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How A Change In Diet Improved My Health And Wellbeing

Why small changes can have huge impacts.

Photo by Chantal Garnier on Unsplash
Photo by Chantal Garnier on Unsplash

In 2008, I changed my diet from meat-based to plant-based and have never looked back.

How Can Eating A Plant-Based Diet Improve Your Health And Wellbeing?

A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, suggests that eating plant-based foods can reduce the risk of many of the now common chronic diseases that plague our modern societies, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cataracts, cancer, dementia and obesity.

In fact, plant-based nutrition programs carried out across 10 different corporate American companies, found that eating plant-focused diets reduced depression and anxiety among workers and lead to improved productivity.

Research suggests that eating fruits and vegetables of varied colours provides the body with many of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients the body needs to function optimally. Unfortunately, the majority of us are deficient in many of the phytonutrients our bodies require.

In the last twenty-five years or so, as awareness about the health benefits of eating plant-based diets increased, so have the numbers of people opting to become vegetarians and vegans, also increased exponentially.

I bet everyone reading this knows at least one person who is either vegetarian or vegan.

I’m one of these people, I chose to become vegan for the sake of my health in 2008, although these days I also incorporate fish and eggs into my diet.

What Drove My Change In Diet?

Even though I ate “normally” and what I considered to be a balanced diet, to my surprise in 2003, I developed irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. My IBS gradually worsened when I moved to China and in 2008 it became almost crippling, forcing me to take a serious look at my eating habits. 

The situation got so bad that I couldn’t eat spicy foods, citrus fruits or drink a glass of wine without terrible consequences —debilitating diarrhoea the following day.

It was a huge problem because I had a job that required me to travel frequently.

I was living in the fast lane in Shanghai, working as a fabric-sourcing manager. I was travelling at least 3 days a week, not just to the factories in the Shanghai region, but also to fabric mills all over China.

The factories would send their cars to pick me up and while this was great, back in 2008, there were nearly no service stations on many of China’s motorways, so needing a toilet break could become a real drama, especially on long journeys.

It was an even greater nightmare for someone suffering from IBS — so, all I’ll say is that I had one too many close shaves.

I realised I needed to take radical action to repair my ailing digestive system, so in September 2008, during a return visit to the UK, I resolved to see a nutritionist.

Vegetable Detox

The key information the nutritionist gave me that day centred on bringing my body back into balance, which he said meant shifting from an acidic meat-based diet to an alkaline vegetable-rich diet.

I didn’t think I was eating particularly badly at the time, but it’s true that I had stopped cooking since arriving in Shanghai. Eating out at five-star restaurants was so cheap and there were a plethora of fantastic ones to choose from, that taking the time to cook for myself just seemed ridiculous.

The nutritionist put me on a 10-day vegetable detox, which consisted of drinking a green vegetable juice or a vegetable smoothie for breakfast and dinner and eating a pure green salad for lunch.

He also gave me alkalising salts, which he said would have a purging effect and pH balancing drops to add to my drinking water. I bought myself a blender and together with the juicer I already had, plunged myself into my detox regime.

After 10 days not only did, I lose 4 kilos, but my IBS symptoms totally disappeared. My skin looked radiant and I felt much more energised than before.

I was hooked and have never looked back.

I felt so good after my detox that I decided to continue this new, healthier way of eating. I became vegan and lost a further 8 kilos during the first year.

I even started holding workshops on the health benefits of drinking green smoothies and vegetable juices.

Tip: Juicing or making smoothies is a fast, easy and delicious way to up your vegetable intake. The great thing about drinking vegetables is that you consume them raw, which increases their nutritional benefits. So, get yourself a juicer and or a blender and experiment with different vegetables and fruits.

Eating The Rainbow

Before becoming vegan I enjoyed vegetables, but they were never the main part of a meal. For me eating a meal without meat, fish or chicken felt incomplete and unexciting.

I had eaten purely vegetarian and vegan meals at restaurants or at friend’s houses, but I honestly found them flavourless, colourless and bland. Some of you probably understand what I’m talking about.

This changed in 2009 when I discovered a fantastic organic farm, a little outside Shanghai.

I was invited to look around the farm before placing any orders, so after taking a tour (it was all quite impressive), I began ordering a vegetable box, which they delivered to my door every week.

Receiving this organic mixed box of vegetables, which sometimes contained exotic fruits, really opened me up to a new world. There were often surprises in my box, by way of new and strange colourful vegetables and fruits I had never seen or eaten before. For example, purple carrots, blue potatoes, orange cauliflowers, yellow watermelons, kohlrabi, aloe vera stalks, fresh figs and of course an assortment of the abundant leafy greens grown in China.

This vegetable box became the highlight of my week.

I stopped eating out and started cooking once again, using the fresh, colourful ingredients provided for me by the farm. When I didn’t know how to cook a vegetable, I would simply throw it into my juicer or blender and drink it.

I discovered to my delight that almost anything could be juiced or made into a smoothie, except vegetables in the onion family, which tended to overpower the drink.

When I left Shanghai in 2014, I continued seeking out and found organic farms that could deliver vegetable boxes to me when I moved to Ghana and subsequently to Leeds when I returned to the UK.

Tip: Buying your vegetables from local farms and farmers markets is a great way to broaden the range of vegetables and fruits you eat, as they tend to have interesting assortments that may not be available in supermarkets.

Intermittent Fasting

I also started intermittent fasting around this time, fasting for 2 to 3 days every month. The nutritionist explained the health benefits of giving our digestive systems a rest from its continuous task of digesting food, which made complete sense to me.

In fact, research has shown that intermittent fasting is both a safe and effective weight-loss tool.

My fasting regime consisted of drinking a vegetable juice or a green smoothie in the morning and drinking vegetable powders mixed with water throughout the day and evening.

This was by no means an easy task and it took a few months to get used to, but I made it easier for myself by only fasting at weekends, when I didn’t have the added pressure of having to work. Regular fasting was one of the tricks I used to help keep my weight consistent.

Tip: If intermittent fasting sounds too difficult don’t worry, you can allow your body to go through a natural fast by eating your last meal by 6 or 7 in the evening. Breaking your fast with breakfast at 7 or 8 in the morning will have given your system 12 to 13 hours of fast. Research has shown this to be as effective as fasting during the day.

Since changing my diet, I’ve never again needed to worry about IBS because my digestive system has completely healed. I believe very much that the quality of what we put into our bodies through the foods we eat, has the power to greatly influence how we feel, so it’s up to us to choose foods that help us feel good.

Final Thoughts

Today, I continue to eat a plant-focused diet and the other good habits I developed in 2008, such as drinking smoothies, cooking with fresh ingredients and fasting, have contributed to helping me look and feel great.

The original article was published on www.jacquelinevanderpuye.com

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