Prior to two weeks ago when I first started my journey on Sakara Life's Plant-Based Challenge, my body had been silently screaming. For months, I had experienced a variety of icky symptoms that not only left me miserable but also as if I were a stranger within my own body. Quite literally, I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and into the skin of my previously vibrant, energetic, happy, and confident self. The problem? I felt trapped. I was constantly tired (I've had mono, and honestly, the relentless fatigue was comparable), bloated, constipated (sorry, but let's be 100% open here), broken out, anxious, and riddled with stress. I felt like a mess, and as someone who had always been relatively healthy and wellness-oriented in terms of my diet and exercise approach, I was confused and frustrated.
I've always been a huge believer in the idea that food can serve as a healing vehicle—one of Sakara Life's main pillars. My parents live impeccably clean lifestyles, and now at 70, their 50-year-old bodies (a doctor's words, not mine) prove the youth-invigorating benefits a healthy, whole, and clean lifestyle can have. Additionally, redirecting my approach to food in order to focus on colorful, clean, and nutrition-packed alternatives was a leading force in helping me heal from an eating disorder. That was in high school, and since then, maintaining a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, omega-bursting fats, and ample protein has been of utmost importance to me. Until, of course, it wasn't. Or rather, until it became less of a priority.
As happens to many of us, life has presented a variety of obstacles in the past few years post–college graduation. For one, I moved across the country and far away from a support system. Since then, I've had two different jobs, three different residences, and countless new relationships—some fleeting and some, I'm sure, destined to last a lifetime. While I appreciate all of the above and feel blessed and proud of my accomplishments, other priorities like getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, and moving my body on a routine basis fell by the wayside. I started to become preoccupied with food again (something I've had trouble admitting to myself) and was also diagnosed with PCOS. My diet was erratic, my cravings wild, and my control, what felt like to me, lost.
Even though I was eating what could be considered "healthy" most days, my body didn't seem to agree. Carbohydrates, gluten, fruits, and dairy were limited, while healthy fats and clean sources of animal protein were ample. (I've never been vegan or vegetarian and have always relied on animal protein as my main means of protein.) Basically, my diet consisted of vegetables, lots of chicken, eggs, fats (like nuts, oil-based dressings, avocado, etc.), a lot of coffee, and random streaks of sugar or fast food when an unquenchable craving struck—which to be honest, was often. I knew something wasn't right within my body. I felt unbalanced, but I didn't feel like I had the knowledge, equipment, or guidance to make the kinds of change I knew deep down my body was desperately craving.
So when I was offered the opportunity to try out Sakara Life's plant-based way of eating for two weeks, I was intrigued and, honestly, completely thrilled. Even though I'm used to eating a lot of plant-based foods, I've never thought I could go completely meat-, dairy-, sugar-, and gluten-less without feeling lethargic, hungry, and sick. (Again, just being honest here!) But I was desperate, and I was willing to try anything with the potential to guide and reset my body back to its happy, healthy, and balanced homeostasis.
As part of the Sakara challenge, I was sent plant-based breakfasts, lunches, and dinners five days a week and for two weeks straight. Even though you're technically on your own for the weekends, as part of the challenge, Sakara sent along plenty of helpful tips, recipes, and other information to help me maintain the plan's pillars on my days off from deliveries. Surprisingly, I didn't find it hard to keep up my momentum. That being said, I did make a couple of ultra-pricey pitstops at L.A.'s Erewhon Market.
Additionally, I received the brand's signature Beauty+Detox Water Concentrates ($39) (Beauty for morning and Detox for nighttime), its Detox Tea ($20) (so soothing and great to sip after both breakfast and lunch), and last but not least, its super-delicious Energy Bars ($29 per six-pack), which can serve as an optional afternoon snack. As someone who has 3 p.m. sugar cravings and a long span of time between lunch and dinner due to my gym routine and commute, I found them immensely helpful.
Technically, the Plant-Based Challenge is over, but since the plan is essentially the same thing as ordering Sakara's five-day, three-meal plan, you can still get all the same goodies and benefits (Sakara's supreme customizability is so amazing and convenient), and I plan on continuing my new plant-based lifestyle into the future. Keep reading for my full experience and review of living the Sakara Life—including my initial worries, my goals, and the surprising takeaways that have completely changed my personal approach to food and the way I honor and listen to my body.
