Making a choice to be a vegetarian/vegan sometimes isn't the easiest thing. It's a process. Some people grown up that way and have no problems, others making up their minds and stick to it, but for a lot of people, the thought and intent is there, but actually doing it is the hard part.
In my teens I went through a bad period with food. As my parents didn't eat junk food and I never was exposed to it much, I started sampling all the different things out there. From chips, to pies, to 2 minute noodles (which I had a love affair with for a few years), to excessive amounts of sugars, and also alcohol and cigarettes, I was never interested in taking care of my body. My muscle condition flared up around that time too and it never occurred to me that what I was putting into my body was probably making everything worse. I lacked the knowledge and had no idea what healthy meant, I was a teenager who had a high metabolism and thought I was invincible.
I started suffering from gut problems, bloating, cramping and pain. I was in and out of hospitals and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I had been diagnosed then with compartment syndrome and fibromyalgia, so the tightness in all my muscles was not helping my digestive system. Eventually the doctors did a dye test which revealed that the series of contractions known as peristalsis which occurs in the esophagus which helps to move food down to the stomach was not working properly. A combination of this with my poor diet resulted in years of daily pain and suffering. Then when I was about 19 a doctor suggested that I might have a dairy and wheat intolerance so I started the slow process of weaning off these items. That was a huge task in itself, I'd spent almost 20 years eating all those things, and even though I felt much better eliminating them, there was always temptation especially since I was a such a foodie.
This on off pattern continued into my early 20s and even though I was good sometimes, I'd still slip up several times a week. I did cut down the meat but I had replaced it with pastas, heavily processed foods, sugars so being vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean you are healthy. I have seen lots of vegetarians out there with poor diets, so just because you cut out meat doesn't mean you are being good to your body. My dad who is a nutritionist would always lecture me about the lack of fresh unprocessed food I wasn't eating, luckily I still loaded up on veggies as I loved the taste.
When I went to Bikram training in 2011, that was my year when I went full out eating. The 9 weeks was mentally and emotionally challenging and I used food to counter balance it all. I actually didn't need that much food, yes we were practicing two classes a day but other than that, we were just sitting around listening to lectures etc, so it wasn't like my body was exerting any extra energy. However, mentally it was taking a toll and that triggered me to eat. It was also my first time in the states and I had never come across such an interesting array of food - my first love was red velvet! Prior to LA I had never even heard of it, all these cakes and treats and comfort creamy calorie dense foods... so I decided since it was only 9 weeks I'd just experience EVERYTHING! I ate meat, I ate cake, I demolished food. At training my friends would laugh as they were astonished how much food I could eat, I had a permanent food baby we nicknamed "George".
I gained 8kgs in 9 weeks and after training instead of returning to Australia I moved to Dallas to teach. As much as I love Dallas it was not the best place for me to detox and get healthy. It is the land of southern comfort food and fried everything, so my eating habits continued for the next 6 months. I went from looking slim to looking bloated and puffy all the time, and even though I wasn't 'fat', my frame was still small, however I had extra bulk and it was so uncomfortable. I couldn't bend or move as well, I was sluggish and tired all the time, and my energy levels were crashing. However by then I had developed a pattern of junk eating as well as a huge quantity increase in the amount of food I was eating. It became this cycle I couldn't break. It wasn't until after I returned to Australia that over the next year, yes, YEAR... that I slowly began to recover.
I cut out the meat, the wheat and the dairy. Of course I had cheat days and it was so hard, since my body had gotten use to those foods and I was craving it all the time. Not so much the meat part, I don't particularly like the taste of it so that was the easy part. It was mainly the dairy and the wheat - giving up pastries, cakes, pasta, breads... even though I knew it wasn't good for me, I had gotten addicted. My digestive system was pretty messed up and even though I began cleaning up my diet it did take a whole year before the excess weight finally came off and I felt healthy again.
I had to mentally change how I thought about food. I had gotten attached to the idea that treats were all these sweet things and that somehow I was missing out. I'd have a celebratory cupcake or if I had a bad day I'd go get a block of chocolate. Now I view these foods as 'poison', and it really is. I'm not being good to my body if I am putting into it items that it was react negatively to, nor am I doing it any favours by over straining my organs with excessive bulk weight, so changing the way I view food as helped keep me on track. It was a long road to recovery and I'm not perfect now, I still slip up every now and then, but mostly it's from over eating rather than eating things that make me feel sick.
I learned the painful lesson that 6 months of bad eating took a year to recover, and I was 25. Can you imagine what it would be like if I were older? Or if I had continued that bad eating habit for a few years? This is the problem, most of the time we don't realise just how much damage we are doing to our own bodies because we can't see internally. The pressure the excess fat and bulk puts onto the organs, the hormonal strain the body goes through, the fluctuation of all these things just isn't healthy.
Below you can see my body change - starting 2011 beginning of training, during training, then Dallas and finally almost 2 years later - the body I have now.
Now I have transitioned to a mainly raw vegan diet. I probably eat about 80-90% raw. I like the tastes of the food better as well as knowing that it makes my body feel better.
Fruits are like sunshine and veggies just makes me smile. I prepare most of my food and it's become a favourite pastime of mine, whipping up recipes and treats in the kitchen with my trusty thermomix. I think it's so good knowing exactly what goes into your body, and putting your energy into the food. I don't deprive myself of anything, instead I'm learning moderation - I eat raw chocolate for breakfast, but I also have smoothies made from raw cacao, algae, chlorella etc so it's a balanced diet. I have educated myself on the types of foods I need to be healthy: proteins, fats, starches and which foods are for optimum health, nutrition, vitamins and minerals.
Eventually my goal is to be certified to preparing raw foods and I hope to share that passion with others. I have never felt better and even with my current medication condition I can lead a normal and wonderful life, feel amazing, look good and most importantly, I am happy!