Not certain how long I have been vegan whole food plant based (oil free). I think it was around September / October 2017 that I made the switch from unhealthy vegetarian. And all had been going well – up to now. My weight dropped rapidly, I came off blood pressure medication, joint pain improved drastically – together with a whole host of other health benefits. And energy levels increased, I was shifting far more work & play in a day. I was living the plant based dream!
And then it all seemed to fall to pieces. Probably because of that feel-good factor, new lighter weight, the flood of energy, I tried to keep my sport routine ticking over during the winter months. In January 2018, with temperatures around the freezing point and often below, I was busy doing long-distance cycling and running. It was early in the year, but I had already logged hundreds of miles.
I tend to overheat quickly so I would only wear a running shirt and a relatively heavy windproof shell. This kept in the warmth – and moisture – for about an hour of activity. But beyond that, I noticed it became a battle to ward off hypothermia. I could feel it approaching. I exercised harder to increase warmth. Usually I got away with it. Making it home, just before getting into trouble. But it was decreasing my resistance to disease. And sucking in freezing air into the lungs, actually “scorching” them. Eventually flu and bronchitis arrived. I had to take time off work that I could not afford. And at the same time I began having some doubts about my diet.
The high winter activity load was combined with falling nutrition standards. I was cutting corners. Not taking time to cook balanced meals, not adding in those greens, just eating quick, cold, mono-meals. With the flu really getting me down I started to blame WFPB. Especially because in my standard ovo-lacto vegetarian days my go-to food during flu recovery would always be a fry-up of mushrooms and eggs. Somehow it was always what my body craved during recovery. I had no replacement now with a pure vegan diet. It was the first time I missed eggs & dairy.
During those dark days of doubts I started looking at criticism of the plant based vegan diet. I think it is wise to be critical anyway. Everyone is selling an agenda. I read this critique of What the Health and the plant based doctors who bang the plant based drum. I recommend it. From my brush with illness and criticisms of the WFPB I put together my learnings:
- Keep up nutritional standards – don’t take the easy route.
- Boost the protein intake (I know that might be heresy to many).
- Don’t overdo the exercise – don’t push it to the hypothermia point in winter just because those plant-based energy levels are saying it’s possible.
- Understand the body, listen to one’s own body – and try to find replacements for those old “recovery fry-ups”.
- Keep it nutrient-dense.
The damage and illness is slowly receding. It has been a long and slow recovery. Lessons have been learned. But I know I need to learn more…