Today we meet Mwaka Mapenzi, a mother, writer, and plant-based eater from Mombasa in Kenya. Read her story of enhancing heart wellness with a plant-based approach to food and wellbeing.
Nourishing my Heart Wellness
Hi, I'm Mwaka, and this is my story of becoming plant-based to improve the health of my heart.
Once upon a time, the thought of dropping meats and choosing plant-based nutrition was met by a hostile response. Some would offer condolences, while others would even say you lost it.
Today, with growing concern about health and wellness, plant-based diets are catching on. When I decided to leave my carnivorous ways, I got compliments and best wishes as I started my journey. Before I get into the details of how it’s going, let’s find out why I made this decision.
My Reason for Going Plant-Based
A few years back, after attending a wedding, I got home feeling fatigued. I wish I had listened to my body’s cries for help.
Two days later, I woke up breathless, sweaty, and with a stabbing pain in my chest. I don’t remember what happened next, but I woke up in a hospital bed.
I was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, and I decided that something needed to be different.
I had heard that the body was like a ‘bank account’, and food choices are ‘investments’, so my healthy life investment was about to begin! After doing a lot of research, I concluded that plant-based nutrition aligned with my cardiac wellness goals.
At first, it wasn’t easy, to be honest, and I wasn’t sure what to do, where, or how to start. I made mistakes, and there were times I wanted to give up.
But, when I focused on my reason for going plant-based - improving the health of my heart - everything else fell into place.
Having been on this journey for a while, there are some things I wish I’d known from the start.
Things I Wish I Knew Earlier
1. Stay Focused on The Goal
Habit is the sixth sense that dominates the other five. Fighting against a force of habit is the hardest part. When you choose a plant-based diet, you should put your eyes on the prize against all odds. Personally, a plant-based diet was to improve the health of my heart, and as long as it beats, I will make sure it is healthier.
2. Do your research
Thanks to the dawn of the technological age, information is now available at our fingertips. There’s a lot of information on the internet about plant-based diets, some of which is contradictory, which can be confusing. You need to know the best food choices for a plant-based diet and Dr. Sebi’s Nutritional Guide is a great place to start.
3. There’s so much to pick from
One of my biggest fears when I went plant-based was that being a picky eater myself, I would get bored of eating the same plants day in and day out. It came as a pleasant surprise that there were plant-based alternatives to anything and everything. There are a lot of things you will learn as you make the choice to go plant-based.
4. It’s all up to you
No matter what you do, people will always have something to say about it. What we eat does not define who we are, so other people's beliefs should not influence the choices we make. Going fully plant-based is your decision, your choice. Silence the voices of unsolicited advice, and listen to what your body needs and what your heart wants. Remember: choice is the greatest power in the universe, and it is all yours.
Things I’ve Noticed Since Going Plant-Based
1. I sleep better
I used to struggle with insomnia before, but since going plant-based, I saw a big improvement in my sleeping patterns. Some plant-based ingredients have been shown to help with a good night's rest. Your brain needs energy to sleep, and plants provide it.
2. My gut health has improved
The increased fiber intake from consuming lots of vegetables and fruits improves gut function; the rate of stomach upsets and constipation that I experienced before has significantly gone down. In addition, a plant-based diet provides prebiotics that feed the good bacteria and contribute to a healthier gut.
3. It’s the glow for me
My neighbor told me I am glowing, and he’s not the only one. There’s more to it than just my killer smile. Since becoming plant-based, the acne I have struggled with for years has begun to clear. I didn’t want to believe my diet was causing this, but after further research, I saw it was possible.
4. I’m bursting with energy
If I had a dollar for every time I am asked, “don't you get weak all the time?”, I would be on Forbe's 30 under 30 list. Most people's expectation is that because I am on a plant-based diet, my body is not getting enough calories to sustain my daily life.
The truth is that due to my wayward youthful lifestyle, I am prone to fatigue regardless of what I eat. Mostly, I feel more energized in comparison to my meaty era. I even wake up before my alarm after a good night's sleep. These are just some of the benefits I found from starting a plant-based lifestyle.
The Challenges I Faced
From every corner of the world, plant-based nutrition followers are singing the praises of this lifestyle. Best-selling authors have made millions of dollars from writing about plant-based nutrition. But doesn't every rose have its thorn?
I enjoy being plant-based, although sometimes, I want to throw in the towel. Here are some challenges I have come across, and how I solved them.
1. Less Social Eating
The best part about attending a relative's wedding or your niece's birthday is having a well-cooked homemade meal with family. I still enjoy family gatherings, but not for the reasons I did before. At most of the events I attend, there are no plant-based meals on the menu, meaning my stomach will have something to say throughout the event. Now, I either have to eat to the fullest or carry my own packed food when attending a family gathering or social event, which has inconveniences.
2. It can leave a dent in my pocket
I am a social butterfly and enjoy eating out with my friends. Given a choice between eating in and going out, I'm in my best outfit and out the door in no time. Before changing my diet, I'd go out to grab a bite with friends at least 3 or 4 times a week. But now, I can do it once or twice a week.
Getting a good restaurant with delicious plant-based meals is like finding a needle in a haystack, but if I come across one, the price tag is horrific. Despite my preference, I find myself eating it most of the time since it is more pocket friendly.
3. Combatting cravings
I really enjoy eating my salads and vegetables, don't get me wrong, but sometimes my body can decide to self-sabotage. The cravings hit hard when I'm back in my parent's house because I know mum will most definitely make her star dish of grilled meat with mashed potatoes. It sounds and smells delicious, but I know it’s not for me, not even a bit.
How's it Going?
Since I weaned gradually into this lifestyle, I did not find it hard to adapt. I pair my diet with light exercise to maintain my healthier heart. So far, so good, and I will keep you posted about my progress. My cardiovascular wellness has definitely improved, and I feel energized and inspired to continue.
Are you ready to start your plant-based adventure? If so, I hope you find this helpful. Or, if you’re already on the journey, remember, you’re not alone. We’re in this together. It doesn’t matter what other people’s opinions are concerning your diet; as long as you’re healthy, happy, and well, nothing else matters.
“And the one thing you want to do is to love, and that love should begin with you. Once you love yourself, you love the whole world.” - Dr. Sebi