veganism changed my life

Veganism changed my life

Michelle Hunt tells us how she got on when she transitioned to veganism two years ago.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan does not eat anything that is of animal origin. Vegans will not use animal based products for clothing, or any other purpose. A person can become a vegan because of ethical reasons involving animal rights, for environmental factors, or for better health.

How veganism changed my life

When I tell people I’m vegan I immediately see them recoil, clearly taken back by the fact that I would consider something so extreme. The general assumptions being that it’s a diet I choose to follow to aid restriction and ensure low calorie consumption or the alternative, that I’m a die hard animal and planet lover who is about to bombard them with all the ethical and environmental reasons they should live like me.

I chose to become vegan essentially for the potential health benefits which it offered. Having suffered from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders from about the age of twelve up until I hit my early twenties, my digestive system fought against my desire to gain weight and improve my physical health during recovery. It had borne the brunt of years of abuse and the only options furnished by doctors were long term medication or surgery, neither of which guaranteed relief.

The alternative route

Finally stepping away from the medical profession just over a year and half ago, I sought the advice of a herbalist who suggested that the removal of animal protein and wheat could potentially solve a lot of my issues. Needless to say those around me were highly sceptical and apprehensive seeing it as a potential hazard to the final stages of my recovery rather than a means to improve and promote it.

A couple of weeks of confusion ensued, seeking out alternatives whilst at the same time revelling in the immediate health benefits. Not only did my digestion improve, I felt psychologically at peace, my headaches dissipated, my skin cleared up and I began to look forward to eating rather than it being a chore that inevitably led to extreme pain and lingering discomfort.

Feeling so much more positive encouraged me to explore alternative foods. Seeking out new ways of cooking, hunting down vegan-friendly recipes inevitably led me to food blogs. I was immediately enthralled and pretty soon after got to work on setting up my own blog.


My diet became more varied and nutritionally rich than ever before, far from the perceived restricted nature of the vegan way of life. I embraced new foods at every given opportunity without the anxiety I had experienced for the best part of my life. Veganism not only improved my physical health it allowed me get through the final stages of my recovery. I now feel at peace with food, my body and my mind.

Now studying nutritional therapy, I’ve begun to explore and understand the additional long-term benefits that following a plant-based diet proffers. The inherent power of food over the body and the way it functions, reacts and is maintained is astounding. changed my life.

Rediscovering breakfast

The meal of the day, which I most feared and never paid a great deal of attention to in terms of variety, has now become my favourite … breakfast! In years gone by I completely sidelined it, preferring to save up my minimum calories for the latter part of the day. From no breakfast to the whipped and overnight oat, breakfast bake and pancake queen! Here’s a taster of the sort of recipes you can find on my blog.

Find recipes and inspiration at Michelle’s blog Peachy Palate

More like this:

10 easy weight loss tips
Cut the crap and embrace healthy eating
Eating disorders in adults

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.