The Vegan Journey Series: Making Radical Changes Easily

Salads at the Four Seasons
My, what a big bold claim! Easy and radical in one little phrase? There should be nothing easy about radical. A radical change should require extremely hard work and sweat and only those prepared for such a grueling path should even consider it. And going vegan is not only radical, it is anything but easy for those of you who eat a normal diet and have certain unbreakable bonds with your foods. Right?

Nope. Sorry. Wrong. Incorrect. Time to reconsider old answers and seek new truths.

Just as subtle changes can be surprisingly difficult, radical changes can settle into your life and fit you like a glove that’s been waiting for you all its life, but only if you have the right mindset and approach, and if the choice is right for you. Opinions set such a poor tone to a challenge so beware of your ingrained opinions and preconceived notions. The truth about yourself will surprise you.

For sake of clarity, vegan means a diet consisting of no animal products so no meats, no fish, no dairy, and no eggs. If you call yourself a vegan, then that means you do not make exceptions. If you eat a mostly vegan diet, then you make some exceptions but you are not vegan.

Story-time with Promise of Relevance

I remember two years ago when a friend told me as a matter-of-factly that she was vegan, I was shocked. She immediately transformed before me from an average person to one of exceptional ability. How in the world does she do it? Does she have a personal chef? Can she be vegan long-term and still live the lifestyle of travel and social life and what about cravings? Does she not feel deprived of so much — oh so much — that one has to give up to comply with a vegan diet?

Eating super well has been an integral part of my life and the pursuit of health has been a border-line obsession for a long time but I never thought about making a change as radical as going vegan. I had tried a mostly vegetarian (sushi now and again) diet in 2006 after reading several books and particularly this one, which funny enough, I disliked a great deal, but on a vegetarian diet, I had only gained weight and felt worse. It may be worthwhile to note that it was also the most stressful time in my corporate career and stress can do strange things to a perfectly good body.

Come 2008, I woke up! I had to do things differently, I had to do something that worked for me. Little by little, I found a smarter lifestyle through green juicing and plenty of raw foods (affiliate), giving up coffee and starting on the Oolong journey, and weight training plus a cardio program on top of yoga. I still ate an occasional Persian meal — think lamb, red meat, plain yogurt, and of course, Basmati saffron rice – delicious sushi and sashimi dinners, and serious Indian food with no exceptions. Still, the weight began to shed, my beauty and confidence began to resurface and I found happiness again in my own skin.

So life was good and I felt fine until I started thinking about the radical notion of going vegan and thus, entertaining many interesting conversations with my family. Everyone expresses a natural concern when someone they love goes against the norm, but ironically, it is the norm itself that has always caused me concern!

Is a Vegan Choice even Right for You?

You know, I would never ever tell anyone to go vegan. I would only tell them why it was the right choice for me. This post is about making a radical change easily but I felt I needed to call it out – in case it was implied – that I am advocating a vegan diet for others. Quite simply put, it is absolutely not the right choice for many people for too many reasons to list here and there are many great choices of eating styles besides this one.

It is the vegan journey for now and next, it will be the raw vegan journey, thanks to the Raw Foods Rock (affiliate) inspiration!

If you are curious about a vegan diet, first answer these 9 questions openly. I think you can guess which ones match you better to a vegan lifestyle.

1. What is your reason and your goal to try a vegan diet?
2. How much do you love vegetables?
3. Do you take delight in discovering new vegetables, fruits, and legumes?
4. Are you or someone who cooks for you (!) open to trying new recipes?
5. Do you believe in the theory of getting true protein from animals and true calcium from dairy?
6. How much do you enjoy preparing food for yourself?
7. How flexible are you when the choice of eatery during social events presents challenge for you?
8. Is it important for you to eat the same style as your friends & family?
9. To what extent do you care about what others think of your decision(s)?

My Vegan Diet Disclaimers:

Before I go on, disclaimer #1: A vegan diet can be as unhealthy and bad for you as a poor standard non-vegan diet with meats and dairy. You can eat poorly enough on a vegan diet to experience plenty of weight-gain and unhappiness among other things. Vegan does not imply healthy. You have to insert the healthy explicitly in there! There are no magical short cuts to health and vegan is certainly not one of them.

And this leads nicely into disclaimer #2: I am not eating a vegan diet to save the animal kingdom or the planet earth — much as I love both – or drive a universal change in this world against meat consumption, cheese factories or the local McDonald’s. Those causes and similar thoughts may or may not motivate you for changing your diet (See question #1 above).

