My vegan journey is not that long yet, as I transitioned this year at the end of May. Basically two months I’m into this lifestyle and it is the best decision I have ever made so far.
Protein is important, mkay?
I was quite interested in this lifestyle before, as I liked vegan recipes, because of the all natural and whole food ingredients. The healthy and clean eating was my obsession since 2015, when we moved to England with my boyfriend. I have discovered the benefits of lifting weights and the high protein, healthy diet came along. You know, the typical ‘protein for the gains bro’ and ‘you have to lift those heavy ass weights to look lean and shredded as’. I was all into that. I’ve bought my first big box of supplements with the usual whey protein powder, because that has the best absorption rate, with the BCAAs, because you don’t want to be catabolic while you are not training them muscles, with creatine, because you want to gain even more muscles, which leads to eating bigger amounts of food, as the more muscle you have, the more you need to eat, with protein snacks, because protein.
All and all, I was obsessed, and the think of more food made me extremely excited. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat more on a daily basis? Also, if you work your butt of at the gym, you ‘deserve’ that food.
When I started to see changes in my body, I wanted to take everything one step further. After 6 months of weight training, I looked like Paige Hathaway. At least I thought so… I’ve had biceps, my abs started to show, my thighs were bigger and I lost some fat at the same time. Awesome! ‘Let’s restrict carbs and higher the protein intake, so all those gains will be bigger and all those fat would melt away! As I lift heavy, I don’t have to do cardio either, as my metabolism is so fast now!’. Yes, as it works just like that…
But I looked good though…
What happened was, I gained muscle, with some additional fat. I didn’t like the look, so I gradually started to restrict my calories. ‘Those stupid carbs, they are the problem.’ Fruits were not on the menu (they can make you fat, because they contain sugar…), but chicken, rice and broccoli with protein shakes were most likely the majority of my meals. I ended up eating 1300 calories, weight training 5-6 times per week next to my full time job, where I walk at least 10.000 steps a day. Needless to say, fogginess, slow thinking, fatigue and the feeling of love towards my bed was strong with this one. But I looked good though.
How can I take this passion even further? When I saw those YouTube videos with those athlete girls, who were prepping for their competition, and they were buying those jewelries, those sparkly bikinis, eating those plain small portions of meals with a big smile on their faces, and reading motivational quotes about never give up and never stop chasing your dreams and so on… Something has clicked in my head. That’s it! I can be just like them. Happy, healthy and sexy! All I need to do, is attend on a bikini fitness competition, and get into the fitness industry.
Something has changed
By this time (around 1,5 years into this #gymlife) my body has changed a lot, but not only for the good. I’ve looked lean and muscly, and have also lost my period. Three months after without period, I went to the doctor, made some tests, all the result seemed normal, and my doctor said, ‘don’t worry, as a lot of girl, who exercises hard loses their period, and getting it back eventually, just need to eat more’.
So I did that. It was my ‘bulking season’ before my competition prep, so had cheat days here and there. A month later my period came back. Happy days, my body has healed, let’s get into this bulking season for real now, which meant heavier and more intense training sessions 5-6 times per week. The next month my period didn’t come again. Oh well, it happened before, so no need to worry… (Seriously though…?)
You can check the story of my competition prep and how it ended here.
After three and a half months, my prep has ended, and I couldn’t make it to the stage.
I was so disappointed, as I’ve done everything how my coach has told me, and I was writing those motivational speeches and quotes under my Instagram pictures, and printed out encouraging posters, changed my phone background to a quote, drank those supplements, that fat burner with all the caffeine, so I should’ve had more energy and so on. My body and mind just couldn’t take it, training and diet wasn’t fun anymore.
But I looked good though.
Everything happens for a reason
Going through all of these changes and struggles I started to question things. Why those supplements are necessary for looking good? Why does my cupboard look like a pharmacy when I’m supposed to be healthy and fit? Why I don’t feel healthy and fit while I’m doing everything they suggest on the health websites? Does everyone feel sleepy and tired after midday every day even if they sleep 8-9 hours at night? Why is protein so important, but carbs are the enemy? Why do I have to make sure that my morning porridge or pancake has whey powder or egg whites in them?
All these questions and how bad I was constantly feeling and my disappointment in the health and fitness lifestyle made me think, that there must be a different way. So I’ve done my research. A lot of research.
This is how I’ve found Alisa Vitti’s Woman Code, which is about how to get your period back and regulate your hormones through your diet. First, you need to do a 4 day liver cleanse, then a 3 day ease back to normal cleanse and after that you can continue eating according to your monthly flow (obviously if you are a female). There is this list with all the foods you can eat at each cycle, and you can find recipes on Pinterest for them. If this is not enough, you can also purchase one of her programs, where she can help you to stay on track, but these programs are rather expensive.
I was really excited about this. I thought ‘That is exactly what I need. This woman knows her thing with hormones.’, so I started to do the cleansing program. Lots of veggies, green smoothies with even more veggies, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, legumes, ground flax seeds, lots of fruit, a couple of vegan days, and days when you eat fish only once, the rest of the day is plant based. Sounds good, because it is not the usual drink 4 juices and water a day.
No, it was proper food. However, I felt horrible and weak, because I was eating the usual restricted portion sizes. One apple, because of the sugar content… A half a cup of quinoa, because of the carbs… 80 grams of fish, because I don’t even know why.
At the end I didn’t even follow the 3 days of reverse cleanse, simply just had bigger portions and left out the giant green smoothie, because that was the most horrible think to drink, honestly. Later on I liked feeling so slight, and the fact that I was eating more food. (Still not enough though.)
I wanted to keep this feeling, but something was still not right. I was still afraid of food, had lots of bloating issues, lack of sleep and energy and so on.
