An unintentional journey to veganism
Social and environmental advocate and blogger Chanelle Clinton never thought she'd go vegan, but finds it's brought some significant and unexpected benefits. Have a read of her story of you're thinking a plant based or vegan diet might be for you.
I was adamant I would never be vegan, those radicals were over-emotional and misinformed. Until I was one. It began as a 3-month health experiment, but I’m now coming up 3 years with no end in sight. In mid-2015 I was the fittest I have ever been, I had just trained for two half marathons and I was at the healthiest weight of my adult life, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. After multiple blood tests, my doctor proclaimed that I was low in iron and I needed to eat more red meat. I’m not going to lie, I was quite excited by this, I loved the opportunity to indulge in an expensive steak for the sake of my health. After weeks of increased intake, there were no significant improvements, in fact, I felt like I might be getting worse. I had suffered with iron absorption issues since I was in primary school, so this was nothing new.
Then, over dinner a wild suggestion was made to try veganism, I laughed it off at first, but it definitely got me thinking. I had recently met someone who I considered to be the first “normal” vegan on the planet, being vegan wasn’t the defining feature of her life. She answered all questions with kindness and compassion, she was always encouraging of even the smallest lifestyle changes. Most importantly, never preachy. My partner and I picked a date we would go vegan, and went on an outrageous binge, eating everything we had already bought and everything we weren’t going to eat for the next three months. The final hurrah was a family dinner at the Daikoku – a teppanyaki restaurant where they cook every type of animal on the table in front of you. It really doesn’t get any more outrageous for a couple who are going to be vegan the next day.
My partner is an all or nothing kind of person - he became a passionate, outspoken vegan from when the clock struck midnight. He was one of those vegans. I’m a terrible cook, so almost everything I eat is made by him, undeniably, this made my transition easier. However, I still wasn’t convinced, and gave myself a month of lenience with the one thing I was terrified of giving up – cheese. After one lonely (but delicious) slice of margarita pizza in the heart of the CBD, I realised that I could do without it. At first, I struggled to eat enough to maintain the caloric intake I required for my level of activity, it felt like a lot of work to carry so many darn snacks. I kept waiting for the day where I would jump out of bed, full of energy, ready to start my day with a green smoothie and some overnight oats. I can say that 3 years on, that day has never come. Newsflash: veganism cannot transform you into a morning person! Sometimes oats still make me gag, no matter how many superfruits are added.
There were some significant benefits though, some expected and some unexpected. Firstly, I ran my fastest half marathon to date, which I kind of expected, as I had been reading about many endurance athletes who followed a vegan diet. Surprisingly, my iron levels returned to normal, as in normal by medical standards, which meant the best iron levels I’ve had in my entire life! The final and most important benefit to me, was improved sleep. I have been medicated for insomnia on and off since my early teens, at times its been debilitating. It hasn’t completely gone away, but it's made an improvement that has dwarfed every other behavioural intervention I’ve tried over the years. This alone had me hooked, I was never going back. I now only have to go to the doctor for my yearly check up, where I ask for antihistimines, just to fill the time.
The decision to live my life with more compassion, kindness and mindfulness came after the change in diet. Veganism has definitely refined me, but like my dear friend who encouraged me all those years ago, I try not to let it define me. I will admit to occasionally shouting “GO VEGAN!” in jest with coworkers when they admire my lunch. But, there’s no one who could have badgered me into making the decision, so I don’t bother doing it to anyone else. The decision is only yours to make. And yes, if you were wondering, I still like the smell of bacon, but more like the way I like the smell of freshly cut grass… it doesn’t mean I want to eat it.