For me, this change stems from a proudly selfish desire to first fully meet my own needs. My diet has always been about finding the ideal, the most fitting and most youth-infusing, energy-enhancing way of eating and by God, I was going to discover it one of these days! I truly believe the ideal eating for my body creates the ultimate energy and power that then feeds into every other aspect of my life, hence completing the cycle of holistic health and rendering me at my best for the world.

What do you believe will lead to that type of holistic health for you?

How to Easily Make this Radical Change:

Vegan Diet — Part 1:

July 2010 is when I first decided to go vegan. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I told the whole world and stayed true to form for about a month to 6 weeks but I struggled emotionally. I felt deprived of the foods I had given up and the cravings were strong. I missed my plain Trader Joe’s yogurt, and my sashimi and it was torture to decline my husband’s chicken dishes and my Mom’s cooking. Restaurants were a nightmare because all I could see on the menu was all foods forbidden to me. And I became stressed and the urges were so strong that I decided to listen to my body.

Eating Krakauer Sausage in Berlin

Vegan Diet — Part 2:

Give those things worth pursuing at least two tries in life. I ate to my heart’s content until the end of 2010 — Berlin, as you can see, was unrestrained fun! Then on January 1st, I decided to give vegan another try.  Except this time, I took a new approach.

I wanted to master my reactions and control my thoughts without “being deprived”. Whereas my whole focus was on “managing that which I had deprived myself of” the first time around, this time it was all about the possibilities before me. Exploring the fascinating world of new foods, tapping into new sources of nutrition, unlocking new paths of energy, and giving a full chance to this way of eating.

Before going on this challenge on New Year’s Day, I made a pact with my body. I was going to listen to it if it made fair and healthy requests. If we were going to do this, we needed to be in it together; mind and body in unison all the way to the end. This go around, I refused to feel deprived. This time, it was about feeling fulfilled.

It was this mindset, this way of thinking, this approach to eating a vegan diet that made all the difference. Change can happen!

And guess what? I had a single craving in 100 days, which I fully satisfied – and I neither felt deprived nor experienced any strong urges to suppress. I feel and look fantastic. My medical doctor thinks I’ll live well into my 90s this way. So for now, you bet I am sticking to it. I do not proclaim a lifelong commitment but it works brilliantly for now.

What’s Coming in the Next Post:

I happen to be crazy about healthy, well-made, delicious vegan food. My eating style has been like so: Purely vegan with minimum processed foods, hardly any “fake” foods such as fake meats or cheeses, very little tofu, maximum raw foods, natural foods, legumes, grains, nuts, salads, green juices, green smoothies, and home-made meals, thanks to my personal chef. I have indulged in less healthy vegan foods at restaurants at times. So that story along with tons of easy vegan recipes are in part 2 of this series!

Until then, tell me, how are you eating these days?
And have you made a radical change with ease and grace in your life?

  • http://evolvingbeings.com Evita

    Hi Farnoosh!

    Thank you for writing about this! Oh there have been many a time I wanted to share this part of my personal journey and something always stopped me. So I loved coming here and sharing in your journey as though it was my own.

    My love for my health, the planet, the animals and all of humanity made me wake up and make some serious dietary changes back in October 2007…. I became vegetarian then, but as I continued to learn about the nasty health side of dairy (far from what we are told) that went… and then there came a day where there was no point of eating eggs. So somewhere from January 2009 I have been a vegan and very much agree with so much of what you shared above.

    I think if people are going to go this route they need to be serious about why they are doing it, falling back on vegan processed foods, such as imitation meats and such is definitely no better for ones health.

    Today, I have an insatiable love affair with fresh, raw fruits and vegetables which make up the bulk of my diet, and jeez do I ever feel amazing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually!

    Was it hard to go this route? Well, in truth, not really. It is hard to eat out, but that to me is not because of being vegan, but because our society does not cater to what “health” or “healthy” is really supposed to be. And in the end, nothing beats a self-prepared home cooked meal!

    All the best to you as you continue on this journey and thanks again for being a great example and sharing so openly!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Evita, you must write about your own journey – surely, it’s not like mine and look how excited and enthusiastic you are just talking about it. I would love to read how you have evolved and believe me, 2007 was a turning point year for me too but it took a while to finesse it all and arrive here. And I love your reasons, which clearly drive your passion and your eating habits and all of which in turn seem to work brilliantly for you. It’s wonderful to share this and see the replies and learn about the journey of others. Thanks for your thoughts but I still expect to hear your story on your site soon someday.

