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Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the RawGoing vegan can be confusing, overwhelming, and really frustrating. It’s a journey with so many ups and downs. While some people choose to go vegan overnight and never look back, others experience the frustrations and tribulations of constant cravings, not knowing what to make for meals, and even health issues on a vegan diet.

Whether you’re already vegan, or are in the process of going vegan, you’re going to absolutely love this blog post.

 

 

 

My experience on a vegan diet has been like this:

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the Raw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in this post, I’m going to share it all with you: the good, bad, and the ugly.

Over the last seven years, I’ve learned a ton about going vegan, and I think it’s so valuable to share not only the good moments of the journey, but the frustrating ones too.

In light of so many social media influencers choosing to quit their vegan diets, I decided that sharing my own story can help to shed light on their struggles, and help you make a decision about whether this lifestyle is the right choice.

This post will be divided into two sections: first, you’ll hear about my journey, year by year, and the changes I made with my diet as well as the overall picture of my health each year. This is going to be brutally honest, because I want you to have a true picture of what it’s like to change your diet, and the kinds of struggles you may face. Then, I will share my lessons and mistakes in the hopes of helping you not make the same ones. You’ll also get great tips for going vegan the right way.

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Going Vegan: My 7-Year Journey

Let’s start with my vegan journey over the last 7 years, including what motivated me to go vegan, and what I experienced and changed each year:

Pre-vegan years: the background

I thought it would be helpful to give you a bit of background. I was raised in a family that was almost always pretty health conscious. When I was very young (about 8 or 9), we tried the food combining diet of Dr. Herbert Shelton as a family. It is not a vegan diet, but it does minimize animal products and eliminates processed foods.

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the Raw

When I was 20 years old, I went to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia for 6 months, and I decided to start a vegetarian diet, in order to stop eating animals and for religious reasons. I was enrolled in a Holocaust course at my university, and learning about the history of my Jewish ancestors made me want to honor them by following Jewish dietary guidelines (eating Kosher). To make this easier on myself, I decided to stop eating meat altogether, especially because I never liked meat, and I really loved animals. I continued eating fish, eggs, and dairy.

During this time in Australia, I also became severely depressed, and ate NON STOP (tons of processed foods, sugar and chocolate, and a lot of dairy). I gained a lot of weight while abroad, and started to have serious digestive issues. I came back home overweight, sluggish, and would have bouts of not having a bowel movement for a whole week!

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the Raw

Year 1-3: going raw

When I was 22 years old, I moved to Israel to complete my Master’s degree. I met the love of my life, Tomer, and we moved in together. Shortly after, we decided to go 100% raw vegan.

(Side note: Tomer was a total omnivore when we met, but after I sent him this video, which was extremely popular in Israel at the time, he decided to give up eating meat immediately).

I decided to go 100% raw vegan as a result of witnessing my mother struggle with her health. My mom had a disease called Interstitial Cystitis for 8 years. It’s a really cruel bladder disease that is extremely painful. After trying everything the doctors suggested to no avail, she decided to do a 1-month water-only fast, and then transition to a fully raw diet.

My mom told Tomer and I about her diet change on the phone, and we both agreed that we wanted to try it together.

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the Raw

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the Raw

However, it was a really long journey, and we did not go raw vegan, or even vegan, overnight. I started out by removing all processed food, as well as dairy, eggs, and fish.

We were super excited about changing our diet and we felt a huge change just by removing all those processed foods.  We literally got rid of all the processed foods in our house, and we started falling in love with cooking, cooking together, and learning a lot about eating healthy.

Most of my learning about food, cooking, and health came from YouTube, and much of it was from social media influencers that were advocating a raw vegan diet.  I also read some books about raw vegan eating at this time. A great one (which changed a lot of my perceptions about raw veganism down the line) was this one.

At this time, I was suffering with very severe PMS (you can watch my PMS story here). There were days when I took about 10 painkillers a day just to function and get out of bed when I was on my period. I was also suffering from PTSD and bouts of depression as a result of being sexually assaulted as a teenager.

Year 4-5: going vegan

For the years that followed, I desperately tried to stop eating cheese, and to reverse my severe PMS pain that wouldn’t go away even when I eventually went 100% raw vegan.

I slowly started learning about the dairy industry, and this completely shifted my relationship with cheese and ended my cravings once and for all. I finally was able to completely eliminate cheese from my diet.

The journey was extremely frustrating, because I was so confused about why I was still suffering so much from severe PMS when I ate so healthy and so clean.

Throughout these years, I also did a bunch of juice cleanses, and had this mindset that my body has a lot of toxins in it and I must get rid of them and clean my body constantly. I also did some colonics and enemas to detox.

Year 6-7: going whole foods, plant-based and ethical veganism

Dr. Michael Greger and I | What I eat in a day according to Dr. Greger's Daily DozenTomer and I moved from Jerusalem to San Diego, and we immediately got to know the vegan community locally, and specifically, the health-conscious vegan community.

