Veganism is an awakening. Once you are ‘woke’, it is very difficult to go back to sleep. For nearly 24 years, I consumed all meat, dairy and egg products as if it were completely normal and that’s probably because it is completely normal in today’s society, and it certainly was in my childhood home.
Here I write about why it took me 12 months to fully embrace the vegan lifestyle, and how a High Carb Low Fat (HCLF) diet has changed my life for the better.
In April 2016, Craig and I first watched Cowspiracy on Netflix. The documentary, which explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, was truly eye-opening to me. I have always considered myself to be someone who cares about the environment. I was brought up in a very conscientious household; we recycled everything we could, conserved water and turned off lights. After all, as a good citizen of a developed country, that’s all we can do to combat the omnipresent beast that is climate change, right? Cowspiracy forced me to think again, and, six months into going gluten free for health reasons, I decided to ditch meat for the month.
However, things were never going to be simple for me. My digestive system is, and always has been, incredibly sensitive to change. In the summer of 2015, I had found relief in a gluten free diet, and in ‘Meat Free May’ in 2016, I longed for that relief. My mistake is clear to me now. I dove head first into vegetarianism, without taking into account the giant change this would have on the entire makeup of my being. This frightened me and I recoiled straight back to the comfort of consuming chicken and fish, a safe place in which I would remain for several months while Craig embraced the vegetarian lifestyle and thrived on the beans, lentils and soy which I assumed I would never be able to tolerate in my fragile state.
I want to add a bit of context here. I had never been a big consumer of milk, ever since childhood I turned my nose up at milk and yoghurt, in my adult life, I had been consuming milk alternatives for as long as I can remember. Cheese was my dairy crux and now I know that this was due to casomorphin, an addictive opioid compound which is formed in our stomachs when we consume dairy products. In fact, this is the exact effect which ensures calves return to their mothers for feeding. No wonder we’re salivating at the sight of that raclette video posted by Buzzfeed’s food arm Tasty – we’re addicted. As for eggs, never been a fan of those little critters either. That’s not to say I wouldn’t eat anything that contained eggs, of course, I just never chose to consume large quantities of the stuff for breakfast.
For me, it mostly came down to poultry and fish. Boy, I loved fish, especially shellfish. So, for me, learning to create meals that did not focus on these ingredients, while maintaining my own health, was a huge learning experience that took me 12 months to fully embrace. As an avid cook, I thrived on the challenge but my body did not, and it was only in October 2016 that I finally ditched the meat for good.
I continued to consume fish until March 2017, when we found ourselves watching Forks Over Knives, a documentary which explores the effects of animals products on the human body, with a particular focus on the onset of diabetes. By this stage, I was very close to veganism. Breakfast consisted of oats and almond milk, and I leaned towards salads and falafel for lunch, but it was the evenings where we’d gorge on halloumi or I’d have a tuna steak thinking I needed the protein.
I knew if I was going to go the whole hog, per say, I’d have to be very careful with introducing new foods into my diet. So, I focused on excluding non-plant based food, goodbye halloumi cheese, milk chocolate and frozen fish. The last few months of veganism have been rocky, working on a balance of carb and fat has been my main concern, as well as discovering problem foods and consuming an abundance of the right stuff.
I can safely say, it wasn’t until I discovered the High Carb Low Fat (HCLF) lifestyle, that I truly began to thrive. Inspired by Fork Over Knives, and new Netflix doc What The Health, I knew a whole food plant-based diet was the way to go. I could not risk falling into the trap of ‘junk food vegan’, where my digestion would suffer alongside my skin and my energy levels.
And that’s where I am now, consuming 60-70% of my calories from raw whole foods, usually throughout the day, then preparing a high quality, nutrient-rich meal on an evening with very little-to-no oil. I cannot believe how good I feel. Transitioning to HCLF is difficult at first, not because of the food you have to eat (that’s the easy part – who doesn’t love unlimited fresh fruit?!), but more because of the sheer amount. In order to get 2/3 of your daily calories from raw plant foods, you have to eat a LOT. I will probably do a ‘What I Eat in a Day’ video shortly to demonstrate the sheer quantity of food I consume on a daily basis, and how I manage to do so in a typical office job – unfortunately I’m not a hot yoga mama who lives on a Hawaiian beach just yet!
I think this post is long enough now, but in future I will be happy to go into more detail about meal prep, managing IBS-d through a raw food diet, and tips and tricks for anyone hoping to transition from omni to herbi. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below with any questions or thoughts!