Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sarah's Vegan Adventure!

I have embarked on a rather unusual food journey in the last few weeks which has resulted in my decision to try to go vegan for a month. I know what you're thinking, here she goes, ranting on about how we're all evil meat eating monsters but that's not what this is about at all. It's about finding what's best for me and eating in a way that makes me feel good and benefits my overall health. I'm not going to preach, I just want to share the experience and the knowledge that I have acquired about it over the last few weeks.

I have known all my life that dairy and me don't get on, I'm allergic to the casein that is present in cow's milk. I have had eczema since I was a baby and I'm always being told by my Mam that whenever dairy was cut out of my diet, it went away. In the last year or so the eczema on my hands and arms has grown worse and it really started pissing me off to be quite honest. I've never had an issue with it really, it could be worse and I consider myself very lucky health wise so I found it easy to overlook it. Looking back, I don't remember a time in the last 4 or 5 years where I have been truly eczema free. I can see now that I was just making excuses and in the last few months as its gotten progressively worse the stares and comments have been getting to me a little. Well more like a lot but when you feel powerless in a situation it's easier to just not think about it, believe it is out of your control and cover up the issue. The incessant itch and long nights I've spent awake scratching are just not worth it if something as simple as giving up dairy can prevent it. So, I decided to take proactive action and give up dairy to see if it makes a difference.

So Sarah, you're going off dairy for your skin because you want to get rid of your eczema, we understand, but why go off meat? Good question! I have had for as long as I can remember a very contentious relationship with meat. I've just never really been in to it. I've never liked pork, lamb or even chicken all that much. Eating meat is convenient and cheap and when you've eaten it all your life with every meal it's hard to know where to even start when you stop eating it. I was a vegetarian for about 6 months about two years ago. I didn't find it hard at all and really enjoyed it. The reason I stopped was because college was over for that term and I had to move home where my father cooks all the food and when I went back to college I didn't commit to it again fully. A poor excuse, I know. But my father loves cooking and really expresses himself through it and it's honestly insulting to him if you don't want to eat it. It's hard to see someone you love put so much care and attention into preparing a meal and then saying no to it. And ultimately I was lazy and wasn't arsed having to prepare my own food all the time. So I started eating meat again. It's been something that always remained on my mind though and I regularly go weeks in college without buying or eating meat without noticing. I've always wanted to return, you need to be in the right mind set though and when I decided two weeks ago to stop eating it again I was very much in the perfect one. Yeah I've craved meat and yeah I've wanted to eat a cheeseburger after a few drinks in the pub but these will fade eventually and they're perfectly normal. So when deciding to go fully off dairy, the desire to stop eating meat was present also so it just made sense to try vegan for a while and see how I feel!

I'm currently a week into my vegan month and it's going pretty well. My energy levels are unfortunately not great so I'm remedying that my introducing much more protein and iron into my diet. Have I noticed a difference in my skin? I'm not sure. Right now the redness, inflammation and the burning desire to itch is gone. Whether that is due to my diet I don't know. I've had many periods in my life over the last few years where I've been nearly eczema free and still on dairy so it's a hard one to determine really. Saying that, I don't want to admit too early that it might be helping and for it to come back with a vengeance later. So for now, yes, I am seeing quite a drastic improvement but it's early days. Will I continue after the month is up? I don't know. It's going to be a long process and honestly, I'm learning as I go along. I've been watching a lot of documentaries on the topic and I've been reading up a lot about it too. The more I read and research the better I understand why this is a good decision for my health and for wider ethical reasons. I won't get into any of that now because I know I'm going to be met by a lot of criticism so for now I'm going to focus on doing my month, reading as much about it as I can and hopefully improving my eczema! I've been keeping tabs of my shopping lists, prices and the food I am preparing and will hopefully have regular posts about what I'm eating and how I'm meeting all my nutritional needs through plant-based means! Wish me luck!

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