- Miley Cyrus follows a strict diet and has an active lifestyle that I tried to mimic for a week.
- The singer is mostly vegan and practices pilates and Ashtanga yoga.
- I was hungry, frustrated, and moody and it just wasn’t worth it.
Miley Cyrus doesn’t take herself too seriously: She’s even called herself a “walking joke” in an interview with E!. But she does take her health seriously. The singer told Billboard magazine that she quit drinking and smoking pot earlier this year, and had started practicing veganism and yoga. As someone who also takes health seriously, I thought I’d be up to the challenge of living like Miley for a week — sans the on-stage twerking, of course.
But before I could take on the challenge, I had to learn a little bit more about Cyrus’ lifestyle habits. According to POPSUGAR, Cyrus is a vegan for both ethical and health reasons. Additionally, as reported by Glamour, Cyrus has gone gluten-free, though the reason is unclear. Since this was a challenge, I decided to take on both eating habits.
Doing so, however, comes with some risk —mainly, nutritional deficiencies. Registered dietitian Rachael Hartley told INSIDER by email that if you’re going to be vegan and gluten-free simultaneously, it’s important that you’re, “eating a wide variety of other foods in your diet, like nuts, tofu/tempeh, beans, other whole grains, vegetables and fats.” She also wanted me not to “forget fun foods, like French fries or a vegan, gluten-free brownie that you enjoy just for pleasure.”
But the diet was only half the battle. As far as exercise, the singer has spoken about her love for pilates and Ashtanga yoga, even posting pictures of her practicing on social media. Having practiced vinyasa flow-style yoga for several years, I was significantly less intimidated by taking on its “purer” relative, Ashtanga.
Peg Mulqueen, an Ashtanga instructor and founder of Ashtanga Dispatch, explained to INSIDER that Ashtanga is, by definition, a completely individual practice. There are six series to Ashtanga practice, each comprised of set asanas though most people only regularly practice the first, which is the healing series.
With a yoga mat in my possession and permission to eat French fries, I felt good about the challenge. Little did I know how hard it would be.
Meal 1: Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothie
The week got off to a good start thanks to a strong coffee with almond milk coffee creamer and a vegan smoothie recipe from my vegan, gluten-free guide for the week, Minimalist Baker.
In the interest of full disclosure, the smoothie situation wasn’t a difficult switch for me, because smoothies are often my breakfast of choice. Normally, however, I add collagen or protein powder to give it a little more staying power. Since collagen was obviously out and I couldn’t verify whether or not my go-to protein powder is vegan, I had to go without.
Needless to say, I was hungry within an hour or two.
My first dalliance with Ashtanga could’ve gone better. I was used to vinyasa flow classes and quick HIIT routines, so the much slower pace was a big change. It was frustrating at first, because I felt I couldn’t seem to figure out how to “back breathe.” But once I got used to it, the session went smoothly.
Meal 2: White Bean Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing
This lunch was, quite honestly, one of the best things I ate all week. The lemon juice brightened everything up, and the flavors all balanced each other out. To be quite honest, I kind of wish I’d ended up making it more than once. Maybe if I had, I could have stuck with the diet longer.
Meal 3: Sun-Dried Tomato Chickpea Burgers
I made chickpea burgers for dinner, and need to stress how important it is to let the mixture to chill long enough before trying to cook the burgers. I ended up with what was essentially toasted chickpea mush — though a very well-flavored one.
Mush aside, the day wasn’t too bad. I was expecting to be famished by bedtime. And although I was a little hungrier than usual, I was OK. I started to think that this wouldn’t be as difficult as I’d thought before I started. I felt a tentative confidence start to creep in. It was premature, as I now know.
Meal 1: Blueberry Almond Butter Smoothie
I made a blueberry almond butter smoothie from Minimalist Baker for breakfast. The little shot of protein from the almond butter helped manage my hunger, unlike the smoothie from Monday.
Meal 2: Tomato and Vegetable White Bean Soup
This soup recipe is yet another winner, and one I’ll definitely make again. It was full of flavor, and kept me energized throughout the day.
Plus, it taught me that I really like kale in soup. Like, really, really like kale in soup. I lead an exciting life, guys.
My muscles were slightly sore from all the stretching I’d done the day before, but was excited to go for another round of exercise. I often struggle to motivate myself to workout, but so far I didn’t need my usual internal pep talks and negotiations. Already I was feeling calmer, stronger, and more capable, which was encouragement enough to keep going.
Meal 3: Portobello Mushroom Stir-Fry
As filling as my lunch was, it didn’t keep me full to dinnertime. I was so hungry after making this meal that I couldn’t waste any time taking pictures before devouring it. And even worse: it didn’t keep me full. I was hungry again before bedtime.
This was likely due to the fact that I wasn’t getting as much protein as normal, and my body was having a difficult time adapting to the change. Of course, it didn’t help that I worked on an article about fast-food after dinner. Do you know how hard it is to look at burgers and milkshakes when you can’t have them? It’s pure torture.
