JLo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Chastain: three ladies with beautiful bodies and perfect skin. Their secret? A mostly vegan, sugar- and glutenfee diet (at least they claim so). Me: a woman with by far not perfect, irritated, reddish and to allergies tending skin, qua genetics. Or due tu my nutrition? Can a plantbased diet actually change your body and skin? Or is it all in the genetics? I decided to find out by myself and to eat reaaaally clean and healthy for 9 weeks (means: vegan, glutenfree, free from refined sugar and all kinds of processed food), using recipes from ‘Delicously Ella’ books…. And the results of this experiment may surprise you. A lot.
Why 9 weeks? Our skin gets renewed every 2 to 4 weeks – so 9 weeks should be the ideal timespan to see a true difference (1 week is by far no enough). “Vegan, sugar- and glutenfree, but what can you eat then?” This is the question I was asked most from all my friends and family. As I was eating the conventional way so far (maybe not as bad and junky as the Gilmore Girls, but pizza, pasta, bread, cheese, tartar and Ben & Jerrys ice cream regularly landed on my table), I was asking this myself as well. Boring salads and greens instead the regular foodporn pleasures? Not going out for lunch and dinner anymore, but cook everything at home (as eating 100% flawless also means exactly knowing what goes into my body, which I only can guarantee by cooking the meals by myself)? Where will I take the time from? How will I survive? Heeeeelppp… and here’s where Deliciously Ella came in!
Who is Deliciously Ella exactly?
Ella Mills is a british model turned foodblogger, who was diagnosted with a rare health condition in 2011, called “Postural Tachycardia Syndrome”. When all the medicine couldn’t help, she decided to heal herself with food: She did a radical diet change and started to eat only natural plantbased food, completely free of dairy, refined sugar, gluten and processed ingredients – and recovered completely. She documented her journey on her (very successful) blog, published 4 cookbooks and gained over 1 Mio Instagram followers with her recipes.
Ella’s philosophy caught my attention: “Deliciously Ella is not about diet or deprivation, but about celebrating what you can do with simple, unprocessed ingredients.” He recipes are described as easy and extremely tasty, far away from boring salads and muddy vegetables. Her secret? She is cooking all the things we know and love (pizza, brownies, lasagne, ice cream) – but with healthy, plantbased, glutenfree and natural ingredients. Eating whatever and how much you like, but as healthy versions? Sounds perfect to me!
Let’s start: The loooong list of things you need to start:
Before my first big shopping at the organic market I bought Ella’s first book, as I consider myself as a beginner vegan cook, and read it from A to Z. What do I need to get started, if I used to eat the conventional way so far? The most important thing you need is a good mixer, it’s required for almost every recipe. As I couldn’t spend 600€ on a Vitamix, I researched for a cheaper but still excellent alternative and bought a JTC Omniblend (which I can truly recommend: my smoothies, nut butters and almond milks are perfect for only a third of the costs). Next step: organic market, to buy the basic ingredients, which are:
Ella recommends to always have the above basics at home, so you can cook a simple dinner anytime you want. Ha! Maybe this is one of her tricks to avoid craving ordered pizza: When was I eating really unhealthy? Always when I came home from work, too tired to go food shopping and cook. Sooo, I went out for dinner or worse, ordered some delivery pizza (which is in most cases aweful and unhealthy). But if you always have ingredients to cook something quick and tasty at home, maybe you’ll stop ordering bad food.
Bying these basic ingredients for the first time was expensive, but I hoped to save some money in the long run, through skipping eating out and cooking more at home.
Week 1: I LOVE Ella, I LOVE cooking, I LOVE being an glutenfree vegan!
I was highly motivated after my big shopping and couldn’t wait to start right away: I chose the most exciting recipes from the book (Colorful bowls! Homemade granola! Superfood bread! Sweet fries!) and started to mix, bake, squeeze and cook. I spent the whole sunday in the kitchen, also to prepare some lunch meals to take to work. And these are the things I created in the first week:
Without exaggeration: Every single dish from Ella’s book really tasted amazing and was easy to make! I was surprised, I didn’t miss any meat or cheese at all! (Or maybe I was too proud of my cooking action and was not objective regarding the taste?) Ella spills lots of cooking secrets, I felt like entering an secret club with new knowledge no one else had access to (except the millions buying her book, haha): To make quinoa tasteful she cooks it with lime and lemon juice, to make porridge taste like heaven, she cooks it with berries – all these little tricks were truly adding plenty of taste! I was surprised how good the meals were (and yes, my colleagues were jealous when seeing my colorful lunch plates at work!) I learned: It’s all about combination. Quinoa alone may taste dull, but cooked with lime and mixed with lemon juice, nuts and almond butter it became really good. Add some avocado and tomato salad and you won’t miss any pasta! I was afraid that my boyfriend would hate my new way of eating – but not at all! The best way to convince someone is to provide him with a delicious colorful plate full of tasty stuff – he enjoyed our new food a lot and never complained for a steak!