During this time, my reasons for eating vegan began to shift: while health still remained quite important, animal rights came to the forefront. I started learning about how animals were treated and slaughtered much more in depth thanks to my vegan friends in San Diego, and this led me to make ethical veganism, for the animals, my #1 reason for eating the way I did.

I also learned about the environmental impact of eating vegan through films like Cowspiracy, and through my vegan friends, and this added to why I wanted to eat vegan.

Don’t get me wrong:  ethical veganism was always in the background for me. Diving much more deeply into what happens to animals, and the state of our planet, made a huge change for me. I decided that I wanted to make vegan choices for reasons much greater than myself, and this made excluding animal products from my diet really easy.

Another massive change was eating cooked foods. This happened because I realized that my PMS cramps were not going away through my 100% raw food diet, and it was time to try other things.

I was really scared to eat cooked foods at first, because I was taught that they were like poison – this was the popular opinion in the raw food community. But I knew that I had to make a change for my health, and try new things.

I started eating beans, whole grains, and starchy vegetables and felt great – no digestive upset or health issues arose. This helped me become much more open minded about cooked foods.

And the greatest thing that happened during this time was this: my amazin health-conscious friends in San Diego introduced me to science-based approaches to health, and this changed everything.

I read books and watched interviews with plant based doctors including Dr. Greger, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Angie Sadeghi, and many others.

I finally learned that eating whole, plant foods would change my life: I stopped eating processed plant foods that I previously thought were healthy (protein powders, sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, plant oils like olive oil, flax oil, etc.) and switched to whole plants 95% of the time: whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Today: some struggles and some wins!

Today, I am so happy to say that my period cramps are gone. This doesn’t mean that during my period, I am literally feeling like I feel day-to-day. I do have some days when I have light cramps, I need to lay down, and I feel like I need to rest. However, for about two years now, I have not had any incident of having to take pain killers or feeling overwhelming pain that was not allowing me to function.

In addition, I have started going to the gym and have gotten very strong. Through this lifestyle, I have been able to start lifting very heavy weights, and can even do 8 pull ups in a row (a dream I always had, and have finally accomplished).

I have great energy, I rarely feel sick, and I absolutely love eating this way for the animals, the planet, and my own health, all three of which I see as interconnected.

I follow a whole foods, plant based diet that is very high in raw foods, but includes healthy whole cooked plants as well.

I also follow the science: balancing my diet for optimal nutrient intake, and remembering to include every necessary nutrient, including supplementing for vegan B12, and sometimes supplementing with vitamin D and omega 3 (both vegan). I also include foods like seaweeds for iodine, and make sure to combine foods properly for optimal nutrient absorption (for example, eating allium family vegetables with legumes to get optimal zinc, etc.).

The one struggle that remains health-wise for me is my digestion. It is something I’ve struggled with since I was 20. It’s intimately intertwined with my stress levels and PTSD, and it’s something I am still working on. Optimally, I’d love to have 2-3 bowel movements per day (yes, we talk about poop around here, it’s important…) and never feel any stomach pain, but I am not there yet. I have no doubt, however, that I will get there and I’ll be sharing that with you soon too!

Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen and Vegan Meal Prep for the Week | Soul in the Raw

Going Vegan: 10 Tips, Lessons and Mistakes

Now, I want to share my lessons with you from the past 7 years of going vegan. I think these are invaluable for anyone who is just going vegan, or is already vegan, and I wish I heard these 7 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of money, health, and time!

1. Skip processed foods: both vegan and non-vegan

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the RawI was lucky enough to get straight into a raw food diet, before discovering all of the junk food vegan treats out there.

So many of you are vegan – and I know you want to be healthy. But eating foods in packages labeled “vegan” is not enough.

Make absolutely sure that the food you eat is in its whole form, and unprocessed, even when it’s packaged food.

Some obvious processed foods are vegan meats and cheeses. Others are oils, sweeteners, and protein powders. And of course, skip the processed non-vegan foods as well.

I found that removing processed sugars and oils from my diet made a huge difference. These days, I sweeten desserts with dates or date sugar, and use whole nuts, seeds, and avocado for my dressings and sauces.

Learn how to create date-sweetened desserts with this recipe.

Learn how to create delicious oil-free sauces in my Cooking School.

2. Trust that whole foods will cure you

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the RawYou don’t need an expensive cleanse or water fast, or enemas, or colonics. You just need whole plant foods to get better. I learned this the hard way…

Often times, cleanses can actually damage your gut and your microbiome. Read about how to do a cleanse the healthy way here.

There are some cases in which doing a water fast is very helpful for reversing certain diseases. I encourage you to contact True North Health Center if you want to inquire about this, as they have experienced doctors on staff who can support you through it.

Overall, the belief that you have to constantly cleanse and detox your body to be healthy is not based on science. Your body is naturally always detoxing itself. All you have to do is support it, and you can best do that by eating whole plant foods in abundance.