In attempts to stave of hanger — something I would experience more than once during this experiment — I had to settle for eating an avocado with a spoon. It could’ve been worse, but I was already getting a little frustrated at having to continually think about what I could and couldn’t eat.
Meal 1: Immune-Booster Orange Smoothie
This week encouraged me to break out of my smoothie routine and try some new favorites, which is definitely one of the best things that happened this week.
Meal 2: Leftover Tomato and Vegetable White Bean Soup
I took leftover soup to work today, and it was even better than it had been the day I made it. The potato pieces had soaked in the flavor from the spices, tomatoes, and vegetable stock.
Though I originally planned on bringing something different, I didn’t want the big batch of soup to go to waste. I happily ate the whole bowl, and with each bite, I felt like I could make it through the week.
Meal 3: Red Lentil Pasta with a Mushroom Red Wine Sauce
I started to notice that I was pretty hungry after lunch. I’d feel fine one minute, then battle a stabbing pain in my stomach the next. It was difficult to manage and made my mood swing from pleasant and polite to grouchy and miserable in no time.
As I drove home, I kept thinking about how much better gluten and cheese would taste than whatever I had initially planned to make. But rather than give in, I guilted myself into making lentil pasta with a mushroom red wine sauce situation and topped it with parsley instead of Parmesan cheese. It was the only meal all week that I created without the guidance of a vegan, gluten-free blog.
This was also the day that I skipped my workout to watch my Cubs battle for a spot in the World Series. They lost, leading me to believe I should’ve opted for yoga and pilates instead.
Meal 1: Blueberry Almond Butter Smoothie
I started the day on a positive note with a blueberry almond butter smoothie I made the night before. I thought it would fuel me through the day, especially after I slept through my alarm and had to run to work. Little did I know it would be the last bright spot.
Meal 2: Leftover Tomato and Vegetable White Bean Soup
I took leftovers for lunch yet again, because I just couldn’t be bothered to make anything new. I was frustrated by my constant hunger, and tired about thinking about what I was going to eat and categorizing food. The soup was good, but less satisfying than it had been in the days prior. I wanted something more exciting and couldn’t shake the feeling that this soup would be so much better with some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. My resolve was starting to crack.
After a long day, sick of being hungry all week and feeling frustrated, I had pizza for dinner and I don’t regret it.
Although the eating portion of my experiment hit a low that day, the exercise component was on the rise. This was the first day that I actually felt as though I had a handle on Ashtanga yoga and pilates; possibly the universe’s way of balancing out with my diet failure.
What the professionals think:
Although it’s clear that Cyrus eats the way she does for ethical and health reasons, it’s not actually nutritionally necessary to adhere to such a strict diet in order to be healthy.
“Eating significantly less meat and animal foods reduces your impact on the environment and your risk for chronic disease, like diabetes, certain types of cancer, and heart disease,” Hartley said. “But there’s no need to go vegan unless you’re ethically called to do so.”
She added that certain nutrients found in animal foods — vitamin B12, omega 3 fats and iron — may be difficult to get in a vegan diet. If you’re not considering a switch veganism due to an ethical calling, it’s something you might want to consider as part of your decision-making process.
Unnecessarily going gluten-free can also potentially adversely impact your health, especially if you don’t eat intentionally after cutting out gluten-containing wheat, rye, and barley. “It can be dangerous to unnecessarily avoid gluten,” Hartley said. “Many gluten-free foods are more processed than their gluten-containing counterparts, and because rice flour is often used as a substitute, following a gluten free diet may increase exposure to heavy metals like arsenic and mercury.”
When it comes to working out, however, Miley might be onto something: Pairing yoga and pilates is a really good idea because they’re complementary practices. Melody Ward, director of bridge training at Club Pilates, told INSIDER that the core strength needed for yogic inversions can be developed in pilates classes, while the flexibility you gain from yoga can similarly improve your pilates practice.
Pilates and yoga can both change the way you look, feel, and carry yourself, and they can both influence how you move through your life off the mat, so combining the two is basically a no-brainer. I felt stronger and more flexible as the week went on, which I definitely attribute to practicing yoga and pilates in conjunction with one another.
Because of the strict nature of Cyrus’ diet, I noticed some former food issues resurface throughout the week. I started categorizing foods as “allowed” or “off limits,” and said “I can’t have that” every time I was offered something that was off the table. I’ve had a very complicated relationship with food in the past and some of these behaviors made me feel uneasy as the week went on. I ultimately decided it was best to quit the challenge then give into those behaviors.
But the whole challenge wasn’t a waste. I stuck with the workout routine for the entire week, and noticed a major difference: not in my physical appearance, but my mental state. I felt calmer and less stressed than normal, so I plan to stick with a regular yoga practice and incorporate pilates into my routine moving forward.
Ultimately, I learned that listening to my body’s cues and really taking care of myself is more important than following a set of guidelines. A few more vegan meals in my life will do me some good, but choosing a diet over my well-being will never truly be healthy.
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