Thank you for stopping by VLGL, my collection of vegan, low-glycemic-load culinary creations! I am a Florida-based lover of food and a vegetarian of 18 years. Embracing the VLGL philosophy has brought me much gastronomical pleasure and improved wellness, and I hope you too find it to be of benefit.
Honestly, it feels strange to post a photo of myself on the internet with no foundation or concealer on my skin and absolutely no retouching. A few months ago, despite being well into my twenties, the acne that I have battled on-and-off since childhood was so painfully, visibly inflamed that I would be tempted to put on foundation to take out the recycling (lest I run into a neighbor).
Like the vast majority of American teenagers, I suffered from acne throughout my middle and high school years and was accordingly placed on years' worth of oral antibiotics and topical creams. My dermatologists insisted that there was no link between nutrition and acne, so I indulged in a carefree teenager's diet of fluffernutter sandwiches with chocolate milk for breakfast, cheesy rice and beans with a Johnny cake for lunch, and cheesy dishes such as nachos, pizza, and my beloved macaroni and cheese for dinner (always leaving room for some cookie dough for dessert). When I left the Virgin Islands for college in Los Angeles, my skin only got worse; I blamed my worsening, increasingly cystic acne on the city's pollution while continuing to eat the Texas toast grilled cheese sandwiches, veggie burgers, and white rice cucumber sushi rolls that comprised my university cafeteria's sole vegetarian options. Frustrated by what I perceived to be a failure of modern medicine, I turned to costly facial peels and extractions to attempt to solve my acne "naturally." While my skin would look better in the days immediately following a facial, it would inevitably, frustratingly flare up again.
During my second year of college, I swallowed my fear and began a course of accutane -- a path I had avoided, due to the legendarily harsh side effects, but a path that seemed to be the only one I hadn't tried. After nine months of living with chapped lips slathered in Vaseline, my skin was clear and radiant to where I often received compliments on it. At about this time, I had begun to experiment with a dairy-free diet for environmental and ethical reasons (as well as because my body no longer seemed to tolerate it), and knowing of the associations between dairy consumption and acne, I credited my complexion to accutane and my dairy-free ways.
My skin remained clear until the summer of 2015, when my acne began to creep back, despite my practicing a strictly plant-based diet. I remember wondering, as I waited to receive a cortisone shot on a cystic bump that had developed on the eve of my husband's and my engagement photo shoot: how could my skin be so unhealthy despite practicing what was allegedly the healthiest, most futuristic eating philosophy? My vegan diet was mostly "healthy," with lots of fresh fruit, leafy greens, and spirulina smoothies, though it did contain an abundance of white bread, corn tortillas, huge bowls of quinoa, and -- my big comfort-pleasure -- Caribbean seasoned rice.
My acne gradually worsened in the face of my attempts to pacify it with nearly every "natural" topical remedy in the book: tea tree oil, glycolic acid, colloidal silver, oatmeal, rosehip oil, jojoba oil, basil oil, witch hazel, and honey cleansing... I tried just about everything, and it all seemed to make my skin angrier. By the fall of 2016, I could no longer deny that I was suffering from dreaded "adult acne;" my skin was painful and inflamed, with several cysts on my cheeks and around my lips. If I did not spend twenty minutes on my makeup in the morning, strangers would mistake me for a high school student.
With low expectations, I finally relented and sought the help of a dermatologist. Towards the end of a fairly standard appointment, I asked if there was anything holistic I could do, such as adjusting my diet. He responded first by telling me what I already knew -- that research indicates a possible link between dairy and acne -- and also advised me to adopt a low-glycemic-load diet.
"Wait..." I responded. "What exactly does that entail?" I had never heard of the concept.
"Well," he explained, "the glycemic load refers to how foods affect your blood sugar. You'll want to minimize sugar, as well as foods like candy and pastries, white rice, potatoes, bread..."
I cut him off: "No! I'm vegan! I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT BREAD!"
He assured me that he said "minimize," not "totally eliminate," but my head was spinning. Yellow rice was my comfort food! Bread was how I filled up at steakhouses and survived trips to veg-unfriendly places! What about the pints of dairy-free Ben and Jerry's that I habitually devoured? And pizza? Did he expect me to live without Daiya-smothered pizza?! He had to be wrong, he just had to be... after all, the doctors of my teenage years insisted that diet had nothing to do with acne...
But... I returned home, conducted some of my own research on the effect of glycemic impact on acne (summarized here), and begrudgingly accepted that there might be something to my dermatologist's advice for healing my skin. Moreover, my research left me suspecting that I might experience other benefits from minimizing blood-sugar-spiking foods, which can cause general inflammation and tend to be nutritionally void, and emphasizing low-glycemic-load vegetables, fruits, pulses, sprouted grains, and nuts, which tend to be very nutritious. I vowed to experiment with a low-glycemic-load eating plan for three months. Fortunately, I have been an enthusiastic, plant-based home cook and food blogger for the better part of a decade. I approached it as a cooking challenge to test my culinary creativity. I spent many hours brainstorming, daydreaming, testing, re-testing, and eventually perfecting the culinary creations that I share on this blog. And as such, the VLGL philosophy was born.
And the result? After almost exactly three months of mostly-but-not-perfectly embracing VLGL, my skin healed to a clear, healthy-looking state that I had not experienced since the years immediately following my course of accutane, save some residual scarring. (And really, I think it would have been a swifter process had the sugar-laden Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays not fallen in the very beginning of this healing process.) In addition to clear skin, I have also experienced healthier, faster-growing hair; better digestion (I suspect my former grain-overloaded ways were causing my frequent stomach upset), more abundant energy, and deeper sleep. I also cultivated elevated mindfulness in my approach to food; for example, while I no longer consume certain high-sugar foods like Skittles as I used to, if presented with something decadent and special, like a slice of my grandmother's caramel cake, I will take a small slice, deeply savoring and fully experiencing the pleasure from those few bites, and then consciously stop when the pleasure has plateaued. Conscious gastronomy is now my standard. (However, I also engineered recipes for VLGL ice creams, cookies, and other sweets to satisfy my oft-ravenous sweet tooth without bringing on a skin flare.)
Perhaps most fulfilling, adopting the VLGL philosophy affirmed my conviction that wellness-boosting, plant-based food is delicious when prepared with love and care. Through a bit of imagination and experimentation, I have found ways to recreate foods like my beloved seasoned rice using nutrient-dense, low-glycemic-load ingredients.
Whatever your reasons for stopping by VLGL, I hope your visit is of benefit. Savor, enjoy; and whatever you create, always share and serve with love.
☼ Elizabeth Taylor