I did my first vegan attempts in July 2015. It was not planned. A friend of mine had decided to go on a seven-day juice fast, and I joined her simply to challenge myself – but I chose to do the raw food diet. For reasons that remain unclear to me, my experience of the first seven days on the raw food diet was not nearly as challenging as I expected it to be. I was surprised to find the experience actually enjoyable! Of course, I had challenges chewing and swallowing raw broccoli – which I insisted on doing – and I probably ate more almond and cashew nuts than I should have. For the most part though, my experience was positive, so I decided to continue with the diet for two more weeks.

In the days that followed, I started seeing marked improvements on my skin and weight. For years, I had struggled with unclear, uneven tone skin and what felt like uncontrollable weight gain. Towards the end of the three weeks, people around me constantly remarked on how I was “glowing”. It was true: I was glowing. My skin literally was looking more radiant. This was exciting!

As if radiant skin wasn’t enough of a perk, I also started experiencing more regular bowel movements, for which I was deeply grateful.  Excuse me if this too much information. Look, those initial experiences of glorious regular bowel movements helped me see that I had been unknowingly struggling with varying degrees of constipation throughout my life. I have irritable bowel syndrome. Constipation generally has severe effects on my well-being.

 

Another surprising change was that I could harness a greater sense of self-discipline in other areas of my life. I could get up with ease early in the mornings and briskly walk to my university campus. I had more clarity of mind, and I spent my time more efficiently. 

 

I have since learnt that it is difficult to control the bigger aspects of my life if I can’t control something as basic as what I put into my mouth. My diet is important in more ways than I can imagine.

The mistake I made during my first vegan attempt was not thinking beyond the 21-day goal I had set for the diet. This meant that by the end of the 21 days, I was confused and uncertain about how my diet would look in the future. I tried going back to the standard diet and got sick. Also, my pallet had changed, so I no longer enjoyed many of the foods I previously enjoyed, but I was not ready to let go of them. I then proceeded to, in some ways, force myself to enjoy these non-vegan foods again. Unfortunately, I succeeded and live to tell the tale of complex food addictions and baffling food relationships.

The point I want to highlight here is that my first vegan attempt gave me great insight into food as it relates to my body. It helped me see how a plant-based diet can help heal the body and calm the mind. It also helped me see the basic interconnection between my diet and my general performance in life. I learnt that when I eat junk I suffer from a clouded perspective and my control over my actions is significantly reduced. I learnt about gut health and its importance in improving the appearance of my skin. Alarmingly, I also learnt to connect with and show compassion to other living things. In those three weeks of fresh vegetables and pre-packed lunches, respect was the thread that ran through all my experiences: respect for my body, mind, heart and environment.

I have not succeeded in going fully vegan. I continue to try every day and with every meal. With time and practice I have managed to significantly reduce my intake of animal products and the use of items that are harmful to the environment.

Because I experienced the benefits of the vegan lifestyle, I encourage everyone to keep trying to include as many vegan meals into their diets as they can. It is alright if the adjustment is for personal reasons, like managing one’s weight. For many of us, because of our upbringing and food culture, trying the vegan lifestyle may not first come from feeling compassion for animals or the environment. But the simple act of eating a plant-based meal each day is likely to help us see ourselves in a faintly different way: as responsible and active participants in the improvement of our health and the world we live in.

Nondumiso Phenyane 25:02:2018

All the information posted on Vegan Attempts is based on my personal experiences and opinions. I am not a medical doctor, nutritionist or therapist. None of the information on this website – or any of my online platforms – should be relied on to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis or determine the treatment of a medical condition. For expert advice, please consult a trained specialist.