How I became a Plant-based Missaghian (part two)

Sweet potato & black bean enchiladas with avocado-cilantro cream sauce from: //ohsheglows.com

 Pilot project – to eat a plant-based diet for 3 weeks.

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My love, my support, my Ramin

If it wasn’t for Ramin’s support in that first week, I’m not sure I could have made the step myself. I find cooking two kinds of meals quite tiring and the delicious smell of cooking meat has always weakened my desire to stop eating it. So Ramin’s support (and my Dad’s acceptance that I would be serving up only Vegan meals in this time) to try a plant-based diet for three weeks gave me free reign to experiment see if that desire could be strengthened into commitment. I knew Ramin wasn’t going to become Vegan, in fact I’m not even putting that pressure on myself. I can’t operate that way actually, I find if I can’t have something then that’s ALL I want! I was sure there would be a shift, but I wanted to have an experience and then reflect on long term changes, not set myself up to fail or feel guilty.

On the first day, I had breakfast with my lovely friend Yas, who was super-supportive about our plan and even treated me to a Vegan cooked breakfast – which was yummy! Ramin and I went to a Vegetarian café in Cardiff called ‘Milgis’ and had the most delicious coconut based bowl of veggies while proudly announcing to the Waitress that we were Day One Vegans!

We enjoyed soy lattes in the city and I bought the Jamie Oliver book ‘Everyday Superfood’ (many great Vegetarian and Vegan recipes in there), spending the next few days making really tasty meals – slightly complicated, but well worth the effort.

soy latte in Costa

Yummy soy latte!

We ate a plant-based diet for 16 days (As well as Jamie’s ideas, I tried recipes from the wonderful Vegan book ‘Oh She Glows’ and various internet searches) before I had a really low day accompanied by a massive chicken craving. I gave in, and we ate chicken for a few days and I did feel better physically, yet sad about eating the meat. My Vegetarian friend assured me, along with hilarious chicken-noises, that I was in the process of making a transition, and not to be too hard on myself.

The Monday after the low-point-chicken-fest came along and Ramin decided two weeks was enough, he’d still happily eat any plant-based meals I prepared but he really loves cow’s milk in his coffee and was missing meat. This was totally fine by me, in fact I find it troublesome when couples get upset about their partner’s eating choices as who are we to dictate what someone else should or shouldn’t do? I’ve come to my decision through a lot of thought and knowledge from my research and interest in this subject, but Ramin hasn’t and I’m not going to impose it on him either. He has enough to deal with having MS as it is. Also through this pilot project he ate very tasty plant-based meals and has significantly reduced the amount of meat he now eats – so he is doing really well.

Oh She Glows: //ohsheglows.com

Delicata squash salad with lemon-tahini dressing

Weird aches

I found all the milk alternatives were giving me stomach ache, and when I went back to goats milk after the two weeks these aches went away! I wondered if I was detoxing or my body was reacting to something in the long-life process of these milks (I’ve read this can be the case)… then I considered this could something to do with my female workings and nothing to do with the food? Hard to know! The aches were consistent and I had a real lack of energy as well as feeling low. Was it hormones or digestion?

At the Doctors I had an examination and found out that I have a ‘female condition’ (I’ll spare you the details) – a yeast infection caused by Candida, a type of internal fungus. Of course the GP didn’t tell me this (as most GPs in my experience (not all, Ashley and Nirvana!!) make no connection between ill health and food), but the information allowed me to research the cause and then it all made sense. No wonder I had been feeling low, with stomach aches and cravings. My body was overrun with bad bacteria! I also realised, looking back at other symptoms and female examinations, that I’ve had this condition for over a year and it could be one of the main reasons why I’ve had a lack of energy on a regular basis.

I took the GP’s medicine and I also bought a jar of strong probiotics, started taking cider vinegar (with ‘the mother’ – i.e. another form of probiotics that helps the body become alkaline) daily and have since stopped eating anything off the list that can cause the bad bacteria to grow such as white bread tortillas, sugar, cheese and mushrooms. It’s as if my body knew I didn’t need cheese from the beginning. My body wants to be plant-based more than my mind does perhaps? The stomach aches stopped and my energy levels increased! I made a delicious sugar, gluten and dairy Vegan raw cake from Caramelia Cakery and a little bit every day has been enough to satisfy my chocolate desires!

Orange peanut raw cake – Caramelia Cakery: Buy the e-book here for only £5

Some other personal, immediate results you might be interested in

I’m sleeping better, only needing the loo once in the middle of the night, often sleeping all the way through the night (I used to need the loo 2-5 times a night!). I wake up around 7.30am (often earlier) feeling wide awake, when before I felt sluggish and only really felt ‘normal’ around 11.30am. Other toilet habits are great – daily – and easy. My sinuses are clearer (this is fantastic for my singing!), I don’t feel hungry between meals any more (I used to be a terrible snacker) and I’ve lost about 3 kilos since mid September. Another cool thing is that our shopping bill has been reduced by about a third! It only starts getting expensive when I buy ready-made Vegan foods. If I cook from scratch, it’s way cheaper to eat plant-based meals and of course much healthier too.

Pilot project over, what have I decided?

So on reflection, I have decided to commit to a Vegetarian diet with the option to have meat if I ever feel an overwhelming urge for it. I’m also going to try to eat foods that will satisfy any such cravings first, rather than just lunging for the meat. I’m taking a B12 sublingual supplement and a few teaspoons of Feroglobin daily (to ward off anaemia which runs in my family) as well as my usual probiotics and Vitamin C supplements. I read online that many see Vegan as the goal and Vegetarian as the cut off point. I like that. It feels realistic to me and something I can stick with.

