One – The Beginning.
I had a happy childhood. My mum and dad grew up on farms in fairly remote areas of Victoria. Our family enjoyed going camping, hunting and fishing. It was normal to be apart of the killing, skinning and gutting of animals before preparing them to eat. We had minimal junk food and I ate what I was given, which was usually meat and vegetables. We had cereal for breakfasts and homemade sandwiches for lunches. If we ever whinged that we were hungry we were told to take our pick from the fruit bowl.
Two – The Pharmacy.
My first ever proper encounter with someone who didn’t eat meat was with a girl named Kate. I was nineteen years old and we worked together at a local pharmacy. We hit it off straight away due the same slightly twisted minds, we got one another’s humour. We became really good friends and still are to this day.
Kate had been vegetarian from a young age, though none of her family was. She didn’t like the thought of eating animal flesh and at the time I never understood this. I remember being so shocked at finding out she didn’t eat meat, I had never met a vegetarian before. I was one of those people that asked the sorts of questions I find so annoying now;
“So what if you were on an island and you had to eat an animal or die….”
“Have you ever eaten meat by mistake?”
“What would happen if you ate a whole tonne of meat now, would you be sick?”
Oh god I look back at myself and just cringe.
But Kate would just answer my silly questions and move on. I can still see her in the lunch room, eating her cans of ‘Nutmeat’ which we would have a good laugh over. She wouldn’t say anything when I talked about hunting, looking back Kate never pushed her agenda on anyone. I aim to be like Kate now, just accepting of others.
I do try to educate, but never force.
Three – The Army.
I hated most sports growing up, I never worked well in a team, so I started boxing instead. I enjoyed this and it kept me fit until I joined the army when I was 22. After I passed the initial training, I was posted to Darwin. It was there that I first started weightlifting. I became obsessed with weight training when I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Everyone there just worked, went to the gym and slept. As you can imagine there wasn’t much else to do in your spare time.
I started taking whey protein after every session and adopted a ‘chicken and broccoli’ style diet. I made sure I hit my macros which was typically a 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrate split, consuming around 1800 calories per day. This way of eating continued when I came home where a few of my girlfriends were body building at the time. I took advice from them, which I followed loosely. This advice came in handy if I ever needed to loose body fat to look good for important occasions.
I wasn’t working towards a goal of being on stage, I mainly lived this way because it got me results. I was partying heavily and drinking alcohol on the weekends.
I looked pretty good on the outside, but I felt like shit on the inside. I loved training and seeing the effect it had on my body, but I was also hungry a lot of the time and craved variety.
Dear god I was hungry. I was either shitting through the eye of needle or not pooping for days. I was tired and my skin was a piece of shit. But I also felt strong when training and looked good in all of my clothes, which was enough for me to continue on this way.
Four – The Secret Vegetarian.
I always knew that eating too much meat made me constipated. I also knew that dairy made me feel like shit after eating it as well, but I continued to do so.
On several occasions I became a ‘secret vegetarian’. That is, I would actively not eat meat, but wouldn’t tell anyone that I wasn’t eating meat. I was scared of the stigma and didn’t want to be judged. One time I lasted a whole week, I felt pretty good but would never admit it to anyone. I was heavily influenced by the majority and would succumb to the meat and cheese laden junk food on a weekend. Then after a few weeks I would try it again.
I loved how cleansing it would feel. I was a secret vegetarian on and off for about a year.
Five – Clarks Health Food Shop
Even the smallest suggestion can change the course of someone’s life. This reigns very true with me from the time I visited Clarkes Health Food Shop, in search of some protein. I
had decided to change jobs within the army. From January 2015 I was training in Albury Wodonga to become a Parachute Rigger and was doing lots of extra lifting to build my upper body strength. I needed more protein but I didn’t want to continue taking the whey protein that was making me feel so shitty.
I went to Clarks Health Food Shop, as the typical supplement store only stocked pea protein as an alternative to the dairy versions.
I explained to the lady I needed dairy free, as I had a feeling it was the cause of my pimples and terrible digestion.
“I’ve got just the thing”, she said confidently.
