how much oil and fats you are eating (vegan butters... nut butters.... dressings... sauces....) and see if you can cut back anywhere. Replace fatty dressings with blended tomato dressings or just have a bit less. See if your energy improves :)
Eat when you're hungry.
Stop when you're full.
You can eat A LOT of "good food" guilt free, before you'll be full. It's bloody satisfying and you feel almost glutenous.
DurianRider says "go to bed like Buddha, wake up like Gandhi".
Picture above is one of my favorites! Zucchini noodles (made with a spiralizer) cherry tomatoes and a lemon Tahini sauce served on a bed of spinach.
Check out the full recipe here on Vilda Magazine.
It's Not Just about Food....
What goes into making us happy is so much more than just the food on our plate.
Logically, most people know this - but it's good to be reminded now and then. Loved ones, getting outside in the sunshine, moving our bodies, fulfillment from our creative minds, our professional minds.... it all counts.
Food will help. It will help us be the best, but focus on all the elements of "wellness".
Understand Veganism - KNOW IT WILL WORK!!
The power of positive thinking people! If you believe this will be a fantastic change in your life - IT WILL BE!! If you let every meat-eater get into your mind and challenge you and threaten your opinion - you will probably panic and let their opinion change yours. Do as much research as you can - understand veganism - believe in it :)
To finish off - here is a brilliant article I just found on Happy Herbivore (a great resource site - though I don't know if you need to invest in any of their cleanses) that may explain things better than I can!
Love and Sweet Potatoes :) xxxx
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