From skin care to immunity, how small dietary changes can impact your mental health and physical well-being.
A little write up on vegan-ism and a few lifestyle changes I have implemented since returning home. A very honest review of the challenges I have faced, adapting to reality, starting a business, trying to socialise, whilst keeping up the healthy habits and daily yoga!
By the end of my time away I felt ready to return home and stop living out of a backpack. I was excited to hear everyone’s news, see the changes back home, catch up with friends, visit the guy I had been dating, and start up my new business venture. However, it didn’t take long before it dawned on me that everything was exactly as I left it. The World I escaped from seemed all too familiar. There was no particular change.
The guy I was dating called it off after one week, my flat was cold, the weather was grey, I didn’t know where to start on creating my new life that I had been so excited about. All the self-confidence, enthusiasm and love I had gained from my Yoga teacher-training and solo-travels, rapidly started to evaporate. I noticed a shift in my presence, not noticeable to others, but this sociable, outgoing person I knew, rapidly withdrew herself from big social occasions, seeing best friends, dating, training, even cleaning the flat. I felt a little out of place.
From the moment I returned home to this day, I have been very busy setting up my new business venture which I am extremely proud of. I have been given a wonderful opportunity and I am doing the job I have always dreamt of. So, why did I still have the post-holiday blues?
I decided to visit a psycho-therapist to help me combat these feelings of anxiety and loss of self-esteem. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I have everything I need to be happy. I almost felt selfish, that I was complaining about the most insignificant little details. I realised that I am so lucky and I should be grateful.
Through conversation and self-reflection, she led me to make the following lifestyle habits:
Refrain from alcohol and caffeine. Whilst I was in India, I had no choice but to decrease my alcohol and caffeine in-take and, guess what, I survived! Before leaving, whenever I had a spare five minutes at work I would instantly boil the kettle to make the next cup of tea. When it reached Friday, I was the first person opening the bottle of Prosecco. This became a habit but not an enjoyment. I have now been four-weeks caffeine free and I limit my drinking to one night, and only if it is with other people.
Review my social network. Interact with people who make me feel good about myself. Give time to those who, if they can, will give the same time back to me. To associate myself with people who are honest, non-judgmental or critical. As a result, I have built some great new friendships and returned to some old ones. I have also built my network of thirty-something single, independent women, whom I can relate to and learn off.
Eat more fruit and vegetables – avoid sugar, dairy and meat. I must admit I was mostly vegetarian before I went away. Since the strict dietary regime of my teacher-training, I noticed a change in my physical body. I felt leaner and lighter. Vegan food is so innovative these days that this was an easy change and I talk more about it below.
Return to my passion – kickboxing. It was unfortunate that my kickboxing took a back seat, but I am now fortunate to be training with one of the kindest, most experienced and talented instructors around.
To delete all the dating apps! To be patient – I have so much on my plate with work, friends, family, sorting out my flat and general lifestyle chores. To be content in what I already have without searching for more.
To stop putting myself down. When someone breaks up with you, stops messaging you or doesn’t want to see you, especially with little explanation, it is easy to doubt yourself. No matter how little or large you liked them, you wonder, why did he not like me? Is it something about the way I look, the way I behave, my voice, my figure. You spiral down a path of self-judgment. This is hard, but you have to realise your self-worth and know that you deserve better.
The life-changing benefits of becoming a vegan:
More and more people are deciding to become vegan and some people refer to it as a trend. However, the changes I have felt and the research I have read, cannot be disputed. I believe this lifestyle choice has enabled me to feel happier and healthier. I do not put a label on it and I am not strict about it, but 90 per cent of the time veganism is a conscious choice that I make.
Nutritonal value. Several studies suggest that vegan diets generally contain more fibre, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, C and E, and less fatty contents. Vegan diets are packed full of essential nutrients, and if we are maintaining our protein intake (nuts, seeds, grains and legumes) we aid our metabolism to keep our muscles, skin and organs healthy. We gain iron from beans, broccoli, raisins, wheat and tofu which is crucial in creating red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.
Our moods. Research has revealed that vegans may be happier than meat eaters. It was discovered that vegans and vegetarians had lower scores on depression tests and mood profiles compared to meat and fish eaters. There is an element of freshness to most plant-based dishes, especially when it is organic – so this may purify our minds to keep our thoughts positive!
Disease prevention. Vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat which can reduce heart disease risk. Research has shown that vegans and vegetarians suffer from fewer diseases caused by a modern western diet.
Weight loss. Vegans typically weigh less as a result of a diet comprised of fewer calories in the form of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. Vegetarians are generally more aware of healthy food choices and tend to eat better. Chocolate is replaced with raw cacao, and diary is replaced by nutrient rich milk alternatives. I must admit this is the leanest and lightest I have felt in a long time, and I do not feel the need to exercise excessively to keep my weight down.
Improving athletic performance. While most active individuals focus on protein intake, more and more athletes now follow a high-carbohydrate, good fat, vitamin and mineral rich vegetarian diet for sports performance. The Williams sisters admitted they had turned vegan in 2011.
Our skin. The extra vitamin C and consequent collagen contributes to this.
Protecting the environment. A plant-based diet is better for the planet (something I am very passionate about) as it requires much less energy and farmland to feed a vegan. The production of meat and animal products places a heavy burden on the environment, from crops and water required to feed the animals, to transport and other mechanical processes required to farm. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. We need to protect our planet, it is the only one we have!
Balancing hormones. Hormones such as oestrogen can be responsible for causing breast cancer if too excessive. A study found levels of oestrogen can be increased by animal fats. Vegans have significantly lower oestrogen levels than non-vegans, in part because of the lower fat content in their diet.
I am not telling anyone to become a vegan, nor trying to implement a dramatic lifestyle change on anyone. However, I can vouch for all of the points above; I feel my change in diet has helped me to combat the holiday blues, feel leaner, improve my skin condition and help towards a more sustainable World, which in turn makes me feel better about myself!
Here are some of the healthy, vegan, balanced, sugar free meals I have indulged in, and you wouldn’t know the difference!