My Fears and Goals Before Going Plant-Based
Even though I knew I was in the best hands with Sakara (I've only heard wonderful things—especially from my fellow Byrdie editors), I had my concerns. I'd pretty much never gone a day in my life without consuming some kind of animal-based protein, and while I felt like I could live without dairy and gluten (I've done it before), I was worried I'd feel restricted, depleted, hungry, and tired. I was also concerned I'd feel like I was eating too many carbohydrates and not enough protein. Plus, as perpetual calorie-counter (a sticky habit that's unfortunately been ingrained for years), I had an inkling of panic not knowing how many calories I'd be eating per day.
That said, I knew Sakara's kick-ass founders, Danielle Duboise and Whitney Tingle, feel passionate about disproving those common assumptions and myths surrounding a plant-based lifestyle. In fact, the birth of Sakara was fueled by the relentless, frustrating symptoms the duo experienced before rediscovering a colorful plant-based lifestyle. Symptoms, mind you, which were almost identical to the ones I had been experiencing and frustrated by for months—acne, fatigue, bloating, yo-yo dieting, and so on.
"A plant-based diet is exactly that: a diet that is based on plants," the brand explained prior to my trial. "It's not about restriction, deprivation or following an unrealistically strict set of rules. In fact, it's about abundance, nourishment, … and food that makes you feel sexy!"
According to Sakara, my two weeks of plant-based eating would feature a whopping 200 different plant-based ingredients (the brand cites variety as the spice of life and a major key for encouraging healthy gut flora), all of which would help my body to naturally fight disease and signs of aging while simultaneously replenishing hydration, eliminating bloat, clearing my complexion, and aiding my body's natural detoxification system. Of course, at the forefront of the plan would be the brand's signature Sakara Pillars: plant protein, good fats, greens, eating the rainbow, nutrient density, sulfur-rich veggies, body intelligence, filling up on foods naturally full of water, and absolutely no calorie counting.
I was ready, so before day one, I made a list of the goals—things I was hoping the Sakara approach to eating would help me accomplish both physically and mentally: less bloating, healthier and regular digestion, more energy, clearer skin, less brain fog, less anxiety (especially surrounding food), and an increase in food variety.
Little did I know (I was honestly skeptical, folks) all my prayers listed above would be answered—and then some. In fact, within two weeks, I learned more about my body and what it loves, craves, and dislikes than I maybe have in my entire lifetime. As someone who never thought she'd go vegan or 100% plant-based, I'm now adopting that lifestyle moving forward. Keep reading to find out what happened to inspire my entire change of mindset and the healthiest-feeling body I've had in years.
What Actually Happened
My skin cleared. The past year has been a little bit of roller coaster for my complexion. I've suffered hormonal breakouts, and my frenetic approach to food surely hasn't helped. I was skeptical that changing my diet in any way would actually benefit my annoying cycle of acne, but within mere days of converting to the Sakara way of eating, my skin was naturally brighter, dewier, and suppler. To be truthful, I was glowing. (See unabashed car selfie above!) Plus, the string of angry red bumps that had bombarded my face seemed to slow, and while my old pimples healed, miraculously, I didn't experience the onset of any new ones.
My unpredictable appetite and intense sugar cravings subsided. By following Sakara's plant-based lifestyle for two weeks, I naturally eliminated all forms of processed sugars. Sure, I was consuming a strategic and satisfying ratio of naturally occurring sugars via fresh, juicy fruits and small amounts of natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, dates, and coconut sugar, but nothing I was consuming was processed, refined, or fake—and my body flourished. My sweet tooth was satisfied with the subtly, naturally sweetened breakfasts (seriously, they're so delicious, and I'm addicted) and the dark chocolaty goodness of the Energy Bars which feature organic raw hemp protein, organic sunflower seed butter, fiber, organic almonds, organic cacao nibs, organic cacao powder, Himalayan pink salt, L-theanine, and vitamin B12.