The lady showed me a tub of ‘Ezy Protein’. It was 100% raw, organic and vegan. I looked at the label sceptically, per scoop it had 22g of protein, 5.4g of carbs and 97 calories. With a full amino acid profile and 0.3g of fat it looked pretty good. The lady even mixed some up for me, it tasted like earthy berries and was to my surprise – pretty good!
I brought a small container and went on my way.
Six – That Feeling.
I felt great. So fucking great. My skin was clearing up and I was pooping like a champion. I was making great gains with my training and felt like I had discovered something amazing.
This was enough to start me googling about the benefits of eating less meat and dairy.
I began slow. From my past experience as a ‘secret vegetarian’ I knew I couldn’t just jump right in or I would be at Maccas asking for a double quarter pounder by Friday night.
I began by cutting out red meat for 2 weeks. Everything I read pointed towards red meat being really shit for you. I even read studies on how processed meat may be the cause of some cancers. Jesus.
After 2 weeks I felt pretty good, so I took it a step further and cut out all meat, with the exception of my cans of tuna at lunchtime. I felt like I was winning at life.
It didn’t take long before I replaced my cans of tuna with beans. I had stopped eating cheese during the week and replaced cows milk with almond and oat milk.
I still ate dairy but mainly on weekends in the form of ice-cream and cheese platters. Eating ice-cream and cheese made me feel gross afterwards, but I could never give them up – it was way too tasty! (yeah I was one of those)
I just felt so great. There was no way I could ever go back to eating meat. After not consuming meat for 6 weeks I didn’t crave it anymore. I didn’t want it.
I announced myself as a vegetarian in March 2015.
As it was purely for health, I had not made any ethical connection to the animals.
Seven – Weight Gain
My normal everyday weight is approximately 60 kilos, I’m ‘stocky’ at 157cm tall. If I’m training heavily I will drop down to a leanish 55 kilo’s.
I completed parachute training weighing 54 kilos at the end of July 2016. I got posted to Sydney and went back to my normal ‘maintenance’ 5 day split training routine, this time as a vegetarian.
I put on over 10 kilos by October 2015 and was the heaviest I have ever been in my life at 65 kilos. My macros were the same, I had replaced meat proteins with beans, lentils, extra vegetables and sometimes tofu. My training consisted of weights with high intensity cardio. I was consuming around 1800 calories per day. I was drinking less alcohol, eating less junk food as well as riding my bike to and from work.
How the fuck could I have put on 10 kilos in a few months?
I know you shouldn’t look at the scales as a guide, but I had definitely gotten physically bigger. My clothing was tighter and I couldn’t fit into my usual size eights. Could it be the vegetarianism? Had my metabolism changed because I was getting older? I literally had no idea what was happening.
I always had such control over my body with the way I wanted it to look. I knew exactly how much to eat and when if I wanted to gain, loose or maintain my weight. But something had changed and it was getting out of control.
Don’t get me wrong, I still felt the best I had ever felt in my whole life and I wasn’t overly worried.
On the plus side my boob’s had gotten a little bigger and I used the weight gain to lift increasingly heavier weights. But it wasn’t muscle I was gaining, it was fat.
I went to a doctor who after running tests, said I needed to see a dietician. I agreed, I just wanted to know the fuck was happening!
Eight – The Dietician
The sessions with the dietician were a joke and the biggest waste of time. I explained to her my situation and that I felt really great, but had gradually put on weight.
I vividly remember her saying “The only reason you feel better is because you’re eating more vegetables”.
I tried to explain I had always eaten my veggies, but I had just replaced my meat and most of my dairy with other plant proteins. I could tell she hated me being a vegetarian, she didn’t know much about it either. On several occasions she even googled ‘Vegetarian protein’ right in front of me. Seriously!?
After having my thyroid tested and coming back normal I went on a meal plan provided by this ‘dietician’ woman. She attempted on several occasions to convince me to eat meat again; “You wouldn’t consider just chicken? Fish? Salmon? Tuna?” I would always say “No. No. No. No.”
One thing I will give her credit for was her saying I needed to eat more. Looking back this was correct, unfortunately she was telling me to eat more of the wrong foods.