  • Sarah

    Thank you so much for this post. It reminded me of my unsuccessful attempts at both a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle. Your point about truly understanding why you are attempting radical change is really insightful. I think for me, I was attempted both lifestyles for weight loss purposes, so I was associated them with being a diet which is rarely a positive connection. I am currently rethinking my eating practices but for the right reasons this time and a healthy balance seems to be the key.

    Thank you again, I really like your blog.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Sarah, I have failed plenty – I mean plenty!- of times at my self-improvement habits before and you just never know the last attempt will be the one to work well so don’t give up if that is your goal but first, clarify the goal. I do call it “vegan diet” but I am not using the word diet in the sense that it is often used. I am using it just as a way of eating. And I wish you the best as you find your reason and then your right course and so happy you like the site here. Come back anytime!

  • http://devacoaching.com Sandi Amorim

    This is totally inspiring Farnoosh! I had a similar journey over 16 years ago when I became vegetarian. For the longest time I ate no meat at all. I now eat fish occasionally as it seemed to be what my body was calling for and after a chat with my doctor, she suggested upping my protein.

    The past while though, I have been wondering what it would take to become fully vegetarian and/or vegan. It seems a bit scary and challenging, and my husband is a committed carnivore so it also feels like more work as I’ll be cooking differently.

    And still? It seems to be calling to me. I’m looking forward to Part 2 to help me get through it!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      My dear Sandi, I totally understand the changes even after 16 years. I have no idea how long I may stay this way. Last night was particularly hard for a second time when I went to my mom/dad’s dinner party. If my body starts to crave or seriously ask for certain foods, I may very well listen. But the simple idea of protein coming from animals, my medical doc who treats athletes and hockey players (big burly guys, I hear) has never mentioned a protein concern about a vegan diet so I think it’s worth exploring but then again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with fish. I loved fish. As for the challenge with living at home, it’s been interesting because Andy is my chef, not just my husband :) I’ve been lucky; he eats what he wants but he loves vegan food so he cooks it. Part 2 coming soon!

  • http://www.givelovecreatehappiness.com/blog.html Wendy Irene

    I am really interested in learning more about your Vegan journey! It so interesting to me.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Wendy, thanks for your comment and glad you are enjoying the topic here.

  • http://ahealthypassion.com kate@ahealthypassion

    Thanks for sharing your journey I cannot wait to read more, I recently went from vegetarian to vegan over the past month. Although I had been able to maintain a healthy vegan diet for over 10 years I wanted to experiment with veganism just to see how my body would change. I have incorporated more greens than ever before and my energy has skyrocketed its amazing. Cant wait to see what you have been eating and more of your advice :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Kate, I think you mean you had maintained a “vegetarian” diet for 10 years and you want to go vegan now? The greens are amazing indeed and I am going to share some of the ways I have been eating and some of my favorite recipes and foods in part 2. I hope your body responds well to a vegan diet and if not, I am sure you will find ways to listen to it and find what works best for you!

  • susan

    Farnoosh, thank you for your very inspiring post.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Susan, how nice of you to write a comment here. You are very, very welcome!

  • http://RasheedHooda.com Rasheed Hooda

    Hi Farnoosh!

    Just yesterday I read your previous post, or was it your newsletter,where you said that you realized that you don’t have to deprive yourself of anything just because you are deciding to go vegan, and that made the transition easy.

    Thank you , for that radical thought. I realized that to lose the unhealthy fat, I don’t need to deprive myself of the foods I love, and I LOOOOOOVE food. Today I found out how easy it is for me to turn down things that I had always known were not good for me and found myself craving for other foods that I normally don’t eat much of but love nonetheless.

    It was that wee bit of paradigm shift, that has changed the way I look at food and I learned how easy it is to let your body be your guide.

    Oh yes, radical change is easy when you have the right mindset. Life is meant to be lived fully, and the nature of things are such that depriving yourself does nothing but prevent you from living fully.

    I am looking forward to rediscovering my healthy self. I remember the days when I used to eat steak and eggs for breakfast, hamburger for lunch and pizza for dinner, practically everyday and had a waist line that was 10″ thinner than what it is now.

    I am not saying I am going back to that diet again, but, like you said, eating Persian and Indian foods did not get in your way of shedding pounds, and I know that is true.

    So here is to eating what your body is calling for to your heart’s content. No more deprivation. Hell yeah!