3. Supplement

A whole food plant based diet is the perfect way to get your health in order. However, it won’t work without covering all the nutrients you need.

The supplements you must take on this lifestyle do not come from animals, so please don’t think that a diet that requires you to take supplements is an “unnatural diet”. In fact, people who are not vegan are often missing these nutrients as well.

The most important supplement you must make sure to get is vegan vitamin B12. More on that here.

In addition, in some cases, you may want to consider also taking vitamin D and vegan omega 3.

4. Learn about the ethical side of veganism

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the RawSticking to a plant based diet becomes so much easier when you know about the impact of your food choices on the animals and the planet.

In a sense, learning about the ethical side of veganism is selfish: it will help you eat healthier. But overall, learning this information will empower you to make choices that are so much greater than your own self, and that feels amazing!

Learn more about animal agriculture by reading this book

Learn more about the environmental impact of food choices through this film

5. Find community

Moving to San Diego and being introduced to the vegan community here has been one of the best parts of being vegan for me! The community has been super welcoming and so knowledgeable, and it has made being vegan a breeze.

When you hang out with like-minded people, not only do you feel more “normal” (since being vegan is still considered so abnormal in our society), but you can also learn a lot and make amazing new friends!

I highly recommend joining meetup groups in your area, and if there are none, be sure to join my amazing FREE online Facebook community right here.

6. Heed the science

Going Vegan Healthily: Lessons and Mistakes from My Journey | Soul in the Raw

If you take any tip from this entire blog post, please let it be this!  As you read in the beginning, I started out by listening to a lot of influencers on social media in my diet choices. I’m not saying these people are wrong: I know that most of them are just trying to help people get healthy.

However, true experts are doctors and scientists. And we are fortunate to have so many of these amazing people who are accessible today!

So when making your food choices, please base them on the best available scientific research, and when you have a serious health problem, do speak to a qualified plant based doctor. You can look up plant based doctors here, and you can also do consultations with many doctors by phone and skype.

Going Vegan? Enter this Giveaway!

Skip the learning curve and dive right into the healthiest vegan diet there is! Enter the GIVEAWAY to win enrollment to my Online Academy, Vegan Meal Prep for Wellness.

7. Don’t make your diet too restrictive

In the beginning of my journey, I was 100% raw vegan, and I had cravings for cooked food almost every single day.

Many people fail on a plant based diet because they make it so restrictive: they don’t eat grains, starches, legumes, or even avoid cooked foods. I do not recommend this to you.

You should feel excited to eat, and very satisfied after every meal. You shouldn’t have insane cravings every single day (unless you’re just starting out and giving up animal products, which are actually physically addicting, especially dairy).

I recommend eating a well-balanced, whole food plant based diet, and even having a day a week when you just go out to eat and enjoy yourself! Don’t be too strict, because not only will it make you want to quit – it will also give you health issues in many cases.

8. Food is the base, but not everything

I have no doubt that without healthy food choices, we could never be healthy. I think of health as a house. Without building a strong base for the house, the house would fall over. However, the food base is not the only thing that will hold the house in place.

There are other crucial aspects to health, and I have found practices for reducing stress to be pivotal to my health, especially in this stressed out world! Things like meditation, going for walks, having deep conversations, writing, and stretching are great examples. Pick the one that speaks to you.  

Make sure you engage in things you love throughout your day and week, and give your body love and pleasure in many forms, not just through food.

9. You don’t have to be 100% perfect

If you are finding that you’re stressing yourself out way too much in search of perfection in every single area of your life: please stop!

Your body is strong and resilient. It is capable of handling imperfection, because none of us were born perfect and it’s unrealistic to expect that you will be perfect every day.

Some days, you’ll overeat. Some days, you won’t sleep enough. Some days, you’ll crave foods. Let yourself have the things you love, even if they aren’t 100% healthy. This is part of being healthy!

10. Sometimes, just eating whole food, plant based is not enough

I realize this can sound like I’m contradicting myself.

I used to believe that we can cure everything just by eating healthy and cleansing until we are blue in the face, but that’s not true.

Some people will need to take medications, antibiotics, consult physicians, and undergo medical procedures for optimal health. Do not try to solve every single health problem on your own. We have qualified doctors for that. Listen to them, and incorporate all the practices in this post in conjunction with their advice.

Going Vegan? Enter this Giveaway!

Skip the learning curve and dive right into the healthiest vegan diet there is! Enter the GIVEAWAY to win enrollment to my Online Academy, Vegan Meal Prep for Wellness.

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Soul in the Raw is a high-raw vegan recipe + education blog. Marina creates quick, easy, and delicious high-raw vegan recipes and blogs about the health benefits of a high-raw plant-based diet. You can get more of Marina’s awesome recipes, tips, and lifestyle techniques on the free Facebook group: Raw Souls .
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