The accidental vegan

The Accidental Vegan

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The story of how a non-vegan accidentally became a vegan and how life, health and energy have improved spectacularly!

I hope my story is encouraging for new or wavering vegans, motivating for those considering veganism, and humorous for veteran vegans who’ve been there!

When Life gives you Lemons… Squeeze ’em

It was never my intention to start a plant-based diet, nor was it something that ever really appealed to me.

A month or so ago, the best things in life for me were bacon, cheese, and chips… the latter is still on the menu and I am still discovering loads of tasty, far superior vegan alternatives for the prior!

From the months of January through April 2022, I had done a lot of soul-searching (probably, thanks to spending half of December isolating on my own due to double Covid); I was trying to navigate the person I am and the person I wanted to be.

Six months prior to the new year, I had made some big changes to my life which allowed me to do just that – to live freely and happily, make my own choices, put myself first and enjoy the positives in every situation I found myself to be in. However, some days I found it to be a real challenge to stay optimistic, and putting myself first was almost impossible.

I quickly realised this was mainly due to work. My challenging (yet rewarding) job often threw me off balance as the bad days were draining and completely depleted my energy levels (so I thought). After the January buzz, I found myself feeling mentally and physically sluggish. After 3 months of dragging myself along, I decided I needed to take extreme action, something with instant gratification… quick results.

The Unknown Foundations of my Accidental Veganism

Just over 10 years ago (I think I was around 16 or 17). I struggled with my body image. As a dancer, I was constantly bound to transparent tights, tiny shorts, and tight leotards. My experience when wearing those was bleak as I remember being in auditions and forced to take off my baggy hoody and jogging bottoms to be left knowing I didn’t get some callbacks because I either refused to comply or immediately felt self-conscious when I did.

After years of battling this negative perception of myself and trying every fad diet there was, I came across a detox diet called The Master Cleanse; a liquid-based diet where you only drink water and a mixture of freshly squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 10 days straight.

The Master Cleanse Diet
The Master Cleanse Diet

I drank the magic potion for the recommended time (still training in the studio daily) and dropped 2 stone. I was finally the same size as all the other dancers at the auditions and in my classes – weight loss was the only reason I did this detox the first time around, and it worked!

However, along with personal circumstances of induced stress and poor mental health, the detox seemed to spark a bad case of IBS and gastro problems, resulting in me not being able to properly digest food for almost a year post detox! It was only when I made changes to my lifestyle and improved my mental health; that my self-image, relationship with food and diet got better and I was beginning to feel in good health with regard to my stomach issues.

So… 10 years on, why would I chance doing this detox again?

My reasoning?

  • I am no long an adolescent.
  • I am more stable in my personal circumstances.
  • I am more in tune with my emotional needs.
  • I have positive mental health.
  • I am finally in control of my own life and have and will continue to steer myself in better directions!

However, as I mentioned before, my energy levels were holding me back and I needed to expel these constant feelings of exhaustion. After some online research on several sites, I reconnected with The Master Cleanse! However, this time, weight loss was not the main goal (even though it was a bonus as I had been really enjoying food since recovering from no sense of taste)! The main goal was about me cleaning my system and gaining the energy I needed to take up activities such as regular exercise, tidying up or even just making a meal!

After a weekend of reading and preparing, I started on Monday (as every diet does). I prepared a jug of cold water, squeezed in 3 lemons, and added the other ingredients, including a pinch of ginger to spice things up a little. I made 2 litres, which I would drink throughout the day as well as around 2 litres of water.

I won’t lie… watching my colleagues eat toast at break and indulge in our delicious hearty school meals was often difficult, however, the energy boost I received from day 2 made it worthwhile!

Some People Want to Take Your Lemons Away, Others Help You Squeeze Them

As people started to notice I was fasting and questioned the little red bits floating around in my lemon juice, they were curious to know exactly what I was doing. I categorised people into the following groups:

Some people floated between these categories throughout the 10 days. It was no secret or surprise; my detox was not a perfect one and I was honest about that when it came up in conversation. I told people how, within the first few days, I had a couple of cheaty moments which involved me tasting food but not consuming it – gross, I know… but it felt good at the time, so I have no regrets.

This is when these self-categorised people either:

  • threw my lemons at me while laughing at my failings;
  • tried to convince me to leave my lemons and return to normality; or
  • helped me squeeze my lemons until I had completed what I wanted to achieve.

I didn’t care what people thought, so I caught the lemons that were being thrown at me… and squashed them. I had faith in the lemons in front of me… so I ignored the others and did it my way with the support of the dedicators. Those people are in the best category!

Thankfully, once the first 5 days were done, I had no desire to cheat as I had lost any cravings I had for the foods I had been consuming for many years – I believe that it was the sugar, dairy and meat that depleted my energy levels, lagging me to the point of exhaustion. The only cravings I had now were for fruit and vegetables and they felt worth the wait. It felt silly to put meats and dairy back into my freshly oiled system.

It was at this point I decided I was going to follow a vegan diet.

I used my three categories again here when I would discuss this with someone new. Some people seem to have very negative perceptions of vegans (me included, when I was mid-mouthful of cheese; chicken; and bacon… only a few weeks prior, thinking how anybody could live without this?!)