    Rasheed

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Rasheed, you make me laugh and smile with your wonderful and fun comment. You got my newsletter and I made a hint about it and thought I had more to say, hence the new post series. I can’t tell you how much switching from “deprivation” to finding what I can eat and how else I can eat a fulfilling diet changed the way I approach this. But I don’t have to tell you because now you know. I am delighted that you felt a paradigm shift, which is all that it takes to make hard changes sometimes. So, so delighted and believe me when I tell you that I LOVE FOOD too, and I eat more than people twice my size. Metabolism is also very important; perhaps I should explore that one too. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts! I see you in Part 2 then? :)!

  • http://pix2brix.com Alison Moore Smith

    I’ve done period vegan diets for health reasons. I think the longest was six weeks. Not vegan on principle, so I “made exceptions” after the vegan period was over, but not during.

    I think it’s great when someone has the discipline to hold to a principle without giving into temptation.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Alison, 6 weeks is long enough to feel the benefit of any change, I think. I was tempted last night alright but I think it was mental. Thanks for sharing your period vegan journeys.

  • http://www.Mazzastick.com Justin | Mazzastick

    Often times we know that we need to make improvements in our lives but we don’t know where to begin.

    Your diet and physical health is the best place because we have total control of what we place in our body. Going vegan is a great way to drastically improve the quality of your life.

    Kudos for quitting coffee, I know that it can be difficult to do.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Justin, going vegan is great but trying to explain it to family and friends takes a little time – and you can never escape the offers of “oh just have a little of this” ;)! The coffee was not that hard. I still love, love the smell of coffee and I probably have it once or twice a year when we are on vacation in a place that may have killer coffee. Italy and New Zealand are notorious for great espresso. But seriously, it’s that subtle mental shift and also how we feel inside that signals whether this is or is not the right decision for us.

  • http://theboldlife.com Tess The Bold Life

    Anther awesome post and so many words of wisdom. I’ve even enjoyed seeing that photo again. I’ve not commented as much as I used to because I sound like a broken record. You continue to blow my mind and I’ve come to love watching you grow!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      My dear Tess, you’d make the most beautiful “broken record” if there ever was one. Thank you so much for coming here. Gosh, I don’t think I have posted either of these photos before here or on Facebook but nonetheless, I am glad you enjoyed seeing it :)! You are a dear friend to have and I am delighted we met through this wonderful blogging community. Thank you for stopping by.

  • Tariq and Shaheera

    Hi Farnoosh!

    Wow. You continue to inspire us with each lesson you share and step you take! Thank you!

    Tariq and I have been inconsistent with our food consumption lately. It’s been a stressful few weeks. We even stopped exercising for awhile and have had trouble sleeping. Well, I’m sure you can imagine just how badly our energy levels plummeted.

    Nevertheless, a few discussions and this blogpost has helped us determine what we need to change to improve our lifestyle. We’ve decided to incorporate some vegetarian meals and more raw food into our diet. We can’t wait to see Part 2 so we could add in some vegan meals as well! :)

    Thanks for this awesome article Farnoosh! You’re the perfect role model!

    Tariq and Shaheera

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Tariq and Shaheera, hi! So glad you are feeling inspired. Don’t worry, those ups and downs happen to ALL OF US. I had my last one toward the end of last year but I did make a promise to get out of it and so long as you get out of the rut and start to make plans toward your self-improvement goals, you can’t go wrong :)! Part 2 coming next week and I am so happy you are here to benefit from it. Don’t give up and one step at a time.

  • http://www.positivelybeauty.com Cristina | Positively Beauty

    Hi Farnoosh
    I’m right in the middle of a lifestyle change! Lately my diet was mostly of carbs, with few proteins and lots of fats (I know, I know…)
    I want to shed all my extra-weight, get fit again and be healthy; I’m not vegan, nor vegetarian, but what I’m doing at the moment is re-training myself to eat in a balanced way – carbs, proteins & fats.
    This include the occasional treat – cookies, for example :) – but I’m experimenting to create healthier sweets.
    I’ve started making green smoothies with spinach & fruit; I’ve increased my intake of vegetables, and my proteins come from a wide variety of sources: soy, organic meat and fish, pulses, nuts & seeds. No dairy (lactose intolerant) apart the occasional wedge of cheese.
    So far, my energy levels have increased, I’m losing weight, my skin looks way better.
    Good on you for giving up coffee and embracing the lifestyle that works best for you. I believe that we’re all different and what works for me might not necessarily work for others, but the important thing is trying and see what our body tells us.
    Great post!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Cristina, it’s lovely to see you here and I am so so SO proud of you for making changes that work for you. It doesn’t matter what it’s called or how you eat so long as you find the perfect balance for YOUR body, mind and well-being. And you are so on the right track – and we have a lot in common. Giving up coffee was so easy because I embraced the world of tea and the benefits of Oolong tea for my body are enormous. We find our reasons to do what we do, don’t we? I am here to keep you accountable if you want to have a buddy as you go on your weight-loss program….. All the best!