As I have a major sweet tooth, I was paying big attention to Ella’s sweet and dessert recipes: The baked apples with pecans, raw brownies and the lime and avocado cake (which tastes like ‘real’ cheesecake) are soooo good, I ate almost the whole ‘dough’ directly out of the mixer! So, the first week I was fully in love and enthusiastic, and ran happily to the organic store every day after work, looking forward to try out a new Ella recipe (the leftovers I took with me as lunch the next day after). Before the experiment I was afraid to crave tartar and burgers – but not at all, I enjoyed my ‘new’ meals every day.
And my skin / body? In the first week I haven’t noticed a significant difference, but I felt more energetic and not that tired after lunch and dinner anymore. Usually I fall asleep quickly after a steak dinner with ice cream dessert (my favorite Blockhouse menu, btw) – but after a plantbased dinner I didn’t felt so bloated and overeaten, I stayed awake and more energetic longer. The redness on my face went slightly back, and my skin looked a bit smoother without makeup.
Weeks 2 und 3: All I do is cook cook cook, no matter what…
I was enjoying the every-day-cooking a lot, as discovering new ways of preparing food was thrilling and exciting. I cooked dinner in the evenings, enjoyed the leftovers the day after, mixed with the leftovers from the day before and some smashed avocado – which was great. Buuut I started to miss my lunch breaks with the girls! No one had prepared food for lunch, they all went out for eating. I felt awkward to bring my own food to a restaurant, so I didn’t join them and lunched alone with a book. My new food routine isolated me, almost no one brought his own food to work.
Also meeting my girls for dinner became impossible. It’s quite a challenge to find a tasty vegan and glutenfree dish for dinner outside. Even if I went to a vegan restaurant in Hamburg (Leaf, Froindlichst), they didn’t offer a good selection of glutenfree food without processed ingredients. Vegan restaurants use saitan and artificially made vegan ‘cheese’, ‘meat’ and ‘egg’ substitutes to make the dishes taste like people are used to, instead of experimenting with natural ingredients in a new way, like Ella does. So, I had to invite people over to my place more often – which is lots of work and quite expensive in the long run.
What also started to bother me was all the heavy hauling and transporting of food everywhere I went. All the grocery shopping stuff, all the little glasses with food for lunch: one glass with hummus, one glass with mashed sweetpotatos, one glass with almond milk and so on, to prepare my colorful plates for lunch –bringing all the glasses there and back was heavy. I couldn’t go for a nice purse not one single time during these 9 weeks. To keep my experiment going I had to make it my first priority. So my week was only work, cook, wash the dishes, sleep, work, cook. And on the weekends: soaking almonds, make almond milk and nut butter, cook all the grains and quinoa, to prepare for the week. Don’t get me wrong, cooking is fun. But if you do it everyday after a fulltime job, it starts to annoy. I missed just going out for dinner with the girls and order easily what I want, without having to organize a dinner according to my new eating habits for 4 people at home. So, it reaaaaally takes a lot of time and preparation. BUT I still enjoyed the taste of the vegan food a lot – and haven’t missed meat and dairy at all! (But I DID miss the joy of going to a restaurant!)
And how about my skin? Well, this was really a positive surprise: The redness went away almost completely in the third week. My skin looked super smooth and without any pimples at all (and I was on my period!), it really improved! Was this food magic? Maybe! Also my stomach became very flat, as I never felt bloated or overeaten from the food, no matter how much I ate. My digestion was on point and as good as it never was before, so the effects on my body were definitely visible! There was only one negative effect: From all the dish washing my hand skin became super dry. But my face looked sooo good, it was totally worth it!
Weeks 4 and 5: Traveling: It’s hard out here for a vegan glutenfree pimp!
