After 8 months of a strictly vegan diet, one day, I decided it was no longer for me. Here’s the story behind that decision.
When I was growing up, I could put eating in two category: you either ate regular foods or you were on a diet. When we moved to the US, I discovered the world of the American diet system before I even came to know the American food system and for someone from Iran and Turkey, it was fascinating to say the least. I would honestly admit how I felt about the standard American food if I only knew what on earth it entails! I don’t think anyone can accurately describe “American food” to me. It certainly is not just burgers and fries and Turkey on Thanksgiving but what is it?
On the grand scheme, it mattered very little because as much as I loved America, I did not like my obvious American food options. In comparison, I was madly in love with Persian cuisine and thanks to my parents who remained committed to feeding us, either Persian food or a fusion of Persian-American food for variety was never far from reach.
My food journey just got better when one fine day I discovered sushi and then another even finer day yet, I discovered Indian cuisine. My world changed overnight! Who knew there could be so many tastes and flavors to feed our bodies with nutrients and sustenance? Even though I am proud of our delicious, mouth-watering, out-of-this-world Persian cuisine, I must say that Japanese and Indian dishes take it all to a new level.
So there, I love eating, but what I love more than eating is my body, my temple.
My relationship with my body has never been so unshakable, so intimate, and so commanding to the rest of my decision-making process. If my body says no, I say no. If my body says yes, well, then I say yes. You get the point.
I have always been relatively healthy and an exercise freak so always in good shape but it was not until my late 20s that I realized that I can begin to understand the intricacies of my body if I listen carefully and pay attention. Thus, I went on a self-discovery journey. I explored green juicing, raw foods, vegetarian diet, low-carb Atkins-like diet, and finally opened the vegan chapter phase.
During every single phase, I had two questions to ask myself:
Am I still benefiting from this?
Am I still enjoying this?
I aimed for a resounding yes on both accounts. If the answer to either of those were a no, I’d have to explore new options.
From January 1st until sometime in August, I was a strict vegan and boy did I love it. I decided to eat only vegan food simply because I wanted to know if it is as beneficial and enjoyable as it was made out to be from all of my research and studies. I did not become a vegan for any previous health conditions or to save the animal kingdom, much as I adore animals.
For me, I have been on a quest to find the most ideal diet for my body.
The vegan phase was simply fantastic, even the raw vegan episode. It was challenging and fun and it was met with strong resistance, so much so that I started to enjoy them. I stayed vegan when we traveled, when we went out and when we socialized. I felt great when I ate well. Lest you are mistaken, you can eat just as badly on a vegan diet as on any other. And I documented my fun journey here on the blog in detail. And I even learned how to make the most delicious raw vegan dessert on planet earth, so the benefits were simply fabulous.
Most of all, I did not crave or miss anything. I felt content and satisfied.
At least, I did until August. You see, throughout the year, I had started a serious training regimen for my body: indoor cycling classes, walking, weight-training, plyometrics and power yoga. I was building muscle, burning calories, breaking down and then rebuilding my body, or so it felt.
Somewhere along the way, I visited my beloved doctor, who fully embraces alternative lifestyles including a vegan diet, and my clean bill of health now showed a deficiency of Iron and Vitamin D. Nothing earth-shattering, but nothing to ignore.
Then one day, I simply couldn’t get the thought of eating other foods out of my head. My body started talking to me. It said the harder it worked, the more it craved other foods. For the first time in months, I started to think about non-vegan foods with salivation! This persisted for well over a week. And that’s how I just tired of a strictly vegan diet.
Just like that, I went back to eating fish, chicken and my plain Greek yogurt, and mind you, initially, I did this in complete shock and disbelief, and I was certain that I would go back to being a vegan soon. Except I didn’t – insert here more shock and disbelief.
I had become more obsessed about optimal health and yet, I had no interest to remain exclusively vegan.
Oh by the way, vegan means no meats, and no dairy and even no fish or eggs. I am appalled by people who call themselves “vegan” and then turn around and eat fish or cheese! Really, you cannot be both!
As I was saying, I made a decision to honor my body because the sound of it screaming in my ears became unbearable – although, it screams just as loud when I am pushing hard in cycling or strength-training class, but I heard a distinct difference, the first being a scream of what I now consider a balanced diet and the latter, a scream of weakness that I fully intend to turn into muscle strength and stamina.
In the last two months, I have felt a renewed surge of energy but I cannot entirely attribute it to any diet changes. Just as I started to listen to my body, I also started to listen to my heart and made radical changes in my personal life. I feel liberated with my new priorities, and my energy is boundless from 4:30am until well past 11pm. I exercise once, and sometimes twice a day, and I only focus on the work that matters to me, and this clarity in my priorities has dramatically shifted the energy vibrations. Healthy and strong are my barometers, and so far, the sky seems to be limit for this body.
Today, I remain in love with vegan food, delicious raw foods, and green juices and yet feel fabulous with the new non-vegan additions to my plate. I sleep 5-6 hours a night, eat extremely well, exercise at least one hour a day, stretch, meditate, work harder than ever before, listen to my body every day and it tells me that it is happy, content and fulfilled. For now, this works. Maybe in the future, I’ll be a full vegan or a raw foodist, or eat a strictly Japanese diet (yum!), who knows!
Right now, I feel fabulous with the new non-vegan additions to my plate!
How much do you listen to your body?
How are you eating these days?
And are you eating that way because it is truly the right way of eating for you or for other reasons?
Tell me everything in the comments!