It’s taken me a long time to decide whether or not to write this post. As someone who has battled with my weight throughout my life, I’m so conscious of the competition amongst girls when it comes to dieting. To make things clear, this is not one of those fad diet ‘how to lose a stone in a week’ blogs that you might find elsewhere. I’m writing this for people who feel inspired to alter their lifestyle in some way and make themselves healthier and happier. So, *Trigger Warning*, please do not read this is you’re affected by food-talk, because this is what I’ll be focusing on. I basically want to share with you how I’ve changed my lifestyle in the hope it might help people who may be feeling how I felt…
To get started, I’ll give you a brief personal history. I am in no way unique when I say that I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve not struggled with my appearance. From the ages of 12-18 I was everything from a size 6 to bordering a 14 and back again. Although I never had a great relationship with my body, in college I was “okay” with being the chunkier one in my friendship group. It was far from self-love, but I had reached a state of acceptance that I was never going to be content with how I looked. If it came between a piece of pizza or feeling good in a pair of jeans, pizza would get my vote. Every time. But when I started Uni, I got further away from that state of “acceptance” than I could ever have anticipated. I used to eat a huge amount of white pasta, pizza, cheese, white bread, fizzy drinks, have about 3 teaspoons of sugar in tea, live off Doritos… Anything calorific you can think of, I had it. I didn’t have the best Freshers experience for the first part of the year and definitely became a comfort eater. Not only was I extremely unhappy about my physical appearance but I felt terrible. No energy, headaches, bouts of depression, and no motivation. Suddenly I no longer could find that state of “acceptance” within myself. That girl who ate pizza without guilt died over night. I think that women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes, but no matter how hard I tried, suddenly that way of thinking didn’t work when applied to myself. I felt sickened and disgusted with the girl in the mirror.
I wish I could say here that my journey with weight loss was easy and straight forward. But the truth is, weight loss is really, really hard. I used to worry for my friends who went on diets and feel frustrated that we lived in a world where women found the number on the scales synonymous with their self worth. Suddenly I became that woman, fretting over the scales and actually doing things like choosing a kale salad over pizza and getting water instead of coke. To be honest, I felt embarassed to calorie count, as though this disqualified me as a feminist. I didn’t feel proud that I was giving into societal pressures to conform to a body type. I felt as though it had finally broke me. I’d given in.
Losing weight was what I had to do to learn how to love myself again and even though it makes me feel weak to say it, I feel like it needs to be said. Simply because I have these strong beliefs does not mean I’m somehow emotionally devoid to the consequences of a society which pressures women about their appearance. I think life is too short to go through it hating yourself. I used to take pity on my friends who dieted, not in a compassionate way, but in a “how awful it must be to have your low self-esteem” kind of way. I’m telling you, if you pass that off as compassion, feminism, sisterhood or being a good friend, then you’re kidding yourself. Changing my life in this way took a lot of strength, and you should see it as such.
When I look at the comparison of the two images of myself I see a hell of a lot more than a weight difference. I firmly believe that the things we put in our bodies are a form of self-harm. I have made the conscious choice to nourish myself rather than fill my body with toxins and things it doesn’t need. Which is where I get to the life transformation that adopting a plant-based diet has done for me. The guilt flushed away as I began to realise that I was taking my health into my own hands. It stopped being about how I looked and became a focus on my mental well being. It also made me feel so positive to be learning new recipes, teach myself about nutrition and start opening my mind. A year on, my energy, attitude and feelings towards myself have transformed, and changing what I eat has played a major role in that.
In Summer 2013, when I started this blog, I finally reached the point of ‘things need to change‘. I wanted to start a blog but everytime I even attempted to do outfit photos I couldn’t stand how I looked, hence why my blog was so beauty focused in the beginning. I discovered ‘DeliciouslyElla‘ which literally changed my attitude to food over night. She opened my eyes to the huge variety of healthier options out there and inspired me to embrace everything natural. Her blog is all about embracing a diet of pure, unprocessed, unrefined plant-based foods. If that sounds scary, believe me, it’s not. Straight away, I pinned all of her recipes to my ‘Food’ board and spent hours scrolling through it in amazement of how many healthier alternatives there are out there. I realised that there was no need to be filling myself with processed foods when I could so easily make delicious, nourishing meals. I can wholeheartedly say that Deliciously Ella’s blog transformed my life and I can’t recommend her recipes and philosophies enough.
I don’t like labels when it comes to eating because most of the time they’re more about holding up a false pretence of a trend than anything real. Although a predominantly vegan diet is what works for me, pressuring yourself into eating that way 24/7 can be counter productive. I cut out meat completely as I was already vegetarian, dairy, all processed food and refined sugar. People worry about these kinds of diets as they fear the criticism that comes with it. I’m not trying to make a point about veganism – the only point I can make is that eating plant-based meals has a huge amount of health benefits and allowed me to drop a stone in barely a month, without feeling remotely deprived. Craving chocolate? Avocado and cacao powder pudding. Carbs? A big bowl of sweet potato wedges, guac and salad. Seeing my transformation has made many people in my life try out my lifestyle and it’s been amazing to see how the weight just dropped off and how much more excited they become about life as a consequence. I went from just short of 11 stone to 9.7 within 6 weeks whilst getting to eat food I loved and made me feel amazing. A year on and I’m maintaining a weight of 8.7-10lbs which I would call my “natural weight”, which is what I truly believe this lifestyle does for people.
So where do you start? It’s all about the baby steps. I’d say begin with a breakfast smoothie every day. There really is nothing better than kicking off your day with a breakfast smoothie. If you’re worried about the price of fruit, I usually buy a batch of blueberries and bananas and freeze them. I then add almond milk, honey, oats and sprinkle chia seeds on top – delicious! The oats mean that it’s more like having a meal rather than a drink. There are endless combinations of smoothies and they are all amazing.
Every week I will buy a large bag of sweet potatos, kale, carrots, cherry tomatos, avocados, mushrooms, onions, apples, strawberries and bananas. The meal combinations with these foods are endless. Most people worry about the expense of healthy eating, but I can usually do a full food shop in £20 a week. Check out Morrissons vegetable section – it’s by far the cheapest. As for staples, I always have apple cider vinegar, lime and lemon for seasoning salads, raisins, sunflower seeds, sea salt, almond milk, quinoa, lentils and tahini to go with hummus and make amazing salad dressings. The first thing you need to know is that literally anything with the word ‘healthy’ on it in a supermarket is probably terrible. The further you get away from processed foods, the better. Make things yourself and they will taste better, probably be cheaper in the long run and the effects they’ll have on you is just priceless.
It has taken a lot for me to write this blog post. I have had this sitting in draft for months, not quite sure how to articulate it and worried, for the first time, about the response a post I’d written might have. My only reason for sharing this is because I hope that it might reach out to someone and maybe encourage them to reconsider their health in some way. Whether that’s going fully fledged plant-based or simply incorporating more fruit and vegetables into your diet, the information is out there and we should all be in control of what we’re putting into our bodies. So, as you might have guessed, you can expect a lot more posts like this coming on my blog. I’m now going to be introducing a Health & Wellness category where I’ll be sharing healthy meal ideas and recipes. In the mean time, follow me on Instagram @LydiaRoseSmyth as I share lots of healthy meals on there!
What are your thoughts? Have you ever considered a plant-based vegan diet? Is this something you could try? Have you ever struggled to diet and keep a healthy frame of mind? Is there anything else you’d like to know about it or see on my blog?