Monday, 12 June 2017

How Veganism Changed My Relationship With Food

A bit more of a personal post than usual, but I hope it will be at least a little bit interesting to some. 

I'd just like to put it out there before you read any further, I am in no way saying that veganism is some kind of magical diet that can cure you of illness - physical or mental. This is my personal experience and that is all. 

To begin with, I'll provide you with a little bit of background information. I've been vegan for three and a half years and vegetarian just over four. I've been conscious of my weight and body image ever since I was a kid, I think this stemmed from the fact I was taller than the other girls in my class at school, and most of the boys as well, and therefore I was bigger in other ways as well.

I was on a diet pretty much the whole way through secondary school, sixth form and university. Constantly thinking about food and calories was draining and took up far too much of my time, but I couldn't help it. In my school years, I  did become a little bit obsessed with losing weight. I would watch all of the weight-loss and diet programmes that were on TV, I would try all kinds of 'crash diets', and got obsessive over exercise and calories. Trust me, rice cakes get boring after just one bite and they are not a substantial lunch. I thought carbs were the enemy and would regularly cut out bread from my diet - and anyone that knows me knows how much I love bread, so will understand how hard that would have been. I used to track my calories and limit myself to a 'healthy', but really not so healthy, 1200 calories a day and I even went as far as not putting milk in my tea just to 'save calories'. 

Fast forward to my second year of university, I went vegan. The change in my diet wasn't an overnight cure for my bad relationship with food at all, I still limited calories and obsessed over the number on the scale, but slowly I improved. I did more and more research into food and realised that carbs are actually the god of food rather than the devil, and that 1200 calories is definitely not enough for my body to survive on. Actually thinking about what I was eating rather than just how many calories it contained made a big difference to my eating habits. 

Veganism isn't a healthy diet if you don't want it to be, you could live off oreos and cheesy chips if you wanted to, but for me, going vegan has meant consuming more fruit, veg, legumes, etc rather than processed chicken burgers and cheese and mayo sandwiches all the while. Making the decision to ditch meat and dairy opened my eyes to a whole new world of food.

I'd say it probably took me up until a year ago to really notice a huge improvement in my state of mind when it comes to food. Generally now I eat pretty well, having three meals a day with the odd snack here and there. I do still check the calories on the back of packets but I think that's more of just a habit now and I'll still go onto devour a chocolate flapjack or share pack of crisps if I want to. I've basically got to the point where I completely understand that it's all about balance and that one bad meal isn't going to ruin my life, just like one good meal isn't going to make me become a picture of health.

Overall, I'd say I've become more familiar with what works for my body. I know which weeks I'm going to more bloated than usual and that it's ok, I haven't put on half a stone because I ate a slice of cake, it's just because mother nature is doing what she does. A week of eating 'junk food' will probably make me put on a few pounds, but it's nothing to cry about, I can just eat well the the following week to get my body back to 'normal'. 

A vegan diet seems to have helped my body stabilise weight-wise because now I have a stable diet, and it's helped massively with me being able to stop caring about calories, fat and sugar so much. 

That isn't to say that things are perfect though. I still have days when I eat more than usual and end up feel guilty about it, but I don't beat myself up over it as much as I used to.

My reason for going vegan was to remove animal cruelty from my life, but the health benefits, both physically and mentally have been incredible. Not only does my diet make me feel healthier in myself, it's helped me start to sort out a messed up relationship with food and I only wish I went vegan sooner.

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  1. Like you, I went vegan for ethical reasons, but it's had so many other benefits on both my mental and physical health! I've actually been thinking about making a post on this topic, as I struggled with disordered eating throughout all of my teenage years & veganism had helped me massively! Ciara - xx

    1. So glad to hear that you've experienced such great benefits through veganism, it really is a great lifestyle to adopt for so many reasons! x