Looking back on my journey over the past few years, I went vegan for a number of different reasons – primarily for health!

Although having love for all animals and their welfare as well as wanting to make sure I play my part in this world with sustainable living and environment wellbeing, health was at the forefront of why I made the change.

Many of you may (or may not know) however I embarked on a vegetarian path over 10 years ago as my spiritual journey began. In 2013, I gave birth to my dream which was Cafe Virtuoso, a vegetarian cafe in the heart of Bedford, UK. The cafe evolved after a year from being vegetarian to 100% vegan as well as tipping our toes into juicing and raw foods. Looking back, at that time, we were at the tip and beginning of the iceberg that was to see the vegan revolution explode.

We had a good few years (just over 3) experimenting with different foods, textures, cooking/baking/making methods, offering a wide variety of different dishes to our customers, however I believe we were simply ahead of our time. I made a hard decision to close the ‘cafe’ doors in 2017 and took my business online offering private catering and cooking classes and these areas grew from strength to strength, over the years.

So going back to why I went vegan! Before opening the cafe in 2013, my diet wasn’t the best. Although primarily I lived a good life and chose to eat primarily what I thought was healthy foods, after suffering with joint issues, back problems, head and sinus issues, excess mucus, lack of energy etc. etc. I sought the help of a nutritionist who advised me to try omitting dairy from my diet as this could be one of the main reasons for many of the different symptoms I was experiencing. Before embarking on this journey, I was requested to do so blood tests which showed that I had high cholesterol as well as high blood pressure. I also did a fasting blood test to test my blood sugar levels which showed that I was diabetic. I was shocked! Looking back, I knew that during my 20’s and 30’s I didn’t think twice about my health or diet or lifestyle and these all, over time, contributed, I guess, to these test results.

Now in my 40’s I knew I needed to take action. I didn’t want to be another statistic suffering with all these ailments, in a Western society where it was seen as the ‘norm’ to suffer from these ailments and be on numerous pills to help make us feel better. I know from speaking to many people, friends, family, customers, that many suffered with these ailments and many were on numerous different medicines seen to help manage these conditions and none of them thought anything wrong with this way of living.

For me, this was not something I was used to. I have never been on regular medication, I generally had good health and now, having received these test results, I did not want to be another statistic in this world suffering with these ‘normal’ and ‘accepted’ medical conditions and taking pills for the rest of my life – NO WAY! So I looked for other solutions and methods of treatment.

I met a nutritionist after having received the blood test results and we discussed a plan of action, which primarily pointed to adopting a vegan diet. Since taking that first, admittedly difficult step, I have NOT looked back.

Yes it was tough however aren’t most changes we make in life? Yes it did have its own challenges but doesn’t most things in our life?

I embraced this new way of eating and as this happened at the beginning of year 2 of owning Cafe Virtuoso.

I learnt so much about food, ingredients, combinations, cooking methods, benefits etc. Hence why I decided to change the cafe from being vegetarian into a 100% vegan cafe to encompass my new way of eating, my new learnings and the positive aspects of this way of eating and living.

At the cafe I created a juice bar, which proved really popular as well as including a variety of RAW foods from salads, to cakes to my delicious creation of raw energy balls (back when they weren’t as popular or as mainstream as they are today)! I had really hoped this would take off however I learned 2 things, one was that Bedford just wasn’t ready for this radical change and two, veganism wasn’t mainstream and with vegetarianism just about being accepted, veganism was certainly only accepted by a small number of people hence sustaining the cafe for longer than the 3 years we held on for was not proving fruitful.

In regards to my own health, after approx. 7 months of following a vegan diet, juicing everyday because I was making them daily at the cafe for others and therefore made more for myself, enjoying fresh and wholesome dishes which we made fresh every day for the cafe therefore getting to enjoy these dishes myself, I took blood tests to see if my health had changed and I was pleased to see that it had. With all the above changes, I was also physically active at the cafe (starting off at about 7am and not finishing until 6pm and sometimes not having a chance to sit at all during the day). The combination of the changes in diet and physically being on the go all day, 6 days a week I believe is what helped change my health around.

My cholesterol levels were back to normal, my blood pressure levels were normal (unless stressed which I continue to work on daily), and in regards to being diagnosed as Diabetic, although this ‘label’ stays on your medical records for life, my blood sugar levels were ‘normal’ and still are! Woohoo – I am ecstatic, most of all about keeping my blood sugar levels regular as I know the horrific symptoms this disease can have on the whole body and I certainly do not want to experience any of these.

I didn’t take any medication for any of the symptoms I was initially diagnosed with and purely managed these through diet, lifestyle and movement. I am one of those people that for as long as I can remember, I have been on one diet or another, without much success until now. Although I don’t see myself being on a diet, and of course still have challenges with my weight, I feel healthy and have managed to stay off any course of medication until today and kept myself and my ailments at bay and I truly put this down to a better of understanding of the ingredients I choose to enjoy on a day to day basis.

So here are some recommendations from someone who has been there:

  • Eat whole, non-processed foods
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, herbs, spices, nuts & seeds every day as these will ensure you get the right nutrients into your system (vitamins, minerals, essential fats, proteins etc).
  • Drink a minimum of 2 litres of room temperature water every day to keep the body and brain hydrated
  • Move daily: I am not one for running or extreme exercise regimes however I do some cardio at least 3 times a week as well as walking every single day to ensure I keep heart healthy, mobile knowing this benefits my overall health, mentally and physically
  • Take some time to rest the body and mind whether this is just to sit in silence for 20 minutes (meditate or listen to some soft music) or lay down/take a nap! This simply relaxes the body and helps recharge the body from the days activities

Health is a very personal journey for each and every one of us therefore you must:
a) do what feels right for you
b) consult with your medical practitioner to check on your current health condition and what changes you can make to enhance your health whether through diet, exercise or perhaps even medication if that is what is required
c) connect with others through social media or professional forums/therapists to talk about any concerns you have or indeed see what others have experienced and can recommend

Whatever it is, making changes to our health is a journey of learnings and growth, time and patience and being being gentle with yourself.

Here are some resources I personally recommend to read or watch that have helped me along my journey:

~ WHAT THE HEALTH (FILM)
~ GAMECHANGES (FILM)
~ HOW TO GO VEGAN BY THE PEOPLE AT ‘VEGANUARY’ (BOOK)
~ THE CHINA STUDY BY COLIN CAMPBELL (BOOK)
~ SITTING KILLS, MOVING HEALS BY JOAN VERNIKOS (BOOK)

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