‘Il n’y a que les cons qui ne changent pas d’avis.’ is a French saying meaning ‘Only idiots don’t change their mind.’
Being aware that people read my blog and trust that I make health conscious decisions based on my own experiences, I feel a responsibility to share my decision to become flexitarian with my readers.
Let’s start where we last left off. In March this year, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Diaries of an Aspiring Vegan.‘ I had spent 3 months ‘trying’ my best to limit my fish, egg and dairy consumption, rather successfully. Since March, I continued this endeavour, and was lucky enough to meet a few health professionals who were happy to share their knowledge with me.
The 1st was a good friend’s brother, a young Dr who supports a ‘plant based’ diet, but who was horrified at the thought of a totally vegan diet. He claimed that it simply was not possible for human beings to survive without an intake of the vitamin B12, which according to him, could only be found in animal sources.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know anything about this vitamin before his mention of it. I have a few fellow yoga teachers and friends who have been vegan for years so I concluded that it was perfectly possible to not only survive but also be healthy, on a vegan diet. So I decided to further my research. Turns out they take B12 supplements. This was a bit of a shock as I realised that I had made a decision to experiment with my diet, with little to no knowledge about the possible impact of this change. Fortunately, I am young and healthy but it gave me a real sense of the dangers of what seems like dietary trends such as veganism and the paleo diet, amongst others.
Since I had continued to consume fish and eggs at least once a week, I didn’t feel the need to buy supplements.
Yet, soon after, a newly turned vegan contacted me asking how I was ensuring that I was consuming enough protein. This is something I had done quite some research on so I was very pleased to share my findings with her. Since becoming pescetarian (one whose diet includes fish but no other meat); I had gotten used to cooking with pulses and nuts to ensure I was getting enough protein. I had also learned that we do not need as much protein as many of us seem to believe.
My friend went on to ask me how I ensured I was getting enough Iron, to which I answered that I wasn’t sure. I went into google and typed ‘Iron deficiency – Symptoms’, not expecting to recognise any of them and to my surprise, one of them was ‘pins and needles in extremities. Interestingly enough, I had been waking up in the middle of the night with pins and needles in my fingers. I actually believed this was caused by my handstand practice and thought I should stop; so I was reassured that this wasn’t the case, but once again I was rather frightened to realise that I was misreading a physical reaction to my dietary changes. So I shared this information with my friend, order myself some Iron supplements and advised her to do the same.
I continued eating as I was, mostly plant based foods, 1 or 2 portions of fish and about 2 eggs a week (still no dairy) + my iron tablets once a day. Sure enough the pins and needles stopped and I haven’t had them since!
It has now been 6 months since I minimised my animal products consumption and here’s my update:
Until last week, I felt the healthiest I’ve ever felt.
I don’t normally consume meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, or processed sugars BUT last Saturday was my 1st day of my one year of travelling and my 1st stop was Italy… so I broke a few of my self imposed rules.
Before even setting off on my travels I made the decision to become ‘Flexitarian’ during the next 12 months.
My favourite adapted definition of flexitarianism is: A diet that is plant-based, with the occasional inclusion of animal products.
The truth is that I haven’t missed meat or cheese at all. However, my experience of traveling has taught me that food is a great part of every culture. With this in mind, I came to the conclusion that ‘strict’ dietary requirements could be an obstacle to fully experiencing some aspects of each culture.
This is not to say that I will start ordering pepperoni, extra cheese pizzas –
writing this makes me want to vom haha!
While on the yoga retreat, every meal had vegan options, but the beautiful buffets also included fresh burrata and other cheeses, made in the adjacent village on the same day.
Since one of the reasons I wanted to limit my animal product consumption was based on the fact that mass production leads to animal suffering and a negative environmental impact, it seemed ok to have very small portion of these exceptional ‘treats’ every so often. So I tried the fresh cheeses and enjoyed one of them. I also had a couple of slices of the home made tarts and the freshly baked wholemeal croissants. I still had my cereal with almond milk and opted for the coconut butter on my bread.
While in Martina Franca I enjoyed a dairy gelato as there was no dairy free alternative.
By the seaside, in Bari, I happily enjoyed the only thing the little shack had to offer (shrimp and octopus in the cover picture).
However, in the evening I equally enjoyed a cheese free focaccia.
I must admit that since I came back from Italy, I have been craving sugar which is unusual for me these days. I have also been feeling slightly out of sync.
My 3 main conclusions are as follows:
- It’s essential to make dietary decisions based on ‘reliable sources of information’ or consult health specialists when possible. (Also important to keep in mind that veganism has not been ‘mainstream’ for long, therefore current health specialists might not all have a good understanding of this diet and be well equipped to give advice.)
- My body will tell me when I am lacking something and google can help me find out what that may be.
- It’s ok to eat animal products occasionally, as well as sweet treats, but I mustn’t be surprised if I suffer from sugar cravings, fatigue and even a change in my metabolism.
Please be reminded that I am not a health professional and everything I share is based on my personal experience, the people I meet and internet searches.
Please feel free to contact me to share your own experience.
Love and light,