But this wasn’t about other people, this was about me, and I would continue to do what I felt was best for me regardless of what others were saying or thinking.

In the last few days of the detox, I felt amazing, and I couldn’t wait to cook some vegan dishes! I spent some nights filling my online Tesco shopping bag with tasty vegan alternatives to the foods I once loved; knowing there was a healthier, more ethical and guilt-free way of enjoying the food I loved.

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However, on day 9 I hit a slight rock in the road…

Your Health Is Your Wealth

Day 9 was a busy day.

I had a plethora of tasks to box off in work in preparation for summer, and I had a busy afternoon taking my son to kickboxing. Throughout this week I had had a slight niggle under my left rib cage, nothing to complain about at first.

However, during my drive to work on Thursday morning, the pain started to intensify and got progressively worse throughout the day. I rang 111 on my way home in the afternoon and they advised me to go straight to A&E.

In the hospital, I had blood tests, an x-ray and other examinations and tests to get to the bottom of the pain. The doctor was brilliant and was in the ‘Dedicators‘ category (she was vegan) and praised me for making a positive change to my diet and lifestyle.

Thankfully, test results showed that I was fit and healthy and the doctor concluded that I must have twisted or pulled a muscle whilst doing yoga or kickboxing… my ribs had not punctured my spleen (which was what I thought had happened)!

Say it in lights!

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The next day, after some counter-stretching and a good night’s sleep, I felt miraculously better and even more so because it was my final detox day and I was that little bit closer to consuming fruit and vegetables in the form of smoothies and soups! In 10 days, I had detoxed my system from all the dairy and meat products I’d consumed, boosted my energy levels, gained mental clarity and as a bonus dropped 18lbs. I felt amazing.

I was so excited to do a big food shop to start my vegan journey! However, after an extreme detox as such, you need to ease your body back into solid foods; therefore, I needed to consume orange juice for a day, then smoothies and soups for a day and finally raw fruit and vegetables for another day… this I did not mind as I couldn’t wait to just taste something substantial. I had starved for 10 days, so another 3

three, limiting my food intake, shouldn’t be too hard. I cannot tell you how great it feels, after drinking the same thing for 10 days; to take a gulp of a thick, sweet smoothie and a spoonful of delicious, warm soup!

Food, Food and MORE FOOD

To start my vegan journey on the right foot; I decided to clear out my kitchen cupboards, fridge, and freezer. I hate waste so decided anything I couldn’t eat I would cook and freeze for my 7-year-old son. Turns out I only had some cheese, beef mince and tomatoes that were almost out of date… so I made enchiladas to keep in the freezer which would come in handy for him, for a quick tea at a later date.

In the freezer, I also found bags of frozen vegetables… I didn’t really want to eat frozen, I wanted fresh… but waste not, want not! I cooked everything I could find and made two delicious soups, mixing the veggies with canned coconut milk I found in the cupboard and seasoning with an array of herbs and spices. I made creamy golden vegetable soup (carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli) and spinach and pea soup with a hint of chilli… amazing!

I halved each soup, putting one portion of each in the fridge and one in the freezer. They were delicious! In the first week, I spent my nights in the kitchen trying out all my new foods. I learnt how to make halloumi out of tofu, found a love for mushrooms and I was eating food combinations I never would have tried beforehand… and because of that, nothing goes to waste!

I have not thrown food out since starting my journey because I have found ways to use it and save it before it’s too late!

I went from someone who couldn’t even think of food in the morning (drinking endless amounts of instant coffee to get me through the day) and struggling to make an afternoon meal, to someone who was having breakfast, preparing a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, eating two lunches in work (thanks to our wonderful canteen staff who began to make me vegan alternatives) and then coming home and making amazing dinners that even my son was eating!

Vegan life was winning, and I felt like a new woman! Don’t get me wrong, I had a few accidental slip-ups which I have learnt from… ALWAYS READ THE PACKAGING TO CHECK FOR DAIRY!

I bought some crackers to dip into my soup and didn’t connect (with all the excitement of the first shopping trip) that four cheese crackers are probably going to contain dairy… my stomach knew almost instantly, and it was not happy!

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The Start of a Wonderful Vegan Journey

Even though the start of my veganism hasn’t been completely kosher… it’s a start and it’s made a huge difference to the quality of my life in such a short space of time. I have eaten like a queen and have introduced many new fruit and vegetable combinations into my diet. I have gone from eating one meal a day (before the detox), to eating nothing for 10 days (the detox), and now I’m eating 3-5 meals a day and 2-3 snacks in between!

I love that I am fuelling my body with goodness and trying new things that I would never have tried before, all whilst making a positive impact on the planet. My energy levels have rocketed, and I am happier and healthier in my body and mind. I now plan on detoxing my body every month (for only 3-5 days) and I hope that after my next detox, I can eat 100% vegan (without any slips) and start sharing some of my recipes here on this blog!

So… when life gives you lemons, squeeze them and take all the juice for yourself. Do what you need to do to make you happy and healthy; to enable you to live your best life. Stay positive, regret nothing, learn something!

Namaste… VEGAN!

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1 thought on “The Accidental Vegan”

  1. Wayne Richards

    What an amazing story. It’s heartwarming to know you’ve made positive steps to improve your journey. It’s given me the impetus to try it myself. Thanks 👍

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