#MyFirstTimeVegan: How Eating Clean and Lean Changed My Life

#MyFirstTimeVegan

#MyFirstTimeVegan: How Eating Clean and Lean Changed My Life

If DJ Khaled says veganism is a key, then it must be, right?

Published March 29, 2016

#MyFirstTime…

Going vegan for 22 days. I didn’t slowly transition into veganism like you might think: taking the gradual steps from carnivore to possibly pescatarian, then dabbling in the world of vegetarians until ultimately becoming a full-fledged vegan. Nope, not I. I kind of dove into it head first, but that’s just who I am. I like to commit to a goal, be consistent and maybe even take a step further once my goal is reached. These days, I’ve also been a natural nut. Organic errthang, Non-GMO and ingredients on the label I can actually understand is what I’m talking about. Leading a healthy lifestyle is very important to me, but just like everyone else, I fall off the wagon every once in a while. The holidays hit me hard though, one piece of cake turned into a week-long cake party washed down with a milkshake. On top of that, the winter blues hit and my gym-rat ways got pushed to the side for weekend couch coasting. Can you visualize the sluggish state I was in? Yeah, it wasn’t very pretty. Not to sound like a cheesy diet commercial ad or anything, but that’s where the 22-Day Nutrition challenge literally changed everything.

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About three years ago, Beyoncé and Jay Z went vegan for 22 days, and their eating plan went viral. The 22-Day Nutrition program, created by exercise physiologist and celebrity nutritionist Marco Borges, sounded amazing, but also hard. The Beyhive and non-Bey enthusiasts (yes, they exist) alike hopped into this vegan frenzy like the hottest trend. Now, I’m all for giving a trend a go-around just to see what the hype is about. But food? A trend? Never. What you put into your body should not be dictated by Beyoncé or anyone else but you. I needed more convincing. I kind of forgot about my vegan desires once the hype died down. Fast-forward to just three weeks ago when I felt like I needed to make a drastic lifestyle change for the better, and I decided it was time to start my 22-Day Revolution.

What You Need to Know

Here are a few keys to know before taking on the program:

*A vegan diet omits all meat and animal bi-products (dairy, honey, gelatin, etc.).

*This program is about being a plant-based vegan. There’s a difference, because vegans can still eat fries, pretzels and other junk.

*It’s based on the idea that it takes about 21 days to break a habit, so that by the 22nd day you should have it down.

*There’s no drinking alcohol during the 22 days. The program is meant to detox the body and alcohol consumption will only do the opposite. (I feel your pain, my fellow winos!)

*You’re eating three meals a day, minimal snacking (only when necessary) and drinking lots of water in between. The program doesn’t believe in “grazing,” a.k.a. eating constantly throughout the day.

*While you can purchase the 22-Day Revolution meal delivery service and its branded products, like vegan protein powders at www.22daysnutrition.com, you can do it on your own. That’s what I did. I hit my local health food shop and purchased staple pantry items and re-upped my produce weekly at the nearest market. This was way more affordable!

*There’s a book on the program written by Marco Borges, The 22-Day Revolution, that I carried around like my bible for the past three weeks. It included informative stats on going plant-based vegan, daily motivational messages, quick at-home workouts to incorporate, weekly shopping lists and daily meal recipes. I highly recommend it! It can be purchased at any major book retailer or here.

The Scoop!

Now, here’s the scoop! I feel amazing — not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. There’s something about eating earthy goodness that makes you just feel right. I know that doesn’t sound appetizing, but it really was! Since I wasn’t ordering the meal delivery service straight from the program, I decided I would force myself to make as many of the recipes as possible. I don’t normally cook, so that was going to be a challenge in itself. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the recipes included in The 22-Day Revolution take no more than 20-30 minutes to prep. And I usually had leftovers, so that made my life a little bit easier. I know you’re thinking, “How much is this going to cost me?” Honestly, I shopped smart: I used frozen produce when available, made use of my leftovers and only ate out twice while on the program — my total was $200! That’s for three weeks of three fresh, homemade meals a day. It might vary depending on where you shop. I looked for sales and shopped at small local businesses instead of big chains like Whole Foods. I think I made out like a bandit. Plus, I think investing in your health is worth every penny.

Goals? It wasn’t really trying to lose weight or get skinny. Yeah, I wanted to drop the baby gut I packed on this winter, but for me it was more about feeling better and being healthy. I didn’t want a quick fix or to feel ‘hangry’ all the time, which is the case with many of these fad diets. I was looking to be happy, energized and on the track to a more holistic lifestyle. I also incorporated workouts because I wanted to tone up and build muscle. I did my own thing here, but like I said, the book actually provides you with an exercise guide. Now, if you are looking to lose weight, you can do that with this program, too. It explains how in the book with things like swapping out a heavy dinner for one of their protein shake recipes. You can make it work for you!

What I didn’t realize was how what I ate played such a pivotal role in my happiness. A bit dramatic, I know, but it's true. Literally, after week 1, I already started feeling better and was convinced I had made the right move. I read the book as I did the challenge, so I learned more about the impact my new diet had as I went. I liked this as opposed to reading prior to the challenge, because I actually got to see the changes it talked about manifest as I read. Basically, I learned what we eat has a direct effect on our mind, body and soul. Sounds like a simple concept, but millions of people are still eating McDonald’s every day, and the obesity epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. It wasn’t until I experienced a plant-based life that I really got it.

The best part was that I never felt deprived, people! I was so into all the new meals I was trying, I had no time to miss anything. I made yummy meals like Spanish beans with sweet potatoes and cauliflower salad with pine nuts and green grapes; I would have never even thought to put these combos together if it weren’t for the program. I even made vegan pizza from scratch! I’ve never even attempted to make regular pizza from scratch. But my all-time favorite (cue drumroll) was the raw walnut tacos! The walnuts, combined with flavorful spices, are blended just enough to give them a meat-like texture and taste. According to the forward Bey wrote for The 22-Day Revolution, this dish just so happens to be a favorite of the “Formation” singer herself.

A video posted by @22daysnutrition on

The Results Are In!

So as I write this on day 23, post-program, the question I’m asking myself is, where do I stand with plant-based veganism? Right where I am. I’m still plant-based vegan (yay, me)! Yes, you might say I drank the Kool-Aid and I did, only it’s green juice that’s going to make me feel pumped about life. However, when I think about veganism for life, I do have my reservations. I was never a big meat-eater but I do like eggs, cheese and seafood. For now, I’m vegan and maybe as I dive deeper into my new lifestyle, those foods will become a distant thing of the past. As far as my goal to lose my baby gut, I did! And I’m already seeing the effects of my diet change in combination with my workouts on toning my muscles, but this is a longer process, so I really have to put in the time.

Of course, the program isn’t meant to instantly convert you to plant-based life, so don’t let that scare you away from trying it for 22 days. One of the biggest things I learned is that there’s a whole vegan community out there that is ready to assist newbies like myself. And most of them aren’t trying to convert you either: they are just happy to help you with any questions you have. I’ve connected with vegans on social media, at the market and even found out one of my trainers was a newbie vegan, too. Oh, as if I haven’t done enough convincing, DJ Khaled recently joined the 22-Day Nutrition movement, and doesn’t he know all the keys to success?

If you’re interested in more details about my journey and exactly what meals I ate, I micro-blogged my whole experience at @Liddle_bitt_vegan. Give it a whirl, girl, and comment below to tell me about your experience or reach me on social media.

'Til next time,

Jaz (@liddle_bitt)

(Photo: Alanna Taylor-Tobin via Corbis)

Written by Jazmine A. Ortriz

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