The Vegan/Plant-Based friends of mine who have influenced and inspired me have done so through love, a down-to-earth approach and detachment from my or anyone else’s choices (thank you Natasha and Gareth!). I’ve loved how much they love food, making me realize I can still love food as much as I do – just make different tasty choices.

Harissa roasted aubergine – Jamie Oliver (Everyday Superfood)

Becoming Vegetarian is a huge change for me as I used to eat meat or fish every day, for lunch and dinner. If I can sustain this way of eating I have accomplished something so important – as the will of my soul (the rider) has reined in the will of my body (the horse) and oh that rounded-bellied horse loved to run, well eat!

I always buy free-range eggs and I don’t really see any harm in eating them to be honest, the chickens don’t suffer! The same is with honey. Goat’s milk and my stomach are friends and for now, I’m happy with that. Recently found coconut milk is fab too. I will phase the milk out (as I don’t want to be responsible for the slaughter of young billy goats), but I’m being kind to myself with this one…. I’m giving it longer to make the transition. I can still see myself becoming Vegan in the future. It’s a lot closer now than it was 3 weeks ago.

Motivation

I decided to have a go at a plant-based diet in the first place, not only because I want my life choices to not cause suffering to other creatures, but also to be able to prevent serious illness like the Cancer my Mum eventually lost her battle with. I’m not afraid of death and I believe we are eternal beings, taking everything we have learned with us into the next world. We are what we have made of our souls. Yet I want to live this life with health, energy, positive feelings about my actions and their consequences and to be of service to others. I wish Mum and I had both had a go at this many years ago – as maybe she’d then still be with us?

After Mum passed I had a dream I was asleep on my bed and received a huge delivery of huge boxes of fruit and vegetables, with a note asking us to share these with people in our community. I felt this was an impossible task as I didn’t have a car, and wondered if Ramin and I should just keep them for ourselves? I interpreted this dream to mean that I needed to share with people the spiritual fruits of my Mum’s life and as a result Dad and I called the newspapers who ran a big story on the life of my Mum. We all began walking around the house joyously shouting ‘Share the fruits!’

Yet I also think my Mum was sending me a message in this dream, to literally eat fruit and vegetables and to share this knowledge with others. Mum Kalim and Fleur 2013My determination to eat a plant-based diet has developed more strongly within me in the last year than ever before and I think this is because my Mum is assisting me from the spiritual worlds of God. Health, happiness and strength to any of you lovely ones out there, making efforts to improve your lives and your impact on the world around you. And please, let’s be kind to one another, whatever is on our plate as we are all on different paths and it’s only love that changes anything, not judgement. As Ghandi so beautifully said, ‘Be the change you want to see’.

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Tofu stir-fry with peanut sauce

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Being still

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So it’s a sunny day in March. It’s the time of the Baha’i Fast – which I am doing spiritually this year (beautiful dawn prayers) as I don’t feel I can cope with it, while learning to accept Mum’s passing. I see this as a time of reflection and I am hoping I can get my teeth stuck into one or more of my writing projects. But I also feel a sense of drifting as I recover from the events of the past months and re-map my life now that Mum doesn’t play a physical part in it anymore.

The hardest thing for me is not being able to sit and talk things through with her. We spoke almost every day and she helped me gather my thoughts, listened to my frustrations, goals, hope, worries and excitement and assisted me in making steps forward. I am learning to do this more with Dad now. Dad is a great listener, very kind and gentle in his steps forward, he makes me realize in his responses that I can be kind to myself – that this is ok and I need to trust my abilities and ways of understanding my life. Of course Ramin is there for me in every aspect also. His support has been like a continuous bear hug of love.

Talking with my Mum was such a fluid form of communication where I often felt she understood me better than I understood myself. She still does…she’s not connected to her body anymore, but she hasn’t gone from me, from my Dad, my sister, my brother and all the family and all her friends. She’s still with us, just in a way that is now purely spiritual.

This word ‘still’ is resonating with me at the moment. She’s still here. Her soul is with me, still, always. I sit in stillness and stare out at the trees, that are still there, that are still. So, I wrote a poem on this….

Still

So I wait for you, still

caught in a tangle at the fence

look for your face, the way you walk

your red scarf muffling your neck

blond trails dancing in the breeze.

ggg

I wait for your bright smile

that complete sense of being seen and

loved by you

one of the select core

you always had time and attention for.

gig

A scrap of orange nail-varnish

still adorns the tip of my big toes

because you told me you liked it

you caught a glimpse while Dad helped you

from the bathroom to the bedroom.

gig

You liked my nails and my pink jumper

“I love that colour on you!’ you said,

and if I remove it, if I take the colour off

then I won’t see it anymore

I won’t have a tiny part of you

connected by a recent time and the memory

of your positive feedback on my choices

however small.

gig

Adrift, I’m floating aimlessly

I have to navigate using different strengths now

I do have goals and hopes, projects that interest me

But I don’t have you, in the same way

and everything has lost its edge

the meaning I could get lost in

as your encouragement was always there

and though still always here

I can’t yet see it, my map is blurry.

gig

So I wait for you,

sometimes blank and thoughtless

sometimes streaming tears that rise from my solar plexus

and travel through my blood through all veins and skin

often in remembrance of the daily love I always had

from before my birth to the night you died

and beyond, but in a different way

that is as yet, hidden from this waiting girl.

Cwmcarn Forest Drive with Rita and Viv

Mum, Dad and Ramin in Cwmcarn Forest Drive