May 1, 2017

Four Unexpected Effects of a Plant-Based Diet.

What if I told you that you could do something today that would make you not only look and feel wonderful, but also save lives and the Earth?

I think without knowing what that action was, most—if not all—people would agree to trying it. Unfortunately, when that action involves breaking with societal norms and traditions, the decision to change is harder fought.

This has made me feel deeply compelled to share my own experience of how going vegan, and relinquishing all meat and dairy from my plate, drastically changed my life in unexpected and beautiful ways. I hope that my story can inspire many people, if not at least a few, to be curious enough to try the experiment out for themselves, and watch their own lives transform for the better.

I quickly found that when eating more fruits and vegetables, while simultaneously eating less sugar, processed foods, and fat, I always felt better. A diet consisting mainly of meat, eggs, and dairy has been proven to sink the body into a state of inflammation which leads to disease and a poor quality of life riddled with medication and corrective surgeries.

So, I decided to cut out that part of my diet just to see what I might find, and I was, indeed, very surprised.

In the past few months, while I slowly eliminated meat, then eggs and dairy in favor of a plant-based diet, I experienced a myriad of benefits that I never anticipated. Aside from feeling happy about my choice to live an environmentally-friendly existence, there were other perks that I had not even considered when making my initial decision to become vegan. I knew I would feel clearer and have more energy, but I never expected these next four items to happen—and certainly not so suddenly.

1. Sleep: Within days of eating a diet free of all animal products, I started needing less sleep. Typically I would feel exhausted by 9:00 p.m. Right after putting my two young boys to sleep, I would want to crash too, and often did, much to my husband’s dismay. Our time to talk and bond as a couple was truncated because all I wanted to do was clean up the dinner dishes and go to bed. This shifted almost immediately when I began consuming more dark, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, fruit, and grains.

Aside from having more energy at night, my quality of sleep improved: I fell asleep fast and slept soundly all night, which was not typical for me.  And, when my alarm clock goes off at the crack of dawn, I am alert and ready to start my day from a place of mindfulness and strength while the rest of my house soundly sleeps.

2. Athletic Endurance: I love to workout because I am able to connect with my body, as well as reach a kind of meditative state. That’s why I was intrigued when I went completely plant-based and my running felt different. I felt as though I could run forever, there was no resistance in my lungs, heart, or legs. My body moved in synchronicity, perfectly free, and full of life.

The change I felt in running carried over to the weight room too. The weights felt lighter, and my recovery time was shorter between repetitions. Usually, the day following a tough weight session I would be sore, but I felt very little of that. At firstI thought I was just having a good day, then a good week, but I saw the same encouraging results each time I went to the gym. My performance had definitely improved, and the only variation was the quality and make-up of my diet. After my workout, I typically drink a protein shake or eat an apple and it carries me through until dinner, no 2:30 p.m. sugary snack needed.

The amount of energy I source from nutrient dense foods has changed the way my blood flows when taxed, and I could feel it immediately. It has been shown that patients with high cholesterol and arterial blockages can improve their vascular health by switching to a plant-based diet. The body wants to heal itself, and it will if you only let it. It takes about three hours for the arteries to de-harden after the consumption of food high in salt and fat, which is usually when they are hit again with another damaging meal. Imagine what happens when you let the body go into a state of healing instead of destruction, and imagine what happens if you don’t.

3. Sugar Addiction: Sugar is one of the most damaging ingredients in the human diet, and one of the most addicting. I certainly was not immune to its pull, however with an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies in my diet, my urge for soda, candy, and yes even Nutella has subsided substantially. Its been theorized that sugar cravings are actually caused by a depletion of nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, and chromium. Because I was getting plenty of the core nutrients my body needed, my usual sugar cravings evaporated. And as a result of consuming less sugar, I noticed my skin, hair, and nails looked better. I was healing my body from the inside on a cellular level, and it was showing on the outside.

4. Relationships: Truly happy people have a good relationship with themselves first, and feeding themselves well and with care is the ultimate act of love to your body, mind, and spirit. By choosing to eat nutritiously and mindfully, I show myself love everyday, and that impacts how I interact with my sons, husband, family, co-workers, and friends. My improved levels of energy, athletic performance, and general sense of well-being made me happier and more excited about life and my relationships. It’s a scenario where everyone wins.

The more I talk about how great I feel, the more questions I receive about it. At first there is always a joke, usually accompanied with an eye-roll, but then more often than not, the conversation transforms to honest curiosity and openness about how a plant-based diet changed my life for the better, and how it could change theirs too.

The list above details just a few examples of how going vegan has had an enormous impact on my quality of life, and I am looking forward to discovering more as time goes by and I get more creative with my recipes. We have one life and one body, and to truly honor it and live the best life, we need to actively take control of what we put in it. And, who knows what exciting ways our lives might improve if we are curious enough to try out a plant-based diet.


Author: Elizabeth Carlile 
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Taia Butler

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