My vegan struggle #worldveganday

Here’s a post that I hope can help if you have experienced similar things when changing to a vegan diet, changing diet in general or even a big change in your life as it may be that that caused my struggle, I can’t really tell.

When I moved to Malta I took the opportunity to try a vegan diet. Something I’d been thinking about for quite some time, but living at home with my Aunty, not really a feasible option. My reason was to try to be healthy rather than ethical or moral reasons (for now).

When I first got here I immediately cut out milk and most dairy, replacing it with Soy, Almond and Coconut milk and a few weeks in I took the leap and started a vegan diet, at first for 2 weeks as a test.

Never felt better

I felt great, I was also running more and faster than ever, training in boxing and lost some weight. In England I was averaging around 72kg (11.3 st) down from 75kg (11.8 st) last year but now I’m around 67kg (10.5 st) and what I think is about my ideal weight – at least according to BMI etc.

I was was eating varied and tasty meals and didn’t miss meat or dairy at all and only on a couple of occasions did I eat some fish or chocolate…

View this post on Instagram

Inspired by @leeac123 to share this. 2 months between the pics. Weight down to 67.5kg but still wanting to lose some belly fat. Into a good training regime now and a good diet. Feeling good and healthy. You need to make it a habit, a lifestyle change if you want to change. If you don’t, no problem! Just be happy! My aim is simply to be healthy and happy. And to be able to do the ninja run at flipout (who’s coming at Xmas?). I’m also eaten vegan at the moment, but I don’t think that’s the reason in itself. I’m more conscious of what I eat, I’ve always eaten natural foods anyway! #fitness #health #wellbeing #happy #shape #fit #sport #boxing #yoga #vegan #running #malta #malta?? #bugibba #plantbased #maltaphotography #maltalife #maltatour #unlimitedmalta #maltafitness #maltaisland #islandlife #oceanlife #futsal #Futbolsala #futsalfamily

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As you can see I am in better shape through diet and exercise, but I didn’t know what other effects it was having… 

Recently, my mum visited – she’s been through a hell of a lot the last 2 years since my step-dad committed suicide and she almost drank herself to death through depression. Seeing her struggle through 12 days in Malta (where she came with Bryan a few years ago) was really tough. I thought she was going back into a downward spiral. Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely to have her here and we had a great time, but towards the end she started drinking more and I was upset that we’d lost all the good work we did since May.

Wanting to cry at every moment

Around the time she left I started to feel “depressed”. I’ve always been a positive and happy, optimistic and motivated person and I couldn’t quite work out why I was feeling down. Work is good, I live in a beautiful place, the Summer just gone was awesome, I got closer to my close friends and family, my 2 best mates recently got engaged, I have businesses and projects I’m working on… on the flip side there is plenty that could upset me, but nothing that I haven’t had to deal with before.

I couldn’t work out why I wanted to cry at almost every moment I had to myself. I spoke to my friends and family and some were worried about me – was I homesick, lonely, missing my friends?, money worries? – all things I’ve dealt with before so really couldn’t put a finger on any of those things. I had a bit of a social media detox too as I thought maybe that was causing it.

I should be happy!

I felt like nothing mattered and my life was a waste, lacked motivation and all the while I was thinking ‘why? I should be happy!’. I spent a lot of time just sat on the beach watching and thinking, wanting to cry and thinking about getting away, cutting off from everything and spending some time isolated in a far away place (Indonesia, Bhutan, Thailand all calling me!). 

It’s ok not to be ok

It’s ok not to be ok

Only when one of my best friends Mary asked me if I’m ok and I said no, did I find a solution… just remember it’s ok not to be ok! – If I didn’t say anything I would probably still be feeling like I was.

Anyway, we talked a while and Mary had been down recently too and linked it to her diet and she suggested I take Vitamin B12 supplements and sent me a link where I read under symptoms:

Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioural changes 

I’d noticed some tingling in my left foot too, which could also be linked, but not sure!!

My reaction was, wow, I can’t believe something so “insignificant” could affect my mental health so I said I’d go and get some supplements and reevaluate my vegan diet. I did a lot of reading and here is another very important page if you are vegan, thinking about becoming vegan or want to know more about vitamin B12: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients/vitamin-b12/what-every-vegan-should-know-about-vitamin-b12.

Purple Pills – B12

Anyway, a few days on from taking the supplement B complex supreme I started to feel better and more like myself. I haven’t yet gone off a vegan diet, but I am considering what I should be eating. I feel healthier (physically), so I think for now I will carry on: still trying to eat more plant based foods and looking out for foods with added B12. It was clear with what I was eating I wasn’t getting any! So I’ll start adding these to my diet over the next month. I’m also going to try MANA, a meal replacement powder (similar to HUEL in UK), which will give me all I need at least once a day.

It really has made me appreciate the human body and how important it is to get all the nutrition you need to function. I’ve also got a newfound respect for people who suffer depression. I used to believe it was in the mind, as in being positive could solve it, but having experienced a month or so of my own “depression” I can honestly say it’s not.

Perhaps I didn’t research enough… hard to believe as I usually thoroughly evaluate something like this, reading all opinions etc before making a change. But I never came across B12!! Most people don’t need to worry, eating a balanced and varied diet should satisfy your needs, but just before any changes, speak to experts and listen to your body if you feel any different physically or mentally.

I am joining a gym this week so there will be a new challenge for me with my diet.

Vegan and depressed

So overall, I have embraced the diet and I appreciate the value of natural foods more. It’s given me some new recipes and I’ve eaten more fresh fruit and veg – something I didn’t do enough of – instead reaching for a chocolate bar or biscuits!

The struggle came for the last few weeks when my mind was affected and my world seemed to cave in but I think that’s over. I know for a lot of people it won’t be as simple as a change in diet and what I’ve experienced pales in comparison to what my mum and brother – read his blog about his mental health problems and see how important it is to talk – go through and what thousands of others experience, but…

I hope the takeaway from this blog are twofold:

  1. to make sure you give your body everything it needs especially if you are changing diet quite drastically like I did.
  2. to remember that it’s ok not to be ok – without this I wouldn’t have had the conversation that led me to my solution and I hope it can lead to yours.

The second point can be as trivial as needing more vitamins, but it could also save your life. There are so many support networks out there. I’m lucky to have such good friends and family around me, but I can easily see how it could spiral out of control.

Thanks for reading but especially a huge thank you to all my close friends who have put up with me complaining over the last month and for my new colleagues in Malta for giving me such a good project to work on.

I’m ready to take on the end of 2018 which has been up and down for me, or rather down up down and fly into 2019!

Swieqi United 2018-2019

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