I was kidding, I swear. At least, I was mostly kidding when I DM’d The Root’s Editor-in-Chief, Danielle Belton, and asked if the company would pay if I tried the new, Beyoncé-endorsed 22 Days Nutrition program. I even ended my message with the laughing/crying emoji—a clear tip-off that I was joking, right?
Customarily, that type of query and tone elicits a “LOL” from our beloved boss, so I was expecting some variation of the same. What I wasn’t prepared for was Danielle’s enthusiastic “Sure!” followed by a flurry of ideas about how I could chart and keep a diary of my progress, complete with pictures of my meals, and likely the occasional weigh-in. Suffice to say that suddenly, the joke was on me.
But as we know, behind every joke is at least a kernel of truth. And the truth is, I need something to disrupt my dysfunctional dietary status quo, because my average 10-hour day spent sitting in front of my laptop with intermittent, yet unregulated snacks and beverages has officially wreaked havoc on my BMI—or so says my primary care physician after my annual physical last week...
As a nearly middle-aged, body-positive woman who for decades made quite a healthy living off of her healthy curves, I’m not easily intimidated into weight loss. I am, however, feeling some kind of way about self-care, and the truth is, I’ve been woefully negligent. By the grace of God and good genes, I somehow currently still manage to tick all the boxes for health except one—and if I were missing that metric while responsibly eating and regularly exercising, I suppose I’d shrug it off. But since my main sources of exercise involve furiously typing, running to the kitchen to grab whatever I can prepare in five minutes or less and making the occasional effort to saunter 10,000 steps a few times a week to happy hour, I can’t exactly say I’ve been living my best life...
But I digress.
My biggest issues? Time and energy—not that they’re at a premium for any working adult I know. But then, there’s also a recent health scare that included several mammograms, a cadre of medical professionals and a biopsied lymph node. The result was blessedly benign, but the experience sent me a very clear message: Nothing is guaranteed, so the least I can do for my body is my best—or, at least, I can do better than I have been.
Is 22 Days the answer? I don’t know, but I do know that clean, plant-based eating bears far fewer health risks than most restrictive plans, and while I’m a woman who occasionally craves a tender steak (medium-rare, please), I’m pretty sure a cauliflower steak will neither clog my arteries nor deposit carcinogens in my colon.
In fact, as the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2009:
In general, vegetarians typically enjoy a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. A vegan diet appears to be useful for increasing the intake of protective nutrients and phytochemicals and for minimizing the intake of dietary factors implicated in several chronic diseases.
My primary care physician (and fellow super-busy black woman), Dr. Kimbra Bell of Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, agrees. When asked for her opinion on vegan diets, she was clear about what she perceived as the potential risks and benefits of adopting a primarily plant-based eating plan.
“If you’re a person who typically eats a pretty broad diet—that includes red meat, fish, poultry, things of that nature—and then you decide, ‘Hey, I’m going to switch over to a strict vegan diet,’ that can be a bit of a shock to your system,” she said, noting that while the aforementioned shock may not be noticeable by the individual themselves, it may show up in future lab tests as anemia and other deficiencies if requisite nutrients like iron, calcium and Vitamin D aren’t being added via food and supplements. Dr. Bell recommends that individuals considering a strict vegan lifestyle see their doctors within the first four to six weeks to get their vitamin levels and electrolytes checked.
“Other than that, overall, I do think that there are benefits to it,” she continued. “I mean, cutting out the animal fats, and, unless you were eating organic before, things like pesticides, and antibiotic-treated chickens, and hormones and things like that. So, you’re kind of letting those things go...it’s a really clean way of living.”
So, now that I’ve gotten the thumbs up from my doc, what now? Well, while I’ll mostly be following Beyoncé’s plan and giving you the firsthand scoop on 22 Days, it’s hard to ignore the influx of vegan pitches flooding my inbox as of late. It feels like...dare I say it...a sign? So, I’ll be peppering my regular updates (and inevitable frustrations) with people you should know, places of interest and products you might want to try if veganism is on your bucket list. But bottom line: By the time Queen Bey celebrates her 38th birthday on September 4, I should be 22 days meat, poultry and dairy-free...hopefully, with some positive results to show for it.
Just one question, Bey: Vodka is vegan, right?