The plight is common enough – not sleeping enough, incessant brain fog, lack of energy, poor digestion, sallow skin, etc., etc. Yet as common as this all is, the remedy is often illusive and the search for it is less than encouraging.
I was always a fairly healthy individual. I ate my fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs, limited my sugar intake, and was active. Still, I suffered from what could be described as chronic fatigue.
Chronic fatigue is essentially living in a state of exhaustion. For me, it was the feeling of never functioning at 100%, or of always being ready for a nap. In extreme cases, it can impair reaction times and lead to muscle weakness and irritable moods.
No, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it isn’t healthy, either. It started to take its toll on me. Studying became such a daunting task because I couldn’t focus on anything for too long. I’d have to take frequent breaks, and it would take all of my willpower to resume work afterwards. I was less inclined to exercise, which affected my appetite. I was eating less, so I had less energy to work out. Also, I wasn’t sleeping well. Not only was my sleep schedule irregular, but I would wake up several times throughout the night.
So, I tried a few things to remedy my situation. I tried increasing my caloric intake and forcing myself to exercise. I assumed I’d get the energy I needed from the food so exercising would become less of hurdle. It worked, to a certain extent.
Next, I attempted to regulate my sleep schedule. However, waking up in the morning was always difficult. I was never able to achieve a full night’s sleep, so I’d wake up groggy and sluggish.
counter this, I tried drinking coffee. Coffee had never been my go-to drink. I
thought maybe everyone else was tapping into some energy reserve that I wasn’t.
Unfortunately, any noticeable effects on my alertness were minimal.
Then one day, on a somewhat unrelated note, I decided to try out a plant-based (or vegan) diet.
I had always been interested in the diet, especially after hearing all of the benefits associated with it. These benefits include more radiant skin, weight loss and regulation, improved gut and digestive function, blood sugar regulation, heart health – and more energy.
At this point, I had all but resigned myself to living with little energy. I wasn’t expecting any miracles.
I resolved to try the diet for a week. I know that doesn’t sound like a long time, but there’s a lot that goes into eating plant-based. It’s a serious and deliberate adjustment, so taking it a week at a time seemed doable.
A plant-based diet cuts out all animal products – including meat, dairy, and eggs. It doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that this means practically no baked desserts; no ice cream; no butter for your bread; no pizza; no bagels with cream cheese; no cream in my coffee.
So instead of focusing on what I couldn’t have, I looked at all of the things I still could – any fruit or vegetable, all the carbs, beans and peas, nut milks and butters, cereals and granolas, tofu and tempeh. I started looking up vegan recipes and educating myself on vegan substitutes for common foods.
then I stocked up my kitchen with everything I needed for the week.
Within just a couple of days, the changes I noticed in myself were astronomical and frankly, unexpected. Remember – I was only doing this for a week, after all.
Every morning, I’d wake up – without an alarm – at around 6:30. But it wasn’t just that my eyes opened. I’d spring out of bed. I had never known the difference a full 8-hour sleep cycle could make. This was something that I’d literally never experienced before. There was no grog and no drag.
I’d work out first thing, followed by a big breakfast with lots of water.
Then I’d go to a coffee shop to study. Usually when I do that, I sit down, get settled, and then grab a drink. While on this diet, though, I found that I didn’t want the caffeine. In fact, I felt as if the coffee might give me too much energy. There were noises and distractions all around me, but they seemed to disappear into the background. I was so laser-focused on reading my dense and not-exciting textbook that I was comprehending and absorbing the subject matter with far less effort than I’d previously had to exert.
It was life-changing. I was productive, my mood was stable and content, and I didn’t need to push through brain fog to accomplish anything.
While I have since slipped from my strict plant-based diet, I still maintain facets of it in my everyday life. My quality of life has greatly improved overall, but that one week of optimal health proved to me that it can be achieved.
Will I do it again? I’d say very likely, yes. Should you try it? It couldn’t hurt.