At the first couple of days after the big cleanse I eliminated meat completely (although pork: I didn’t eat pork for 4 years, as it stank badly the last time I cooked it; beef: was never a big fan of it, because it is hard to chew, and fatty; chicken and turkey: I only ate these two all the time, because I thought they are the healthy ones, and they didn’t have that strong taste, although some of them stank legit like chicken farm). The only staple was canned tuna, sometimes fresh salmon and egg whites (because of protein… it is important, mkay?). I was afraid to lower my protein intake, and although I knew that too much fish is not suggested (because of the mercury in them) my way of thinking was ‘Chinese people eat a lot of fish and they considered the healthiest people on Earth. That mercury couldn’t be that bad… And protein though.’. And the funny thing is, that I don’t even like fish and I feel disgusted if I have to go close to them, and I’m even scared to touch them. The attachment to protein was really strong with this one.
So egg white in the porridge for breakfast, fish for lunch and dinner, and only half a scoop of whey protein per day, until I can buy veggie protein. Later on, I gave the whey powder to my boyfriend, and purchased vegan protein. But hang on a second! Egg whites in the porridge… Yes, it was that horrible as it sounds like. I heated up the porridge in the microwave with the egg whites, and sometimes I added a little flax meal as well. It tasted like raw bread dough, and the consistency was the same.
However I ate more vegetables, was experimenting with Buddha bowls and with legumes. I was basically a vegetarian. Finally, some good decisions.
The first week, I didn’t tell anyone. Only my boyfriend knew it, and he was skeptical about it: ‘This diet will last for a week for you, then you’ll get back to normal, I’m sure.’. I thought, maybe he is right. My friend said something about veganism a while back, and it was something like her vegan friend is being weak, and she wouldn’t recommend it for me. Even though I thought YOLO (You Only Live Once)! If it wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t, but deep down I knew that this is what my body needs.
The final straw
After a week of being vegetarian, I felt better. I was energized, didn’t have cramps in my belly, I didn’t want to face plant on my desk at work after twelve o’clock, the brain fog went away, my thoughts started to clear up and I was generally happier. I was eating more food than before which was a bonus. By the way, who doesn’t like to eat a lot?
All and all, everything was better, but I realized that I was still attached to the protein in the form of egg whites, fish and whey protein, so I was doing some further research. I’ve found Dr Greger’s website and looked up the facts about protein. I didn’t want to believe that such small amount is enough for humans. Can’t be right. I’ve checked his article about vegan bodybuilding. Still not convinced. I went over to YouTube, found Naturally Stefanie. Okay, but she literally eats the same as a non-vegan, just substitutes animal products with vegan ones (Not really, but the first impression was that for me, but in reality she eats loads and a lot different than a non-vegan person. She is also funny and I love her accent.). Later on I’ve found Tess Begg. Wow! That girl eats tons of fruit. Fruit for breakfast and for lunch as well? Smoothie bowl for pre- and post-workout as well? Eats avocado on toast then a big bowl of beans and potatoes for dinner? Honestly her diet seemed the strangest for me.
I was watching her videos for a while, then opened the description box and found some links. I clicked, I cried. Then cried more. Checked another video about carnism, carried on weeping. While crying, I opened a big bin bag and started to throw things in there: egg whites, cans of tuna, the rest of the whey protein, all the multi vitamins, fish oils, BCAAs, and glutamine. My cupboard was almost empty and then I realized how dependent I was. How desperately I wanted to be healthy while I was making myself weaker. I under ate and stuffed myself with supplements and vitamins. Focused on protein, although my carbs were around 130 grams and 180 grams on ‘high carb days’ and my fibre intake was maximum 30 grams a day. It is also crazy, that I considered counting calories and measuring every bite of food as a normal and healthy behaviour.
After throwing those things away, everything seemed clearer, but I still wasn’t sure how to eat as a vegan, so I kept doing my research and I’ve found Mic. the Vegan. He calmed me down with his video about how our body transforms on a vegan diet and about how you won’t die because of nutrient deficiencies on a vegan diet.
These things hit me hard, although I was still skeptical. This diet/lifestyle has to has a downside as well. I Googled, and found nothing. Can’t be true. Okay, YouTube, found Bonny Rebecca’s 5 reasons you shouldn’t go vegan. That’s it, I knew it! However, she couldn’t say any downsides, except you have to deal with possible social isolation if you go to a usual birthday party, or when you first transitioning to a vegan diet, and telling to your surroundings. But nothing about negative effects on health. Moreover, loads and loads of positive effects on health, other living beings and on the environment. All right, convinced, let’s do this!
In the first couple of weeks I was scared to tell about my veganism. I’ve introduced my new lifestyle to my friends and family slowly, one person per day, and I was so nervous every time I knew that it’s time to speak about this. I knew that people would think about it skeptical or they would think that this is another fad diet and I will make myself ill again (like after my competition prep).
At first my boyfriend thought, that it will last for a week, but now he is totally accepting it, and he is really supportive. My mum said that she doesn’t care what am I eating as long as I’m not going to make myself ill, but now she understands a lot more about veganism (because I’ve told her a lot about my researches), and my friends have got used to it already.
My health is much better now, I have more energy, I feel more creative and I want to exercise more. Food is no longer a treat, because it is fuel for my body, and it is the ticket for my health. After every meal I feel satiated and full, and honestly, I’ve never enjoyed food this much before. My weight is still the same, however I look slimmer, but am definitely stronger than ever (10 push-ups are still a struggle, but working on it haha).
Going vegan was the best decision in my life, and I wish that everybody would feel what I feel now. I would never go back to my old diet. Ever. Again.
Happy, healthy, energized, awakened.