Plus, since I was consistently filling up on water (via the water-rich ingredients and meals themselves, beauty and detox-infused waters, and tea), my appetite felt quelled and balanced throughout the day, every day—something I was far from used to and which served as an epic relief. I'd been terrorized by feelings of untameable cravings and swings in appetite for months, and feeling consistently fueled and fulfilled with my diet was a major source of release for me. Mentally, it helped me feel infinitely more sane around food.
I learned I didn't need animal protein to feel satisfied and energized. Whenever I've gone meatless in the past (not intentionally but if it ever just kind of happened one day), I've felt sick, shaky, and hungry. That, combined with the fact I've grown up eating meat and it's just second nature, has always made me feel rather dependent on it—like I needed it. So prior to starting Sakara, I was completely worried I was setting myself up for two weeks of feeling unsatisfied, woozy, and downright miserable. The opposite was true. I was never hungry (Sakara always has the perfect ratio of plant-based protein, fats, and fiber-filled carbs to keep you satiated), and not once did I feel fatigued. In fact, my brain fog disappeared, I no longer felt like I had been hit by a truck upon waking up, and I actually made it to more workouts in one week than I collectively had in the past month. My body was thriving, and I don't remember the last time I felt so naturally energized and ready to take on the day—no coffee high necessary. I was floored.
I was going to the bathroom regularly and felt significantly less bloated. Okay, sorry, but this was huge for me. As someone who had been struggling with perpetual bloat and constipation for months, I was ready to jump out of my skin with discomfort. Nothing is worse than starting your day already full, bloated, and lethargic and only having it get worse as the day wears on. However, thanks to all the water I was drinking, the powerful blend of minerals, chlorophyll, and magnesium, in the nightly detox water, and the fiber-filled meals I was eating three times a day, I finally became "regular" for the first time in ages.
Each morning, I was able to start the day feeling featherlight, cleaned out, and detoxified. I felt like shouting with glee from the top of my lungs. Of course, that would be exceedingly embarrassing, so I refrained. Inside, though, I was smiling. My body was so appreciative. I'm not sure if I lost weight, and to be honest, I purposely didn't want to make weight loss one of my goals, but even after just a couple days, my clothes felt looser, and I felt svelter and more comfortable in my skin. Fast-forward to the end of my two-week challenge, and I felt virtually transformed and in a much better place physically and mentally.
I reclaimed my happiness and food freedom. I purposely saved this takeaway for last because it's not only the most important benefit I experienced, but it's also what's made the most significant impact in my life, which is saying something. Prior to Sakara, I had started to lose faith in my longtime belief that food could heal. I had always thought of food as a type of medicine, but after trying and ultimately discarding multiple "healthy" ways of eating (high protein, high fat, low carb, and everything in between), I felt worse and unhealthier than ever. That being said, following the balanced, non-restrictive, and healing powers Sakara is based on performed a 180 on my body. It's as if every part of my body was working together—humming along and ultimately singing in an organic and effortless harmony. What before felt disjointed suddenly felt coherent and balanced. I woke up with less anxiety and brain fog, I felt better equipped to deal with the day-to-day stresses of work and life, and perhaps most importantly, I felt as if I had been unchained from the pressures and fears I had been harboring around food.
I committed to being blissfully unaware of how many calories I was eating, whereas before I would compulsively keep a subconscious tally in my head all day every day, and I felt lighter—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Never did I think going plant-based would make such a profound difference in every facet of my life, and I say that as someone who, while excited and open coming into the challenge, was also exceedingly skeptical. Truly, Sakara has changed my life for the better by gently and supportively altering my viewpoints surrounding food and what my individual needs are surrounding nourishment, satisfaction, and homeostasis. Not to mention the lifestyle (it's not a "diet" after all) has awarded me a newfound respect for my body as a whole. I'm ready to commit to my health again, and while I still plan to indulge here and there (which Sakara actually encourages!), I'm excited to embark on a new, plant-based approach to eating. For the first time in a long time, I feel nourished, weightless, and in control of my body, which I'm exceedingly grateful for.
Keep scrolling to shop a few of my favorite staples from the challenge and click here to get a glimpse into the lives of Sakara's two founders, Whitney Tingle and Danielle Duboise.