Preparation is key at home already – so before traveling to Amsterdam, London and Paris I did some serious research. Where will I get food according to my new way of eating? As I didn’t kew if I will have the opportunity to cook by myself in foreign cities, I only could rely on the tipps of my favorite food bloggers and the internet. In London eating outside was easy: Ella’s Mae Deli, NAMA raw foods and the Hemsley & Hemsley Café are located there – the restaurant choice was clear. In Amsterdam and Paris we also found some clean eating places, but I had some serious food envy when my friends were tasting all the yummy cheese and ate the typical french meat dishes and croissants (oh how I craved the croissants in Paris!!). Not being able to try the typical food in every country was definitely a drop of bitterness! Because let’s be honest: to eat new food is the best part of traveling…
By the way: To find a vegan and glutenfree breakfast is easy almost everywhere: Acai bowls and coconut yoghurt with fruit are common in most cafès in bigger cities, luckily.. Regarding dinner it was much harder: I ate baked vegetables and salad, and all the others enjoyed steak, baguette and cheese in Paris. Dying. Inside.
And my skin / body? Well, at this point my skin looked SO much better, that I even managed to look good in selfies! (a miracle, when your skin usually looks shitty in all the pictures!). My face was clear, smooth and really in the greatest condition since years. Regarding my body the only visible difference was my flatter stomach – but as I’m skinny from nature, I think I would need to do sports to notice a bigger difference.
Last week and what I truly learned from this:
After 9 weeks I got used to cooking almost every day and take my own food with me to work. I learned how to create really delicious vegan meals, loved to experiment with veggies and experienced at first hand that “going vegan” does not mean compromising on taste, as you can create the most tasteful meals if you just know the right recipes. Yes, it takes a lot of time, effort, carrying of stuff and organisation – but it’s a big investment in your health, appearance and overall well being. Which is our highest wealth and definitely worth it, even if it requires a major change in the daily routine.
I noticed serious change of my facial skin: I hadn’t a single pimple in weeks 2 – 9, my complexion cleared almost completely, all the breakouts and redness went back (and came back quickly when I had my first biiig pizza with Ben & Jerrie’s ice after the experiment ended, which made me think). My stomach was very flat, but I didn’t loose weight – but as I told you before, I’m naturally skinny, so it’s fine for me just to have a flatter stomach. My digestion was perfect (I don’t want to bother you with details, but I can tell it really improved).
Considerng this major impact on my skin, I definitely will continue to cook more by myself and substitute everything I can with healthy alternatives. I won’t go as far as Kate Moss and say “nothing tastes as good as being skinny (or in my case: having better skin) feels like”, but it’s definitely true that if you start to treat yourself and your body better, you will think twice before stuffing your mouth with junk, knowing what consequences it has on your body. Maybe I won’t be that strict with myself as I was within the 9 weeks, but I definitely will continue at home with preparing as much food as I can by myself, with healthy ingredients.
What I really missed during the 9 weeks was going out and enjoy food with others: It’s a pity that there are still veeery few restaurants offering a good selection of vegan and glutenfree food (even at “Leaf”, a really good vegan restaurant in Hamburg, most dishes contain gluten) – and it’s too bad! For me, eating is the most important part of life – and a major social activity. If you can’t go out for dinner with people anymore, a BIG aspect of your social life is missing – and I missed it a lot. Always cooking dinner at home for 4 people is exhausting and expensive, and it’s kind of more “normal” to go to a restaurant with the girls and not sit and cook at home. So the social life suffers quite a lot if you eat very different compared to the conventional way. Finding a good vegan and glutenfree breakfast is not a problem, but dinner still is.
Maybe it’s a society problem? Eating and craving unhealthy stuff is – similar to drinking alcohol – still associated with having fun, enjoying life and living to the fullest. Eating vegan on the other hand is associated with deprivation, sacrificing and not eating well. Which is just not true! There are plenty of amazing and tasteful vegan dishes – but no restaurant wants to cook it, because it requires more effort and the society is still not used to it. This is really a pity, because the effects on our health, appearance and overall well-being when eating the right (and tasteful!) things would be major.
My last words are meant for Ella and for her only: I really missed croissants during the 9 weeks! Ella, as you can conjure almost every dish with healthy ingredients – PLEEEAAASE find a recipe for croissants!!