Today I am celebrating 365 days on a plant based diet. I started this journey a year ago while living and working in Thailand. At the time, I was dealing with severe stomach pain that doctors couldn’t properly diagnose. So, I took matters into my own hands and started experimenting with my diet.
Having been vegetarian on and off for nearly a decade, having watched the documentary Earthlings, in addition to following my yoga instructor and mentor, Ali Kamenova’s lifestyle as a vegan, culminated in the decision to put myself through a vegan trial period. I put in some solid research to ensure I’d cover everything I needed to be healthy and to sustain my active lifestyle. I started by taking the 30 Day Vegan Challenge. Already a pretty healthy eater (I try to cut out all processed foods), the transition was rather easy. Thai dishes are spicy and heavy on seafood and pork. I had no problem cutting out the meat and adding more fruit, veggies, lentils and nuts to my diet. Thais typically aren’t big dairy eaters, so I had pretty much cut that out just because of the environment I was in (cheese is expensive in Thailand!). Within two weeks my stomach pain had subsided and I had more energy. Belly fat burned right off and my muscles toned instead of bulking up- due to combination of diet + yoga/pilates/running (for detailed info on the first months of the trial, read archived posts).
I was encouraged and inspired by visiting sites such as Meat Free Athlete, Great Vegan Athletes, Vegan Female Athletes (VFA did an interview of my transition to a plant based diet), as well as following outstanding vegan athletes such as Brendan Brazier , Scott Jurek, and Fiona Oakes– Oakes is currently the world record holder for 5 courses: The North Pole Marathon, The Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Ruska Marathon, The Dartmoor Vale Marathon and the Essex Championship Marathon at Halstead. She is also the fastest woman in the history of the world to run a marathon on all 7 continents in terms of the total number of hours taken- talk about inspiring!!
I started an Instagram account (veganrunningwarrior) in order to follow the vegan community to get recipe ideas, inspiration and support; I couldn’t believe how huge the global vegan movement is! I found so much support from the online community and it truly helped me stay on track. There’s a tremendous amount of resources out there for people wanting to transition to a vegan lifestyle. And with new vegan products being stocked regularly in supermarkets around the globe, it’s not difficult to find what you need. I’ve found delicious recipes and now have so much variety in my daily meal plan. It’s important to note that anything can be veganized these days! I am not one to avidly search for mock meats like bacon or ham, but if that’s your thing, then you can find it. There’s even vegan scrambled eggs now. Almond and cashew cheese is my favorite. I no longer crave cheese and meat, in fact, the smell of raw meat makes my stomach churn- this coming from a girl who used to order her steak rare! I’m having so much fun planning meals, and I absolutely love feeling GOOD after I eat. Yes, occasionally I’ll chow down on a thick bean burger with a side of greasy fries, and then go for some cashew milk ice cream… but we all have our cheat days. 😉 The point I want to drive home is I feel great, am the healthiest I’ve ever been in terms of energy, weight, and getting the vitamins and nutrients I need. My iron levels are normal and… GASP… I am NOT protein deficient!
The most vital test for me was training for a marathon on a plant based diet. Truthfully, I had zero problems with it (in terms of diet), and in fact, found that I recovered faster from speed workouts and long runs. I also had more energy during the day. I give tremendous credit to Brendan Brazier. I read his book Thrive, which really put me on track in terms of power foods I needed to fuel my body for long runs and most importantly, foods to help me recover. I did end up with a bad groin strain a week before my marathon, but with the right foods, including a turmeric concoction to help with inflammation, I powered through the marathon with little pain and managed to finish in 3 hrs and 52 minutes. Not bad considering I only gave myself 3 months to train after 4 year hiatus from marathon running, and racing in general.
Overall, I am happy with my decision to go vegan and there’s no turning back. It feels both rewarding and satisfying to know that not only is going vegan having a positive impact on my mind and body, but also animals and the environment. To look at the detrimental impact the meat and dairy industry has on the environment- look here.
My advice to anyone planning to go vegan is to do the research, stock up on cookbooks (don’t eat salad and rice and then quit because you deem veganism as “too hard”), reach out to the vegan community for support, and have ammo for the nay sayers. Take it a day at a time. Set goals. Start out by cutting red meat, then poultry, then dairy, then seafood- like I did, but be sure to replace meat and dairy with tasty vegan alternatives!
My plan now is to rebuild strength after a break from running. I’ve incorporated Pilates and high intensity interval training into my daily workout routine and will begin building running endurance over the summer. I’m going off road for awhile by making the switch to trail running to give my legs a break from the roads. Mainly, I’m simply embracing the joy of being fit and healthy!
Thanks for following dear readers!
Now I’m going to celebrate 1 year being vegan by treating myself to vegan blueberry ice cream!