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How I became a Vegan by Jemila Pratt (Part 2)

Submitted by Nadia on Sun, 2012-05-06 14:59
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So can an African become a Vegan? Is Jemila just going through a phase? How can NOT eating MEAT possibly be good for any woman's health... considering we desperately need our daily in take of IRON and not to mention Vitamin B12 B6 and B everything else. I could go on and on but I will let all you doubtful Africans do that for me. Can an African become a Vegan? I dunno but here's Jemila's story.....

Part 2 of How I became a Vegan by Jemila Pratt

I read The Kind Diet, Mad Cowboy, and By Any Greens Necessary. The more I read the more convinced I became that my diet needed to change (again). Meanwhile I kept getting sick; sick with colds that made it impossible to wake up in the morning without sneezing, having congestion, headaches or all the nasty symptoms you can think of. And all the while my boyfriend stayed healthy, never once catching whatever I had. I kept getting a cold after cold each month, even in the summer time!
I started to notice that I would develop allergy and cold symptoms on Sundays. Why Sundays? What was I doing on Sundays that triggered this? My mom pointed out that I ate the same foods on the weekends. Oh! That Saturday morning special was definitely a constant each weekend without fail. It’s just a bagel with two scrambled eggs, sausage, and jalepeno cheese.

I experimented with eliminating the dairy items and then re-introducing them into my diet weeks later and realized they indeed were the problem. These are the types of examples outlined in the books. What else was I eating and how did it affect my body?!
Since I was about thirteen years old I have battled acne. And with each breakout I have wondered endlessly why I have it and when will it finally leave me alone? No medicines, internal or external, have had long-lasting success on my skin. I was constantly looking for the next new thing to treat the skin that always seemed to betray me. Acne has been deeply frustrating and aggressively threatens my self-esteem. But the books I was reading and other articles I found stated how eating a meat heavy diet impacts the skin and digestive system. Could it be that a plant-based diet would help or even cure the acne? Because I have tried everything, yes I do mean everything, becoming a vegan would definitely be worth it.

Gradually there was a radical change with the health of my skin. I went from agonizing about the number of blemishes on my skin to marveling at how calm it appears nowadays. My skin is brighter and seems to glow, even when I have been experiencing more stress. My confidence is growing and I feel that I enjoy more pictures being taken of myself close-up, because I’m not worried about how many marks and blemishes will spoil the photo.

As a vegan, I still cook. I’m still the girl who makes her own ice cream (with almond or coconut milk), because it tastes better fresher. I continue to eat many of my favorite dishes just modified. For dinner this week, I had chick pea patties topped with Indian green curry sauce and ginger chutney. I paired it with a jicama cucumber chili salad and mixed vegetables. (I cheated a bit, because that chutney was store bought, but I made everything else). And if you look inside my freezer you’ll find okra soup and ginger beer ice cubes. Like I said, I definitely cook!

When the big change happened I was asked countless times if I changed my diet because of my boyfriend. The answer is both yes and no. The books I read were his influence, but I feel that I was already headed in the direction of becoming a vegan; he acted as a catalyst in the process.

Family members had a lot to say, mostly people that I don’t get to see often. My mom and sister embraced the change and ask questions like, How long are you going to be vegan? Do you like it? What are you eating this week?
One of my aunts told me that she didn’t like my decision. She told me that it wasn’t African and that I need to eat meat to get my protein. Sometimes conversations like that make me uncomfortable and almost have me second guess my decision, because I can’t recall all of the facts and information that I’ve read precisely at that moment. But just as she will continue to eat meat and dairy, I will not judge nor preach to her (or anyone) about my super vegan diet.

Being a new vegan has been great. I’m learning so much about how different fruits and vegetables affect the body and digestion. I previously never thought about how certain foods are more alkaline than others, that tomatoes are highly acidic and properties that are inflammatory to the skin. Beans apparently are harder on the body to break down, but you can eat them with other foods that aid digestion. There are many things to think about when I plan my meals. But I feel that I’m able to appreciate and thoroughly enjoy produce that changes with each season. Vegan recipes are endless on the Internet and so are resources for items like vegan caramel sauce, cheese, and noodles.

I’m fortunate to live in Southern California where there are clusters of vegan restaurants nearby. Word of mouth and blogs like www.Quarrygirl.com give me lots of ideas. Sometimes a routine drive in Los Angeles turns out to be a treasure, because I’ll spot a sign announcing a new place I can try.

However, there are some issues that I have encountered with being a vegan. I don’t have absolute freedom when I go out to restaurants, social gatherings, and parties. Most people eat meat and don’t make accommodations for vegetarians and vegans. With restaurants I have to choose carefully and find myself frequenting the same few places, because their food is delicious and I like to go home and tweak their recipes to suite my tastes. At social gatherings and parties, I know that my choices are most likely going to be limited or often times there is nothing at all. Usually the only thing I can consume is alcohol. While that is fine, a drink is not a substitute for food when I’m slightly hungry.

When I travel it is so important that I plan ahead. I visited my sister in Atlanta last year and didn’t eat as well, because I didn’t have access to the foods I like. I’ve since learned and now send a box of my favorite snacks, cereals, and other essentials ahead of time so I can eat properly while on vacation.

I also have a hard time when truly wonderful vegan restaurants close, which can leave me feeling a loss. I get a bit apprehensive about finding a new place with the same wickedly delicious pancakes, exquisite juices, or whatever the specialty. Because consistently superb vegan restaurants are scarce, my boyfriend and I fantasize about opening our own vegan destination diner. It’ll be a classy and sophisticated establishment open 24 hours a day.

Despite the minimal setbacks, veganism is something I chose to take on. I feel proud about taking charge of my body and health. My acne has improved greatly and my confidence is skyrocketing! This is quite a big deal for me, because blemishes all over my skin severely heightened my negative self-image and made me depressed. Overall my health has been steady and I do not have colds every few weeks as I once did. I appreciate being able to do something that not only improves my well being and self-esteem, but also positively impacts the environment as well. That’s another entry for another day.

I challenge you to start off being vegan for just one day (the whole day!). I promise you will survive and feel great. Then push yourself to a week and if you haven’t sprouted vegetables for limbs, try a month. Your body won’t regret it!

Jemila Pratt
Vegan Home Chef and Greeting Card Crafter
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