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What Happened When I Cut Out Processed Foods, Meat & Dairy For A Week

Wellness

To most of my friends in LA, I'm the healthy eater of the group. I'm the one who has all the vegan and vegetarian recipes under my belt, ready to whip out at a moment's notice. But to those who know me best, my husband for example, I'm a backsliding vegetarian-sometimes-vegan who is addicted to Fresh Brothers Pizza, saving up for a leather Louis Vuitton bag, and often have fried chicken and macaroni cravings! Don't judge me vegans, I'm getting there!

After noticing that I've gained a little bit of love weight over the years, I wanted to take back control of what I put into my body. You know what they say? Abs begin in the kitchen. But I digress. To address those concerns, my dear friend and licensed nutritionist Wilize (who is the Vegetarian Goddess that I look up to) asked me to try out her nutrition cleanse for one week. I happily obliged!

Before I started, I flooded her text messages with a million questions: What exactly is non-processed? Can I have rice? Can I eat Quinoa? Can I have bread? To my dismay, the answer to all of those questions was, "No." In short, if it wasn't a fruit or vegetable and wasn't in the produce section, I couldn't eat it during the cleanse.

What I could have was fruits and vegetables (cooked or uncooked), seasonings, cold-pressed olive oil, and coconut oil. I know what you're thinking, delicious. I know what I was thinking, I was limited and would definitely be deprived. But, I was determined to get into this cleanse, and after a few recipes from her and Pinterest, and with my husband in tow, I went seven whole days without processed foods, meat, and dairy. Here's how I did it:

Day One

So, I should start by saying I mostly do intermittent fasting. Meaning on a typical day, I'll only eat between the hours of 12pm-8pm. I'm usually not hungry in the morning and I like to give my body time to digest my food before I fill it up with more food, hence the reason why I don't usually eat breakfast. On the first day of my cleanse, I made huge salads for lunch. I bought bunches of romaine lettuce and cut a whole bunch into one salad, topped with beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, and homemade salsa. Trust, it was definitely filling.

For dinner, I used the same ingredients, minus the cucumbers, to make tacos with romaine lettuce as the shells. While we loved the salads, neither of us were big fans of the lettuce leaves for taco shells. Both meals, however, kept me full and satisfied. I didn't experience any cravings or hunger. I snacked on dates and pears when I got hungry between meals.

Day Two

On day two, I still felt good. I had another huge salad for lunch. For dinner, I made a banana and strawberry smoothie. The smoothie was simple to make. I put frozen bananas, strawberries, and water instead of using almond milk in my Ninja blender and boom! The smoothie was creamy and satisfied the sweet craving I was having. My husband had a hard time on day two because they ordered burgers for the office at work while he had to settle for eating his salad.

Day Three

I admit it. I made another damn salad for lunch. My husband was definitely over salads by then and had no problem letting me know it. He was beginning to get cranky on the diet, so I looked up hearty plant-based recipes and decided to make a shepherds pie for dinner. The shepherds pie was delicious and filling it. If you've had a traditional one, you know it's cheesy with either a ground beef or chicken inside of a medley of mixed vegetable and potatoes as its filling. I made mine with potatoes, mixed veggies, and mushrooms. It came out great, tasted delicious, and was enough for us to have on day four too.

Day Four

On day four, we had fruit smoothies with frozen bananas, pineapple, strawberries, and spinach for lunch and for dinner, leftover shepherd's pie. I also had a bowl of cantaloupe as a snack. By this time, I felt like I was really conquering the whole plant-based thing.

Day Five

On day five, for brunch, I made a smoothie bowl with frozen bananas, pineapple, strawberries, and coconut flakes on top. For dinner, I made mashed cauliflower, which is basically like mashed potatoes with a homemade gravy and mushrooms I made by making my own vegetable broth, sauteed spinach, and oven roasted carrots. It was pretty tasty. I snacked on dates and watermelon slices throughout the day.

Day Six

On day six, I made a potato skillet with sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and spinach with sliced oranges on the side for brunch and spaghetti squash with homemade pasta sauce for dinner. The spaghetti squash is basically a huge squash and when you scrape out the insides, it closely resembles spaghetti. It came out tasting much better than I expected.

Day Seven

On our final day of the cleanse, I juiced a cucumber, apple, spinach, and ginger for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, I made sweet potatoes with cabbage and red beans on the side.

Results

The first change I noticed almost immediately. For as long as I can remember, whenever I woke up early, let's say before 7am, I would always feel nauseous. That went away almost immediately on this cleanse. In addition to that, I wouldn't have the itis or that stuffed feeling after meals. I still felt energized even after just eating, but was always satisfied. I also was not bloated at all. My face looked much slimmer, and so did my husband's, because we didn't have that swollen look that we often get from a standard American diet.

The next thing I noticed was I went to the bathroom a lot more, sometimes more than four times a day. TMI, but my body was definitely cleaning itself out and I felt great as a result! I also lost weight. At the end of the 7 days, I had lost 7 pounds while my husband lost ten. I'm assuming because I was already eating a mostly vegan/vegetarian diet, my body was already used to healthier eating than my hamburger, chicken and pizza-loving husband's body.

Another major change was cravings. The days during the cleanse and, even after, my body craved fruits and vegetables. Instead of craving unhealthy desserts or chips, my body literally craved salads and fruits every single day, which made me want to eat more healthy foods.


Finally, I was much more energized. As a freelancer, I spend a ton of time in my bed writing on my computer, which often times means daytime naps. I did the same work but I wasn't tired at all and had much more energy to get the things done that I usually try to put off until the next day. All in all, the cleanse was a success. I gave my body a much-needed break from processed foods, reset my cravings, lost a few pounds that have stayed off a few months later, and got my husband thinking about health and nutrition differently.

I love pastas and pizza and, while spaghetti squash noodles is a good pasta substitute, I still crave the real thing, so I probably won't be ditching my diet for a fully plant-based lifestyle anytime soon. But this is definitely a cleanse I will be doing several times throughout the year starting again this week.

If you want to learn more about the plant-based cleanse and meal plan I followed, you can visit the link here.

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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