How do you feel about food? Do you sometimes lie awake at night wondering if you eat enough fruit? Or maybe you are guilt-ridden because you broke your fast with that stale piece of red velvet in the fridge.
There is no recipe to the perfect diet, believes food blogger Nondumiso Phenyane. In fact, your journey to wellness and a healthy relationship with food is all about finding your own motion.
Phenyane is the founder of Vegan Attempts, a wellness food blog where she unpacks her journey six years in the making. Food is the fuel we must use to nourish and energise ourselves, she says.
“We want shortcuts and that is the problem. There is this misconception that there is this one-size-fits-all diet.
“We want someone to tell us, ‘Do A-B-C and D and your issues are going to be fixed. For many of us, that is not going to happen. It is a journey. We can’t all follow the same diet because we have different conditions, and our guts are different.
“I stopped thinking that my relationship with food was something that I could fix in a week or in two weeks. People have different solutions out there. You just need to find the one for you.”
Health For Mzansi caught up with Phenyane.
What was the catalyst in your journey to wellness?
I’ve had a very long and complicated relationship with food. While discovering that a major part of my complicated relationship with food was related to the fact that I have insulin resistance, there have been many times when I used food as an emotional crutch to numb pain, avoid difficult personal issues, and cope with the general stresses of life.
Using food to reverse my insulin resistance required me to stick to a strict eating regimen.
“Being on a strict diet forced me to perform the gruelling task of dealing with the underlying emotional and psychological issues that caused me to overeat.”
What have been some challenges you have encountered in your journey?
It started when I did the raw food challenge in 2015. I ate raw plants for 21 days and that’s when I started getting exposure into veganism and the vegan lifestyle.
The 21 days were phenomenal. My skin looked amazing. I lost a bit of weight, I had regular bowel movements and I felt so good.
I had trouble maintaining that diet over a long time. I hadn’t thought beyond the 21 days I did it, but I didn’t think about what was going to happen afterwards. I thought I was going to be able to go back to my old lifestyle, but I couldn’t after experiencing the changes I had experienced.
“I started having a bit of a difficult relationship with food because I was stuck between loving the feeling of being healthy and really being addicted to junk food.”
It’s been a very long journey and it is continuing because I think a lot of the time when people start their health journey, you expect that you are going to do this challenge and you expect that at some point it is going to end. And you’re going to figure it out and your life is going to change forever, but for me it has been a long continuous journey of working at it every single day.
How has changing your diet helped better your relationship with food?
When it came to my own relationship with food, it was more about paying close attention to my body and learning to listen to my body.
It’s not the plant-based diet that has helped me improve my relationship with food. It is actually building a better relationship with my body that has helped improve my relationship with food.
Do you have any advise or words of wisdom for others who struggle to maintain good relations with food?
Understand that your body is not necessarily the same as the next person’s body, so it is not a matter of copying and pasting what someone else has done.
It is a matter of you studying your own body and then doing the research and educating yourself on different things that affect your body and how you eat and your relationship with food and getting help when necessary; getting assistance because sometimes you really are not going to be able to do it on your own.