I didn’t like the meal plan she gave me, but I had to try it, as what I was doing wasn’t working for me anymore. I didn’t like it but I kept thinking, ‘This woman knows more than you Sheila, she has a degree, just do what she is recommending’.
The dietician had me drinking shit loads of fortified soy milk, eating a minimum of 2 eggs a day as well as a serving of greek yogurt. The plan was around 2200 calories. I remember mentioning veganism to her and that I would like to eventually go that way.
She said it was impossible to live healthily as a vegan and that I would have to consume so much food just to get the right amount of proteins and vitamins.
I stuck with this ‘diet’ she had prescribed from November 2015 until January 2016. I was careful with my junk food intake and continued training with extra cardio. I was beginning to feel shitter and shitter and wasn’t loosing any weight. ‘That feeling’ was slipping away. I had to get rid of this meal plan, it was a load of shit.
Because the dietician had been supplied by the military I couldn’t stop seeing her until I was ‘better’. I lied to her and told her I felt great and that she had ‘Really opened my eyes to eating right’.
She signed me off at the end of January 2016 and I began doing my own research.
After all, I knew my body and I knew what made it feel good and bad.
Nine- YouTube and Freelee
At this point in my journey I went back to eating 1200 to 1600 calories with my typical 40-30-30 split, just to not put on any more weight until I figured this out.
I got rid of the eggs, yoghurt and soy milk and begun immediately feeling better.
I was maintaining 65-66 kilos and was freakin hungry with the reduced calories. I was determined to keep eating a vegetarian diet, as I was also more focused on the fact that I still felt better than before.
I found ‘Freelee the Banana Girl’ on YouTube, she had a great figure and was vegan. Her takeaway message was to eat more carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables and starches. What she was eating was typically 80% carbs, 1o% fat and 10% protein.
This went against everything that I had ever practiced. But the more research I did, the more I learnt this way of eating was normal in the vegan community. Freelee ate a shitload of food. I learnt you had to eat a lot more, as fruit and vegetables aren’t as calorically dense as meat and dairy. It made sense, but geez these vegans ate a lot of fruit! I was initially really worried about the sugar.
“Okay Freelee, I’ll give it a crack”. I didn’t need to buy her book or anything as I was already fairly knowledgeable on hitting macro nutrients and was always active. Using the ‘My Fitness’ App for a guide, I started eating an 80-10-10 split. My calories were between 2300-2500 with 80% carbs mainly from fruits, 10% protein and 10% fats. I was always well over my daily sugar which I would ignore.
I was scared. I remember sitting on the couch with Daniel, almost crying as I consumed 4 oven baked potatoes with veggies for dinner. It felt great, but was just so different to the way I had eaten before. I mean, everyone knew that excessive carbs of a night time was bad! I never stuffed myself silly, I ate until I was satisfied and full.
Of course roughly once a week I would fully indulge in an overeating moment. That is… I would eat until I needed to lie down. I still do this today when we go out, if the food is tasty….. I just won’t stop. No regrets.
Anyway, I was so scared I was just going to get huge and would have to buy all new clothes. I was under the impression that fruit was to be eaten in moderation, maybe two to three pieces a day. I was eating bucketful’s, I loved it but I was worried as hell.
But I had to keep reminding myself that what I was doing simply wasn’t working for me anymore.
Instead of eating one banana as a snack, I was eating 8 with my protein powder sprinkled on top for breakfast. Then more fruit for morning tea. Then a whole cantaloupe for lunch with more fruit. Some days I had massive plates of vegetables or huge salads for lunch. I had cooked starches with vegetables and salads for dinner. My serving sizes were bigger, I was consuming more calories and I wasn’t hungry anymore.
You would never fucking believe it, I started loosing weight straight away. Within two months I was teetering between 60-61 kilo’s, my always average weight.
Oh, and I felt like a god. Like an actual fucking re-born god.
I felt like running – something I have never been fond of. I felt this natural high inside and around me all the time. I was waking up with the sun, wanting to just….. GO! It was insane.
In addition to this I had my full bloods and cholesterol checked in April 2017 to see if I was lacking in anything. They came back 100% fine with my iron levels being ‘fantastic’!
