On Eating: a reflection on my Vegan Challenge + 3 things I've learned from it
Food. It's such a hard topic for me (or it was in the past) and this post has been overdue for such a long time, at least it feels like it. And often times, I don't even know where to start. My eating disorder, my journey of becoming fully vegan, the fact that I love cooking and see it as meditation as well, or the whole story about figuring out this osteopenia diagnosis (osteopenia and osteoporosis are related diseases. Both are varying degrees of bone loss, as measured by bone mineral density, a marker for how strong a bone is and the risk that it might break via Harvard Health). You see, there is some more time and 'figuring out' needed...
In any case, I wanted to give you a little update of what has happened after I did my December Reset Challenge: back to vegan. Since the winter time is such a great time to rest, reset and reflect, I decided on this month-long challenge to find my way back to eating and cooking fully vegan. Why? One, I wasn't training as crazy anymore coming off from marathon season. Two, as an aspiring environmentalist, I am always concerned about how much impact we, as visitors of this planet, have and how much carbon dioxide we put out there. Thus, I wanted to be more mindful again about what I put into my body, but also out into the world. Talking about small steps that all of us can take to create a better environment, I strongly believe it starts with oneself. So, being fully plant based helps — read here about 9 fun facts on how veganism helps the planet.
Ok, vegan for one month — so how did it go? For the ones who followed me via IG throughout that month, I would say I was pretty good. Eating and cooking vegan until... I left New York and flew to Mexico City on the 27th of December. The first night I was there, I had pork tacos.. and then I had some fish.. and eggs were served and lots of cheese. Obviously, I didn't want to restrict myself being on "vacation". Overall, during that month, I had so much fun cooking at home again and cooking for friends and whenever I ate out, I felt good about making a positive choice, a positive impact. Also, I just felt much lighter again. It always reminds me of what a friend once said to me: people who are plant based have a higher vibration. In the context of spirituality and life energy, I fully believe that as well.
It's been three months since that challenge and am I fully vegan now? No! So, what has really changed and how do I continue? Here are three things I've learned about this phase:
1. Don't become rigid: meaning do not stress yourself out. I must say sharing my daily food on social media during that time was really funny, I received the best and worst reactions... Some people thought I was on a great path, others thought I was militant about it, and another group of people didn't like the fact that I was trying meat substitutes. I found it pretty funny and enjoyed the conversations and open discussions a lot actually, but at the end of the day, nobody can do YOU and it is your decision on how you find your way to it. There is no "right" way to eating more and cooking more vegan. I agree, do your research and try to get enough nutrients, minerals, vitamins, calcium, iron etc. through your vegetables, grains and seeds, but definitely stay open to trying new things. Because THIS whole process is about trying out new ideas.
Also, when I did have eggs, cheese or meat, I made a conscious decision to do so and instead of beating myself up and feeling guilty, I tried to be positive about it all and celebrate how far I've come as in: yay, I did 10 days vegan, it's okay to have eggs today. I'll be back on track with the next meal. And that's really the beauty with eating, that when the next meal comes around, you can make a new choice!
2. Stay creative: I must say, I loved this phase a lot. During this month, I started cooking again more, as well as packing lunch to work. Not only was I eating better, and felt lighter, but I also saved a bunch of money by staying in and cooking lots. Also, my friends and I would meet up for dinner, but instead of going out, stay in and cook together. Or I cooked for them, haha. So. Much. Fun! I mean, sometimes I do dream of hosting breakfasts and dinner parties, so why not start small, right. On top of that, I fell back in love with tofu and sweet potato and broccoli and my friend Kalli even introduced me to nutritional yeast, which I never heard of before! In the mornings, I would mix up my breakfasts again and some days, I would have oats, others my avocado shake. I think doing these fun challenges sometimes, makes you more open again, and you're just in the mood to experiment again which I LOVED!! Thus, spending time in the kitchen became my Sunday evening meditation :)
3. Balance: yep, the magic word. I am not vegan, and I am also not vegetarian. As much as I strive to become fully plant based, there are too many factors in my lifestyle that I still need to evaluate. Given that I love my mother's Vietnamese food, my low bone density and my idea of where I want my training to be, I am still figuring it out... It's a journey indeed! For now and probably for the last 3-4 years, I've been going by the 80 - 20 rule. 80% healthy, 20% wants.. as in yes, I treat myself with chocolate here and there, or even a cookie, oh ice cream and of course, croissants haha! And in this specific case: 80% vegan, 20% eggs, yogurt, fish and meat. Just recently, I started eating yogurt again, to help back my calcium intake a little bit more (even though I don't fully believe that my bones will be better, but let's try it) in addition to my plant based supplements that I take.
I think it's important to truly see your body as a temple and feed it with the right kind of foods, nurture it with whole foods. Feed yourself because you need to be healthy and strong for all the adventures that you're tackling on an everyday basis, but also you know, don't go crazy, don't restrict and don't overdo it... just simply find what's right for you and find Your kind of balance. For me this has been working and for now, I'll stick with it. Also, surround yourself with friends who are open and who support you on this journey, it's so much more fun with company around.
Looking back, writing all of this down is such a nice reminder of how good I actually feel about spending time in the kitchen, cooking for myself and friends, but also how eager I was during that month to try out new things! All this food talk makes me want to start a restaurant... Fun fact: my dad owns a restaurant in Germany and guess what, I grew up working and helping him there when I was much younger.
Now, I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Are you vegan / vegetarian? Have you ever tried it? If so, why and how are you going about it?
And do not worry, I am planning a dedicated post about osteopenia and my previous eating disorder. In the meantime, feel free to reach out for help, advice or if you just want to share your journey with me, I am here and I am here to support you as well. You know how this email / direct messaging works, so don't be shy.
Big big love and thank you as always for reading and sharing.