I’ve done my fair share of experimenting with different diets and lifestyles. Not only did I experiment when I was obese, I’ve experimented along my plant-based path too. Here’s a brief recount of my journey, from my first vegan “diet” to where I am today.
The Beginning Dare
Oddly enough, transitioning into veganism wasn’t an ethical, environmental or healthy choice. It was somewhat random. In my freshmen year of college, I began ticking off bucket list items. First on the list was a Buffalo Wild Wings challenge. Oh boy, how naïve and stupid I used to be…
As I continued executing the list, my salivary glands begged for something bigger. I wanted a tougher challenge that’d take longer to accomplish. Can you guess what it was?
I challenged myself to go vegan for 6 months. I sprung the news on my family during a get-together for making Christmas goodies after Thanksgiving. They thought I was crazy, but they grudgingly tolerated my mission.
The Challenge: To go vegan for 6 months
As I would later learn, this is the first major hurdle to strive past – receiving acceptance from friends, family and peers. You’d think everyone would be supportive of a loved one wishing to become healthier, but apparently not.
And so it began…
The beginning was difficult. But was I expecting something easy?
It was, and still is, hard to find calorically-dense vegan meals at fast food restaurants
As a new uneducated vegan, my struggles amplified on a road trip. Talk about challenging. I was pretty hungry for the duration of the trip, because I ate lots of salads. It was, and still is, hard to find calorically-dense vegan meals at fast food restaurants.
Another reason it wasn’t pleasant was because I was detoxifying. Before I went vegan, I didn’t even know I could detox off of food. My most persistent symptom was headaches. But despite all of the challenges in the beginning, I stuck with it.
For the first 3-4 months, I ate pretty high fat. I poured Silk soymilk on my processed cereal topped with granola and a sliced banana every morning. I often added tofu to my stir-fries for lunch and supper. I ate tons of peanut butter. I slathered peanut butter on English muffins with jelly for lunch and on bananas for late night snacks.
Yet despite the high-fat vegan diet, I began to lose weight. Right before I left college I met Rob. This was going to be a defining moment in my life.
It’s difficult to generalize what I ate after I returned to my parent’s house after my first year of college. I just ended up eating a bunch of food they had around the house that happened to be vegan. I probably ate quite a bit of processed food during this time as well, but I ate less fat. Less peanut butter, no tofu and very few milk alternatives.
I learned more about nutrition and health when Rob and I started dating. I started making better decisions — conscious decisions — about food and cut down on the processed foods. My 6-month mark for being vegan came and went; I continued to eat vegan.
Rob introduced me to raw veganism. At the time that I met him, he was eating a diet consisting mainly of bananas. I was pretty intrigued to say the least, so I tried it in the beginning of July 2013 when I moved out of my parents’ house.
I ate banana smoothies for most breakfasts, lunches and dinners. In addition to a banana smoothie for dinner, I would also have raw zucchini pasta with Basil pesto. It was simple and would have been healthy had I not added salt and oil to the pesto.
Frustrations and Mistakes
I wasn’t very successful being 100% raw. I had a limited amount of cooked food at my parent’s house when I visited them from time to time.
A couple months later I moved back in with my parents. I attempted to eat as raw as I could, but I never ate fully raw. I couldn’t go over a week or two without eating something that was cooked or pre-cooked.
Moving back in with my parents meant that I had more money to spend on food, which resulted in buying more nuts and seeds. I was blind to all of the fat in my diet from the nuts, seeds and added oil. I wasn’t focusing on true health, I was focusing on raw. I thought the two were synonymous, but I would learn that lesson soon enough.
I was frustrated the scales weren’t budging. I thought I was eating healthy, a.k.a. raw. At last Rob got through to me that I was still eating a high fat, weight-loss preventing diet. In December 2013 I changed my focus and started a high carb, low fat cooked diet instead of a raw diet.
I still ate a lot of banana smoothies but ate cooked meals at night. I started to feel more satisfied with my meals as the cooked foods filled me up more. I was happier and eating was easier because there were a greater number of options available.
Finding My Rhythm
Rob and I started living together in Spain starting January 2014. We continued to focus on eating a high carb, low fat diet. It was mainly lots of fruit for breakfast and lunch and then some sort of starch for dinner, whether it was brown rice, beans or a wheat product.
At the end of March, we did a fruit cleanse during which we ate fully raw fruit for 14 days straight. After that, we did a starch week, eating the majority of our calories from starches like potatoes, rice and beans. Around May we started eating suppers more in line with the guidelines of Dr. Joel Fuhrman. This meant our dinners consisted of fewer starchy vegetables and grains and more legumes and salads.
After Rob left Spain at the end of May, I started to eat fruit for just breakfast and lentils and vegetables for both lunch and dinner. I ate this while I traveled Spain and Morocco in June and while I stayed with my family in the United States in July 2014.
I lost a little bit of weight from January 2014 through April 2014, but the Fuhrman diet made the greatest impact on my weight in 2014. The weight loss was most visible to me from May through July.
Look at Me Now
Both Rob and I are currently eating a high carb, low fat, whole foods diet that consists mainly of starches, so our diet is most like a lifestyle that Dr. John McDougall promotes. We eat a lot of rice, whole wheat and oats supplemented with legumes, vegetables and fresh fruit.
So, as you can see, I’ve experimented with a lot of different dietary lifestyles. While I definitely encourage a high carb, whole foods, plant-based lifestyle, there is no perfect way to do so. Choosing to eat fully raw, raw til 4, Fuhrman’s diet, McDougall’s diet or some sort of combination of these may make you feel your best. Your diet will not only depend upon what makes you feel best, but also what resources you have.
If you want to improve yourself through diet, don’t make excuses, make changes.
Rob and I would like to include more fruit, especially bananas, into our diet; unfortunately, we don’t have the necessary resources in order to do so. We do the best with what we have.
Staying healthy or simply improving your diet is never impossible. Even if you have limited options and resources, these factors are not excuses to eat unhealthily or delay betterment.
If you want to improve yourself through diet, don’t make excuses, make changes. Experiment. Find new foods and resources in your area and make better, healthier choices about the food you eat. Eating the same thing and wishing you were better is a lot worse than attempting something to improve yourself and finding out it doesn’t work. Falling down isn’t failing. Giving up is.