Over the past month, I have (again) been experimenting with my diet. I have reached the point where I have officially read sufficient information to convince myself that both gluten and dairy are very much things that us as humans can live without, even flourish without, and I decided to cut them out of my diet completely for two weeks and see what would happen.
Because so many people are allergic to gluten and/or dairy, cutting it out isn’t really hard from a social perspective. Shops generally provide alternative products, and requesting a gluten or dairy-free alternative at a restaurant isn’t such a big deal: generally, people are aware that a very large portion of the population is either allergic or intolerant. Because of these two iconic factors, I found the two weeks of being dairy and gluten-free some of the easiest “dieting” weeks of my life! I increased my carbs somewhat, by including gluten-free bread from Woolies, and gluten-free pasta. Soy milk froths almost exactly the same way as cow’s milk, and tastes very similar too. Because I was eating bread and pasta again, I had little to no cravings for “cheats” whatsoever – to the extent where I actually decided to take it to the next step.
Two of my best friends are pescatarian, and one of my best friends is vegan. A few weeks ago, one of my favourite fitness personalities @gracefituk made a YouTube video about her going vegan. Cattle farming is one of the leading factors in greenhouse gas emissions, and I’m all about saving the planet, yo. Since cutting out gluten and dairy was so easy, I decided to cut out all forms of meat and animal products too, and see how my body would respond.
Essentially, when you cut something out of your diet, you replace it with something else. As I mentioned above, there are dairy and gluten alternatives available, as there are meat-alternative products. The problem is, finding a product that’s ALL of the above is pretty tricky. In general, cutting out meat, and being low-carb, is basically impossible – unless you only eat vegetables all day errday (woohoo exciting… not). I discovered that the brand Fry’s makes these chicken nugget type things that are gluten-free which tasted really nice, but they are definitely not low-carb. They’re also not really high in protein either which is a big factor to consider when you’re cutting out both meat and dairy. Quorn makes products high in protein, but they all contain gluten. Whereas Fry’s uses more natural ingredients, Quorn is made out of something called Mycoprotein – which I can’t imagine is very natural.
Although I love a good debate as much as the next person, and love having the opportunity to voice my own opinion about something, I must say, I’ve never felt more personally attacked as I did during my two weeks of being vegan / plant-based. Having to explain myself to people ALL THE TIME was just so unnecessary and draining that it actually physically tired me out. It reached the point where I wished I didn’t even have to tell anyone, that I could just make my own food choices like any other human being would, and not have to prove myself, or defend my own personal life choices.
After the two weeks of cutting out meat, I decided it is a lifestyle that isn’t for me. But, that being said, I’m extremely happy I experienced it. I now have so much more respect for people who are vegan and have to put up with other people’s bullshit every single day. It taught me to care less about what OTHER people are doing, because at the end of the day, it’s THEIR choice – from now on I’m going to try and be more respectful towards other people’s food / health / life choices and just accept them right off the bat rather than question or challenge them.
I realized that I prefer a more whole-food, paleo diet. A paleo diet omits dairy and all grains, is generally low-carb, and allows for organic, grass-fed meat. This more holistic approach is way more appealing to me, because although I care very strongly for the environment, I also care about my own health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, I don’t agree that eating fake, Mycoprotein is as good as the real thing. I believe that humans are omnivorous, and therefore would much rather get in my protein and healthy fats from a piece of organic, grass-fed steak than from a sticky salted caramel flavoured protein powder than has a load of added sugar and other artificial nonsense.
In reducing my carbon footprint, I have researched where to buy organic, grass-fed meats in my area, as well as organic, free range eggs. I am also choosing to eat a whole-food diet, and stop with all the processed crap. Rather than trying to make alternatives work, which are made in a factory and packed with preservatives and sodium, I’m going to buy organic fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers’ market. Therefore, I will no longer be supporting large factories and their emissions, and by buying from the market it will reduce the need for unnecessary plastic packaging. Oh and by the way, just for interest sake, packets of chips like Simba or Lays, in friken 2017 STILL don’t have recyclable packaging! Luckily I won’t be snacking on those either.
Cutting out meat forced me to be creative and think of more plant-based meal options, especially ones I can eat at work. I have decided I’m only going to have meat once a day, at supper, and have eggs for breakfast and something plant-based for lunch. My favourite thing to snack on at the moment is celery sticks and mushrooms as dippers in guacamole or hummus.
In all my years of food experimenting, I always find myself going back to low carb. I lost a considerable amount of weight from this style of dieting a few years ago, and have concluded that my body responds well to it – even though I didn’t do it in the most sustainable way when I was younger. MyFitnessPal has really helped over the past year with keeping track of my macronutrients, and I just enjoy being OCD in general and planning my life down to the last gram of xylitol. I am much more knowledgeable now than in my younger years, and this time am definitely sticking to my macros and not under-eating like I did previously.
I’ve actually changed my training style as well, to be a bit more functional and plyometric. My favorite YouTubers who I’m inspired by in this regard are Natacha Oceane and Sarah’s Day. Because of this, I’ve upped my carbs a bit to allow for things like beetroot, baby potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, peas and banana. Your body uses carbohydrates for muscle growth and recovery, so I choose low-GI carbs. This way, the insulin release into the bloodstream is at least slower than the immediate spike you would get as a result of eating simple carbs.
I’m still in two minds about a high fat diet, though, especially since doing more research on calories and macronutrients. I do know that healthy fats are good for the brain, and eggs and avo for breakie definitely do keep me fuller for longer. Since omitting dairy, my fat intake has reduced greatly and allows more space for other, better healthy fats like nuts and coconut, both also advantageous because of their high fibre content. I definitely agree with the keto diet in the sense that you should only eat when you’re hungry. I generally get hungry at around 11 o’clock. If I got to gym in the morning and I come home and eat breakfast, I’m still “hungry” at 11 o’clock anyway because my body is in routine of eating then. If I don’t eat after gym and wait until 11, that’s a whole meal’s worth of calories I can save for later when I actually AM hungry.
This past month of experimenting has been extremely fulfilling and beneficial. Whereas then I was seeing what my body likes and doesn’t like, I look forward to the next month of doing solely what my body responds well to, both eating and exercise-wise, as well as doing it sustainably and doing my bit for the environment. I am confident that in a month’s time, I will have some great results to report back on. Here’s to an awesome awesome December!!