30 Days with RA: Back to Vegan!
I'm embarrassed to admit that I've fallen off both the 30 Days with RA "wagon" and the vegan "wagon" over the last several months. But! I'm now determined to kickstart both of these things again in order to hopefully stabilize my RA and help me feel better in general. I've also recently had an exciting surprise: I've lost about 9 lbs in the last month! I'm kind of shocked, even though I have been trying very hard to lose weight for seemingly forever. I could've sworn that my metabolism/body was "broken" or defective regarding weight loss. This recent achievement has boosted my motivation, self-esteem, and energy greatly, and now I'm inspired to go after other goals--like following a vegan diet.
My plan is to get the ball rolling again with the "30 Days with RA" project, which unfortunately didn't do too well the first time I tried it. I'm ready and eager to try again, though! Starting August 1st, I will commit to strictly follow a whole foods-based vegan diet (and gluten-free as much as possible) for an entire month. No cheating! It's going to be difficult and trying and frustrating, but I know I can do it.
What is a Vegan Diet?
What does eating a vegan diet mean, anyway? Many of you out there probably know this already, but for those of you who don't, the following will explain it in a nutshell.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, "Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products." The website also goes on to explain that people choose to be vegan for "health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons."
While I very much support environmental causes (clean air and land, clean water, pollution, GMO food, food safety, animal and land preservation, overpopulation, Third World inequalities, global health, climate change, etc.), my main reason for eating a vegan diet right now is to hopefully improve my health and my RA. So that means food-wise, no meat, dairy, fish, eggs, or any other animal food products for me. Oh, the sacrifice! Giving up cheese alone is enough to almost kill me, I'd say.
RA and Veganism
Is there a connection to RA and a vegan diet? Some people say yes and some people say no, which makes it confusing. I've heard some "experts" say that people with RA need to eat a paleo diet and give up gluten. Or an "autoimmune diet." Or give up nightshades. Or stand on their heads while chewing on dandelions (just kidding). What's the right answer? There probably isn't just one right answer, I'm guessing, because every person is different and each person's RA affects him/her differently.
Personally, I first tried switching to a vegan diet last summer when I started seeing an integrative medicine provider. To help treat my RA and calm down the constant inflammation attacking my joints, she recommended I stop eating all animal products. She explained that there's something about animal protein that causes inflammation in people with RA (I'm sorry I don't have more details about this right now). Going gluten-free would be a good thing to do, too, but she stressed that being vegan should be my top priority if I wanted to get my RA under control.
I can't believe I've been "flirting" with veganism for a year now, but in reality it's more like I'm falling off that slippery vegan wagon over and over because I either give into temptation and cheat or else I accidentally cheat and eat something I'm not supposed to without knowing it. Changing over to a vegan diet and way of life isn't easy. It takes a lot of work and organization and preparation. And money. It's not cheap! I'm also trying hard to be as gluten-free as I can and to only eat whole or clean foods as much as possible. Organic, real food is expensive and cooking it is often time-consuming.
But is it worth it?
Yes, I think so.
Every time that I have been strict about only eating vegan food, for at least a week, I have seen a drastic decrease in the swelling of my feet and ankles. The first time I noticed this, I was kind of in shock because the left one looked "normal" and like it used to before I got RA. And the right one, my "bad ankle," looked almost normal. I couldn't believe it! This is great and encouraging news, of course, and seeing actual results should be enough to turn me into a staunch vegan for life. Right? Well, as crazy as it might sound, and despite seeing positive results, I'm still having trouble adhering to veganism. I'm getting better, but I haven't been able to do it for an entire month yet.
I'm hoping that the motivation and fun of combining "30 Days with RA" and my vegan-eating goal will help me stick to the diet longer and better than I've been doing so far. I am determined to get my RA and my health under control, and to just be all around healthier. Thirty days isn't so long, is it?
What will you do for "30 Days with RA" in the month of August? Anybody want to go vegan with me? We can cry sad tears into our tofu together about missing scrambled eggs. Or have a veggie burger cooking contest. The plant-based possibilities are plentiful!
When was your last flare?