Ten- The Connection
You can’t google all things food related about veganism without making a connection to the ethical side of things. All these vegans I was watching on YouTube kept talking about how cruel the dairy industry was. So I started looking into it.
Holy fuck. Like, really, wow. The world sure is a messed up place.
I’ll admit, with the way I grew up and my love for cheese it took a lot for me to go fully vegan. I was still eating small amounts of dairy. Treats like chocolate, sometimes eggs and cheese on a weekend. I did understand by me still buying these products I was contributing to the cruelty. I kept trying to convince myself that ‘This sort of stuff doesn’t happen in Australia’. But the more research I did, the more evidence I found that it most certainly does. In some cases the cruelty in Australia is worse than other countries. My thoughts at this stage were, ‘If I was still eating this stuff, I had to watch what I was contributing to. If I was still O.K. with eating dairy products afterwards, then so be it’.
I watched Earthlings. I had to force myself to keep my eyes open.
My life changed after watching Earthlings. The meat, dairy and egg industry is so fucked. I vowed I would never again contribute to any part of it.
I announced myself as a vegan in April 2016 and haven’t touched, and never will touch anything that comes from an animal again.
This time it was for the animals and not just my health.
Initially I ate largely plant based because I thought I had to. Of course my soul craved treat foods, but I actually thought there wasn’t any vegan ‘junk’ food.
Oh how wrong was I.
I obviously started discovering all the awesome things you can cook and eat on a vegan lifestyle. I have pretty much converted all of my old recipes into vegan ones and they taste the same if not better! I discovered vegan bakeries, Oreos, cashew cream, coconut milk, almond butter, burgers, ice-cream, chocolate and all of the amazing vegan restaurants around Sydney.
You can pretty much eat a vegan version of the standard Australian diet if you wanted to.
With all that ‘discovering’ I had to add in some extra cardio to keep myself in check! I’m now happily sitting at 61-62 kilos and I am literally eating all the food! Burgers, fries, pizza’s, chocolate, all the fruit I can handle and more. I even went out for Vegan Yum Cha last week and stuffed myself stupid at Bodhi restaurant! They had deep fried ‘shrimp’!!! So good!
I eat mostly plant based during the week and I go a little nuts on weekends – there’s just so many vegan places to discover!
I have found a really good balance between fuelling my body while keeping my junk food craving soul happy!
I started seeing how this lifestyle really affected my body. For me, it was like playing with a new toy.
In June I bumped my calorie intake to over 3000 a day for a month. I made some good gains and I only put on one kilo!
I changed my split to roughly 70% carbs 20% protein and 10% fats, which I found perfect for me and my training routine.
If I’m not training I will always eat slightly less, maybe around 1800-2000 calories. This is not a conscious effort, I’m just not as hungry if I’m not lifting.
I find the higher my fat intake from nuts, avocadoes and oils is, the worse I feel. Still a thousand times better than my meat eating self, but worse for my vegan self. (Damn you cashew cream!)
I did fully raw plant foods for a week and was bursting with so much energy and happiness I thought I was going to die from joy.
Every so often now I will eat only raw foods and juices for 5-7 days and I just feel bloody fantastic.
I know that one day I will be fully plant based with minimal vegan ‘junk food’ and maybe even fully raw.
Right now I just feel like I need to go through this transition phase and eat all the things!
Thirteen- Doing more
I wanted to do more to help people realise how great this lifestyle is.
I’m not a bad writer of stories so I got into all the social media and started writing this blog. I believe I have found what they call a ‘Passion’.
My whole life I have never known what my passion is, now I do.
I joined a Vegan club and attend meetups and am making new like minded friends.
I am thankful for everything and everyone that has lead me towards veganism. It’s been the best thing to ever happen to me.
I am by no means a nutritionist and this is merely an opinion blog!
This is simply what has worked for me and I wanted to share the highs and lows of my journey.
I know it may seem as though I am obsessed with calories and macros etc. I definitely do not count calories every day and I eat pretty much whatever I want!
I do believe however it is essential to have an education about what you’re putting into your body. One should at least know the basics about nutritional breakdowns of the foods consumed.
I live a healthy, balanced and happy lifestyle!