Eating well has always been important to me. Growing up in a household where rice & veggies, dhal & chapatis, and big bowls of salad were standard fare, meant these were the foods I naturally enjoyed. After the rebellion of the teenage years had passed (during which I ate all the bad things), I returned to the food I grew up with, and this included plenty of fruits & vegetables.
So when Michael Pollen came along in the early 2000’s and told us to ‘eat food, mostly plants,' I was already on track, following a vegetarian diet that was, in fact, mostly plants, but also included eggs and some dairy (I didn’t drink milk, but did eat cheese, butter and yoghurt).
When I got curious about going 100% plant-based, spurred on by documentaries like Cowspiracy and What the Health, I decided to give it a go, not really expecting to notice a big change. After all, I wasn’t changing my diet that much, just dropping out eggs and dairy. How wrong I was! The benefits of a plant based diet were even evident with just a few small changes.
1. Excess weight melted away
The first change I noticed going plant based was hunger. My appetite geared up and I was ravenous! Never one to deny myself the opportunity to eat delicious food, I ate to my appetite's content, and filled myself up with plant based goodness, eating as much and as often as I wanted.
Much to my surprise, the 5 or so extra kilos that had begun to make themselves comfortable around my midsection when I hit my forties began to melt away, taking me back to the weight I naturally was throughout my twenties, with no change in exercise at all. I thought middle-aged spread was a thing, and had accepted it as a normal part of getting older. Apparently it doesn’t have to be.
2. Exercise became easier
Once I was eating 100% plant based, I noticed that the way my body responded to exercise changed. I’ve never been one to push the limits too hard as far as exercise was concerned, preferring hilly walks with friends and the relaxation of yoga to sweating it out at the gym. But after changing my diet I noticed that my body seemed to relish exercise in a way that it hadn’t before. Everything felt easier, and I recovered from exertion more quickly.
Looking into it a little further, I discovered that there’s good reason for this. Animal products such as eggs and dairy increase inflammation in the body, slowing exercise recovery time. Removing them and eating even more plant foods meant less inflammation, leading to faster recovery. In addition, the high antioxidant quality of plant foods combats the oxidative stress caused by exercise, also contributing to faster recovery.
And without all the saturated fat I was getting from eggs & dairy clogging up my vascular system, my blood was able to flow freely, taking oxygen everywhere it was needed. My muscles would feel tired when I worked hard, but I felt way less puffed out.
3. More energy
Although my energy levels were pretty good before, they stepped up another notch on a completely plant based diet. My teenage daughter, on the other hand (who went plant based with me) went from bouncy to bouncing off the walls!
4. Clearer skin
I was one of those unlucky people who was always prone to acne and breakouts. Even when my skin was free from breakouts, it still often felt congested and was a part of my appearance that I was never happy with. Once I went completely plant-based my skin responded by becoming clear and breakout free all the time. If only I had known that in my teens!
5. A clearer conscience
Since the 1990’s when David Suzuki first taught us about the gravity of our responsibility for the environment, I’ve made making ethical food choices a priority, choosing seasonal, local, preferably organic produce over products with high food miles and unsustainable farming practices. And I was vegetarian, so I was doing the right thing in that respect, or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I had stopped consuming dairy products, however, that I would fully comprehend the cruelty of the dairy industry, from the removal of calves from their mothers to the continued forced impregnation of cows to keep them lactating. Before then, I’d looked the other way, without even realising that I was. This was a revelation to me, as I became aware that I’d conveniently glossed over these facts because, well, cheese is delicious. It was an awakening moment for me, illustrating how just clever our minds are at justifying our choices to ourselves.
If you feel tempted to experience the benefits of a plant based diet for yourself, set out with a curious mind, noticing the changes that occur, and sensing what’s right for you. Listen to your body, feeding it nourishing food when it’s hungry and observe how it responds to this new way of eating. If it’s anything like my experience, you’ll love it and never look back.
If you'd like some support transitioning to a plant-based diet, or with improving your overall wellness and vitality, I'm here to help. You can find out more about how I can support you here.