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com J.D. Meier

    > Time to reconsider old answers and seek new truths.
    That’s such timeless wisdom … I’m going to put that in a bottle and uncork it whenever I find old answers just aren’t working.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi J.D., hey, everything from here is yours to use when things aren’t working and I am very happy you found that phrase so useful. Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.onelovemeg.com Meg

    I have three girlfriends who are all very healthy minded and we have decided that twice a month we are planning vegan girls nights where we cook for one another and talk about our health adventures. We also are constantly emailing recipes back and forth to one another. For those who are missing eggs, try a tofu scramble. If it’s made right you won’t even notice it’s not actually eggs. Also, I love just throwing a bunch of random veggies in a pan with some tofu or tempeh and see what I come up with. :) mmmm you really learn to LOVE veggies.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Meg,
      You have such a health glow in that photo. Welcome to prolific living (I don’t think I’ve seen you here before) and I love the idea of vegan girls night. I do have a vegan girlfriend and we actually have a girls’ night coming up this Friday and it will be vegan where our two other girlfriends also comply. It’s WONDERFUL to have companions and cheer leaders along the way. I am not big on tofu unless it’s made really well but I love tempeh and seitan. Vegetables are divine :)! Enjoy your adventures and thanks for your comment.

  • nazimwarriach

    Having balance diet having all elements which are allowed and edible is my decision. And I never give up my favorite foods like mutton, chicken and other non-veg foods.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Yes, balanced diets are indeed wonderful choices, Nazim, and I highly respect your decision. Enjoy those favorite foods. I have many new favorites to keep me happy :)!

  • John Sherry

    Vegan or not you make a superb point Farnoosh when you mention “eating super well”. A vegan diet will be rich in the nutrients modern digestive systems could only dream about so if we want to chew something over make it what we eat, what it’s doing to us, and why on Earth we want to treat ourselves that way. We need more respect for ourselves and the food that fuels us.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      John, thank you so much. You are so kind. Yes, eating super well, however we define it. And I really like how you talk about having “respect” for ourselves and the food that fuels us. Thank you for sharing, and I am very happy to hear you take your healthy and your food seriously!

  • Felicia @ No Deposit Poker

    Hi Farnoosh,
    It’s kind of nice to know a lot more about vegans and their diets. I only knew vegans are just against eating meat and other dairy products. Glad you’ve put a much clearer view on this subject.
    As of now, I don’t know if I can last a week only having a vegan diet.
    I am curious to know about your easy vegan recipes! Looking forward to it!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello dear Felicia, I am so sorry I didn’t reply to you sooner. There is a wide variety of foods for vegans and I bet you could last a long, long time if you tried a vegan diet because I felt exactly as you do when I first met my Russian friend who had gone vegan – and there’s nothing vegan about Russian food so she had serious trouble when she visited her home country! I am still vegan months later writing this to you and it’s been just awesome. Thanks for stopping by and hope you get this reply!

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  • http://www.jemsrecipes.com/ Jemina S

    Hi Farnoosh,
    I’m back. I haven’t been visiting for a couple of months as I got busy with my own website. Anyway, I like the tone of your article. I have the same principle. I don’t advocate anyone to do the same as I do. I believe it’s a personal choice and for the right reason. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for my ailments I wouldn’t have resorted to soy milk and other vegan/vegetarian stuff. It was hard for me to discard mouth-watering desserts and meat dishes, I couldn’t even dare to think about it. But for one reason, I have always liked vegetables alongside meat or fish. In fact I have always been eating more vegies than meat.
    Vegetarianism/veganism is such an unpopular topic and one will find it a bit hard to find all important information in one place. But once you get a pretty good concept, it becomes more enjoyable and very beneficial. But one has to read extensively in order to have a better understanding.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Jemina, great, welcome back! I am happy to hear you are working on your own site – I did check it out. It has a lot of information.
      So your approach to veganism is great. We should not preach to anyone at all. I hardly know for a fact if this is a great diet for everyone. It is really a complex thing to know what to eat and what not to eat. This works very well for me and that’s all I know – and I bet you do it because it feels good and just feels better for you too. And you know, it’s not as popular here in the US but it is certainly not popularly followed. So the subject is well-known but the practice is rare still. Come back anytime. I am about to do an epic post on 17 days of Raw Vegan :)! It was supposed to go for a month but it didn’t. Thanks for stopping by, Jemina.

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