finding a nutrition lifestyle
I really dislike labels and I dislike being labelled myself. I found writing my bio quite difficult as I don't see myself "just" as a mum, or a lawyer, or a blogger. I am all of these things of course, but so much more. I am also an avid reader and book collector (okay, maybe hoarder - I'm working on it), Beyonce fan (who isn't?), skincare junkie, loyal friend, advocate for awareness of congenital heart disease, tea enthusiast, plant lover, latent dippy hippy, proponent of empowering women, style follower, pilates evangelist and collector of sunglasses. This also applies to nutrition. People often ask me "what are you"? Am I vegetarian? Pescatarian? Vegan? Am I "Paleo"? All I know is that I am in a good place nutritionally right now. Before I really started focusing on my health, and therefore my diet, at the beginning of this year, I felt drained and low in energy, my skin was congested and I felt foggy, I had frequent headaches and joint pain, I had a terrible memory and I felt generally weak and strung out. This had been the case for a year or so and it was only going to get worse. Having eaten an incredible amount of cheese (an English tradition) over Christmas, I realised that I needed to make some changes if I was going to make myself better. Although I never really do new years resolutions, the beginning of the year seemed like a great time to start afresh with my nutrition, as well as all the other things I was working on as part of my "bliss project" (see previous posts). As mentioned, I don't really "do" diets as such but I began to think about the changes I wanted to see and how I wanted to feel. Also, since I was studying nutrition, I was learning a great deal about different dietary theories and my nutrition school encourages experimenting with different dietary approaches to discover what works on an individual basis. We are all so different and one approach may not be right for the next person for various reasons.
I had kicked around the idea of giving up dairy products for a while and my instinct was that I would do better without dairy. I had already stopped ordering dairy milk lattes sometime before, but I switched from soy to almond milk, I stopped eating cheese cold turkey and reluctantly gave up yoghurt. Bear in mind that if a doctor had said a year ago that I shouldn't have dairy products for a week because I was congested, I would have been devastated. So it wasn't an easy decision.
I had also been uneasy for some time about meat. I had watched all but the most gruesome documentaries on the meat and dairy industries and the idea of ingesting meat potentially laden with all sorts of hormones and chemicals became unpalatable for me. As well as the numerous animal welfare, ethical and environmental reasons for supporting the vegan movement, I was persuaded that perhaps meat wasn't the most healthy choice for me. So as well as giving up dairy products, I have not eaten meat since mid January of this year.
I have to be honest, the transition to a mainly plant based diet has not been too difficult for me. I have found so many great sources for vegan recipes and, as time has gone on, am much more confident in whipping up a quick vegan supper. I have found my palate has changed quite a bit so that instead of a good cheddar I actually really crave the sweetness of butternut squash or the earthy taste of rainbow chard (yes, really). I do still eat modest amounts of fish and plenty of eggs because I like to have a variety of protein. I had a bit of adjustment initially because I found I was quite hungry to start with but this was resolved when I worked out that if I had some form of protein with every meal (rather than, say, just with dinner) I stayed satiated. I also realised fairly early on that there is A LOT of vegan junk food around, so it pays to be mindful of this and I try to focus in on unprocessed or minimally processed real food.
And I feel so good. My skin has cleared up, my eyes are brighter, the fog in my brain has lifted, I rarely get headaches or joint pain and my energy levels are so much better. Don't get me wrong. I am no angel and I struggle with sugar cravings. I eat quite a bit of vegan ice cream and chocolate. I still drink a bit of alcohol socially even though even small amounts can make me feel drained and tired. But there is something joyful about sitting with a friend and enjoying a cold, crisp glass of wine or bubbly. And I think we all need these small moments of joy in our lives.
My nutrition lifestyle continues to be a work in progress. Obviously, there are challenges with avoiding whole categories of food and I don't rule out making adjustments to suit my health later on. However, for now, I feel like I am truly thriving and I want to hold onto this feeling of nourishment!
I would be happy in later posts to describe in more detail how I transitioned away from meat and dairy in a more practical sense. Let me know if you would be interested! I would also love to hear about your experiences.
Photo by @lusticlife.