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

Which way – this way, that way?

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Ramin and I tend to either decide on something immediately or take quite a while to make a decision. There’s not really an in-between.  My mind is thinking of that moment as well as later that day, the next day, appointments that are coming up in the next week and often what’s coming up in the following month.  Ramin tends to live in the moment so completely that he can find it challenging to think beyond what is happening right now. This could just be our personalities, but it could also be that MS is intervening, yet again invisibly but very much there.

My Mum made a good observation the other day, she noticed that Ramin tends to wait for me to ask him to do something, or asks where we are going and when. I’m the one who carries around the week’s schedule in my head and he is happy to rely on my memory for the organization of his week, of our week. In itself it’s not too bad as our lives are not particularly complicated, but it does mean that he isn’t engaging his own memory, is reliant on me and floats from one event to the other without much reflection. How wonderful to trust someone so much! Ah, but this has to change. Yes I am Ramin’s carer, but in this role as well as helping him with the every day things that would be too hard for him, I also want to assist him to progress in his life, not to keep him reliant on me for every little thing, all the time, everywhere. Mum suggested that we write the events of the week down in a little book – not a diary (He has one of those already and either never remembers to look in it or there’s too much space in-between events) – but a little book so that when he’s not sure about the week’s plans, he can look in the book and remind himself without always asking me – crossing off events when they’re complete. I love this idea!

The Oxford Dictionary definition of independence (as it relates to a person) is: ‘adjective: ‘free from outside control’…’capable of thinking or acting for oneself’…’not influenced by others’…’not depending on something else for strength or effectiveness’.

If the opposite of the definition of independence is true for him then he would be controlled by me, I would think for him, I would  influence him and he would depend on me for strength or effectiveness. At the moment, to some degree, all those things  are true – he kind of likes it that way to be honest as it removes responsibility from his actions – and he knows I have a clear head and can make good decisions. Also in marriage being interdependent is healthy and good! When I go to the dentist I totally rely on his calm strength to be able to face the scary-ness!

However a marriage is a union of two people, through which they both grow and learn together. As his wife I  want him to be someone I can rely on. I want to have a great life together! I want him to fly. I want to fly with him! If one person is making all the decisions and the other is relying on that person and not thinking for themselves, then how can either of them grow? How can I grow as a wife if my husband just agrees with my ideas of where to go, what to do, what to eat, what to buy, how to serve, who to visit and so on? It’s like being alone with a lovely pet dog who loves you and follows you around and is sad when you leave. Sorry, but this is true! How can Ramin grow as a husband if he doesn’t think about his life, ponder on his actions, reflect on  his love for me and ways to grow together or even just think for himself about his diet, exercise, friends, service, prayers and so on without my prompting? In fact it’s not only the marriage that suffers if one person isn’t independent, but that person’s whole life! I don’t want Ramin to become me, for Pete’s sake!

Ramin is a wonderful man with an excellent University degree in film (Aberystwyth), strong personal opinions (when he feels he wants to express them), a fantastic personality full of joy, calm and love for people and someone who needs to have the space and encouragement to just be himself. MS took all his abilities away for many years and I feel he lost a sense of trust in his mind and his body in that time. Now, with almost all his abilities functioning really well, he needs to discover his self-trust again and not let those years of illness rob him of a meaningful and independent life. You see how  you can choose to let MS have a huge, looming role in your life, or how it can be pushed away and play no part?

So therefore sometimes our decisions are quick and easy – either when we both agree straightway to do something (eat pizza, go for a walk, watch this movie, ring his Dad) or take a lot of time and space when it’s clear to me that I need to step back and let Ramin find his voice. Yes I can get frustrated and in my head my voice is saying ‘hurry up!!!’ but expressing this just kills any chance Ramin had to think and use his voice. For example, it took us two weeks to decide that we wouldn’t continue the fertility treatment and would start the adoption process. He wanted me to make the decision and I refused to do so by myself. I waited until he had really thought about it. We also consulted with our family members and prayed a lot.

Perhaps I need to employ this method more in our lives, not just about the big decisions but also about what to do and where to go – to give him a real sense of us deciding together. Man, I’m going to need some patience from the Divine! So maybe that’s my disability right there, I’ve learned to be the strong one and now I need to learn to step back. You can see this in the way we walk down the street, I’m always walking ahead while he follows behind. I then stop and wait, realising I’m walking too fast. Then we walk together, holding hands, making eye contact while I pull back my desire to strive ahead faster and he pulls back his desire to follow and not think much.

Perhaps he’s my hermit crab and I’m the shell he hides away in. He’s protected by his trust in me, his love for me and a regular routine – and when he feels safe, and the way is clear he’s able to pop his head out of the shell and feel the waters ahead with tentative thought tentacles – and that’s when I need to sit quiet and let him take us both forward, knowing it’s the experience of moving forward that’s important, not really if we’re going this way or that way.