So as you know I've been on a vegan diet for the last few years and love it! I've felt so much happier emotionally, I've lost weight, my digestion has gotten on track, my skin has cleared, I've developed a connection with animals and my spirituality has become an important part of my life. Recently though, I felt like there were some changes I needed to make. I say 'need' because this was something that I didn't want to do at first.
I believe in veganism for ethical reasons, for sustainability reasons, for health reasons, however, I noticed the way I was restricting myself had spread to other food groups, like cutting out fruit (high sugar) and gluten (digestive upset). I was being overly restrictive to the point where it was effecting my well-being, physically and emotionally, and I needed to find balance. This naturally all came up as I was channeling a course for you all on how to be on a vegan diet and lifestyle!
I truly believe we're meant to teach the lessons we're supposed to learn for ourselves, and that's exactly what happened when I started making this course. In nutrition, education is definitely needed (from a reputable source, of course) and this is especially true with a vegan diet.
So in making this course, it shown a light on my own eating habits and what I do to stay healthy. What I realized was that I was being a little too healthy, to the point of being restrictive and ignoring my body's needs. There is a name for this condition called orthorexia, though I don't believe this fully applied to me, there are certain elements that resonated. And I was being restrictive without consulting a functional medicine doctor or naturopath for the foods that weren't animal based like the fruit and gluten. To me, that wasn't healthy.
I realized I was out of balance when I felt hungry no matter how much I ate. The same roasted vegetables, side of protein like tempeh and tofu, and starch like rice or noodles in a Buddha bowl I making were getting old, and I felt SO ravenous not because I wasn't full, but because I wasn't being satiated.
Food has a psychological component, which I never fully realized until this point. Emotionally and mentally, my body wanted more variety and to not feel limited. Physically, my body was asking for nutrients it wasn't getting. This is not to say at all that a vegan diet isn't nutritious, because they're certainly ways to do it correctly, for me though I was limiting myself. I would desire animal products, like some sushi or even whole grain pasta (I cut out gluten after I learned how hard it is on our gut).
But I pushed these desires down though, so far down until I couldn't access them at all. I forgot they existed until my body signaled to me through its' constant hunger that they were there. Restricting ourselves, even if it's to feel healthy, is a form of self-punishment.
I equated eating animal products with being 'bad' and eating plant based as being 'good,' for my identity. Now I understand that I can dip back in to the animal products my body wants every and once in a while and still eat vegan.
Here's what a modern plant-based diet can look like: having oatmeal with strawberries for breakfast, coconut milk yogurt for snack, almond milk in coffee or tea; toasted chickpea, carrot, and spinach wrap for lunch; then shrimp and zoodles for dinner. If I do have animal products, they will be humanely treated, organic and chemical/gmo free. Maybe some dark organic chocolate for dessert.
It's still plant-based! I tend to skew towards all or nothing thinking quickly - when there's actually a middle ground. Eating plants 80-90% of the time to me is still a vegan diet, in fact most people aren't on a 100% vegan exclusive diet. The first things I did to break out of the restriction habit were not so healthy: I had a Dove ice cream bar for one thing.
That's the thing humans do, we don't see the middle ground so we swing to extremes by going straight from the super healthy food to the junk food! I got that out of my system - and decided that doesn't mean I don't allow myself a treat every now and then. Next I incorporated baked wild caught salmon with panko and plant based butter, and I made a tofu Tikka masala where there was a small amount of milk in the prepared sauce.
Trying different ethnic cuisines (which usually have animal products in them) got me out of the restriction rut. I feel so much more at ease around food now, and it's rippled out into the rest of the areas of my life. Did you know there's even a connection between food psychology and money psychology? The same habits apply to money, like people with debt that don't allow themselves to spend anything that would bring them joy. It's still being restrictive!
Through this experience I believe it can also come down to where we're getting our self worth from. If it's from an outside source, such as being identified as a vegan, then we'll act in these ways even if they don't honor our 'true' selves. I learned this from the book Breaking Free from Codependency. When we fail to act in those 'perfect' ways, we end up feeling shame about ourselves.
I'm not going to lie, at first I had a lot of anxiety around letting go of my supposed 'control' over what I ate. When this came up for me I journaled about it, spoke to a trusted friend about it, cried, launched into new TV shows and movies I'd been wanting to see, and then I took the next steps of starting a 30 day cleanse with doTERRA, which involves detox with supplements and doesn't involve any restriction on diet except for refined sugar and processed foods.
Now I'm practicing intuitive eating and living, which is basically listening to what my body needs to be healthy. It sounds crazy but our bodies truly know what's best for us. This also is a non-diet which means no restriction and a healthy relationship with food. In the future I plan to meet with an intuitive nutritionist to muscle test what foods actually do cause imbalance in my body and I'll work to eliminate them based on actual personalized information.
This doesn't mean I don't stop supporting the environment and doing my part to not make any purchase decisions that contribute to animal cruelty. If you've watched any of the vegan documentaries (Forks Over Knives and What the Health were the most compelling for me!), they make a very clear case for how we're destroying the earth, our own health, and the well-being of animals lives through commercial agriculture.
I still don't purchase any animal based products like those found in clothing, makeup, personal care items or leather items. Again though, the documentaries make the case for only being vegan (seemingly 100% of the time), and I do believe that some direction should be provided on how to consume meat in the most humane manner: such as from farms that don't use chemicals, have sustainable farming practices, and have habitable living conditions for animals, as options for when going vegan isn't possible.
The focus for me now is feeling healthy, detoxifying, finding joy in the little things, creating good habits, exercising and eating to feel good: not to lose weight. Breaking out of the diet culture mindset we have in society has been a huge part of this!
I hope this helps you feel better about adopting a plant based lifestyle or finding balance in your own current wellness lifestyle habits! I'm grateful to share this journey with you and this plant based lifestyle course with you soon, it will be all about transitioning to a plant based lifestyle, the balanced way. It really is a mindset and way of being that I'm learning, and what it all comes down to, is about loving ourselves.
My plant-based balance lifestyle guide online course is now live!! Click to enroll here: https://www.guidetowholenesshealing.com/courses