About 6 weeks ago, I impulsively decided to embark on a 6 month vegan challenge. Where I got 6 months from? I don’t know. But on one bedridden Friday evening, as I was coming down with a cold, I binge watched several documentaries showcasing the benefits of eating a plant based diet, and ever since then, I didn’t look back…until this last weekend.
I BLEW THE CHALLENGE! Well, apparently I was never vegan to begin with because I continued to eat honey, which comes from bee’s and bee’s are insects, and apparently insects fall in the same category as animals…SO. There ya go. Going completely vegan is definitely a challenge. There’s literally dairy and/or chicken stock in almost everything!
I must say, although I may have not been 100% vegan, I did learn a lot about myself and the challenges faced with being a minority in the food world. Prior to this diet, I was eating meat and dairy almost daily. My meals consisted of eggs in the morning, a meat based meal for lunch (usually chicken breast, chicken sausage, ground beef or tuna) and a salad for dinner. For snack, I would alternate from eating chips, trail mix or dried fruit. On weekends or days I wouldn’t bring lunch to work, I would treat myself to pizza, a creamy pasta, a meaty sandwich, a juicy cheeseburger and just anything creamy and delicious! My mouth really had no filter. As long as I wasn’t mindful of the effects certain foods were having on my body, I blindly ate anything I wanted to.
As I’ve been venturing on this mindful journey for the last several years (meaning, becoming more aware of my mind/body intake), I’ve placed so much focus with strengthening my mind, and neglected to pay attention to what my body was consuming. It was until I watched these impactful documentaries discussing the links between food and disease, that it just clicked for me. I used this challenge as an experiment. Being a Mental Health Therapist, we are taught that diet plays a factor in our mood and behavior. A patient with depression or anxiety, for instance, should avoid eating foods with too much sugar, artificial sweetener, trans fat or high sodium. Consuming alcohol, caffeine and fast food are also correlated to impairment in mental functioning. Regardless, I had to experience this change of diet myself in order to genuinely suggest it to my clients.
So here it is! I wanted to be as honest as possible with you guys about my 6 month (a.k.a. 6 week) vegan challenge.
Pros To Going Vegan
I LOST 6 LBS
The first day of my vegan diet, I took a picture of my body in order to do a “before and after photo”. I completely relaxed my belly so I could really show what it looked like on a daily basis. I was horrified at how bloated I looked! I was not on my period, I was exercising about 1-2 days a week and was eating what I thought was an “ok” diet. How in the world does my stomach look like this? Another factor to the bloat could have been the birth control I was taking prior to starting this diet. So many hormones entering my body, through the meat products and birth control. 5 weeks into the diet (and not taking my birth control) I dropped 6lbs. I went from weighing 124lbs to 118lbs. I was rarely exercising, and my days consisted of mostly sitting down at the office, however, I was eating plant based foods for every meal. Meals usually consisted of:
Breakfast: Fruit smoothie - mango, banana, coconut milk, honey, chia seeds, maca powder, spirulina Ezekiel bread with almond butter or veganese and avocado Grain cereal with coconut milk Lunch: A bowl with brown rice, beans, sweet potatoes, zucchini and avocado Veggie burger Meatless sausage with veggies Quinoa salad with veggies and spinach Dinner: Lentil soup with veggies Veggie curry Brown rice salad Pasta with tomato sauce Snacks: Pretzel sticks Veggie chips Nuts Fries (I drink a glass of wine almost everyday)
Increased Bowel Movement
Gross, I know, but it’s actually really important to pay attention to our poop, as it can indicate how our health is doing. Due to eating so many veggies, my fiber intake increased, therefore so did my digestion. I went from having to use the bathroom once a day, to 3 times a day! This diet helped with constipation, bloating, as well as lessening the intensity of any cravings for the junky foods.
Decreased Cravings For Junk Food
This literally just occurred to me as of now, but my cravings for junk food have significantly diminished. Prior to this diet, I thought I would never NOT crave a donut or pizza (to name a few of my favorite things), but I really don’t have a desire for it anymore.
No Longer Feel STUFFED After Meals
Not feeling stuffed from food feels so amazing! I recently compared feeling overly stuffed to being hungover. Both hurt and slow you down. After eating my plant based meals, I feel completely satisfied and energized. It’s amazing that I can get all the nutrients my body needs from fruits, nuts, veggies, grains and then feel like I can conquer the world right after. I can also really appreciate the peace of mind in knowing that I consumed something healthy, as opposed to the instant regret I feel when I eat too much of something that probably wasn’t good for me to begin with.
Prior to the plant based diet, my acne was out of control. I was getting pimples consistently on my cheeks and sometimes and on my forehead. A few weeks into my diet, I noticed that my pimples went and STAYED away. I believe I may have gotten about 1 or 2 serious pimples within the last 6 weeks. Animal products contain saturated fats, which are notorious for clogging pores. Also, many of the vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals in fruits and veggies contribute to healthy skin, and when you’re vegan, you’re consuming those healthy substances on the regular.
Increased Awareness of Ingredients Put in Foods
This was a huge contributing factor to going vegan. I wanted to increase my awareness of the ingredients put in food. Due to my restrictions, it forced me to read the labels. Not only did I become aware that dairy and chicken stock are in most packaged or pre-made foods, but that it also consists of many artificial and unhealthy ingredients that have no beneficial properties.
Making Food Choices Has Never Been So Simple
I sometimes feel like I’m the most indecisive person. And when it comes to food, WOW. I will usually regret my food decisions once I commit to them and wish I had gone with the other choices. The whole psychological process I put myself through when it comes to picking food is quite honestly ridiculous, I just have to laugh at it at this point. Since going vegan, I’ve had no contemplation’s when it comes to food. The stress from deciding on whether I should eat the donut or choose between the pepperoni pizza from the BBQ chicken option, is no longer a problem! Making food choices has never been so simple, and ultimately, it ends up being more beneficial as it reduces my stress level and leads me to making better food choices.
I was shocked with this one. Prior to starting the vegan diet, I thought that I would crave more foods since veggies are pretty “light”. Nope, I literally eat less! To piggy back off of the previous “Pro” that I listed above, I ate large quantities of food because foods with dairy, meat or sugar were just more accessible. I didn’t eat because I was hungry, I ate that food purely on it’s convenience and/or because most of the time, it was free. Since being vegan, my portions have been smaller by choice. My body gets it nutrients in every meal directly from the food source, where as in the past, I would eat so many foods with empty calories, that my body naturally craved more. It was relying on me to feed it the nutrients it needed, in which most of the time, I was neglecting. Now, I just don’t have that issue anymore. All of my food choices are nutritious.
Not Supporting Meat Factories that Mass Produce Meat and Dairy
All that mass production equals abundance and lower prices. I was not surprised to learn that factory-farmed animals literally eat crap. To keep production costs low, animals raised in factory farms are fed the cheapest possible grains and feeds containing municipal garbage, stale cookies, poultry manure, chicken feathers, bubble gum and even restaurant waste. Naturally, these animals get sick from the unhealthy foods they are being fed. The sickened animals are then given chemical additives, plus constant, low-level doses of antibiotics. These drugs then in turn enter our system and guess who gets sick? We do. Not to add, the condition in which these animals are being raised, tightly packaged into cages and pens, unable to practice normal behaviors, causes them immense stress which ultimately effects their production of food as it contains lower number of vitamins and omega-3-fatty acids. Lastly, factory farming pollutes the earth. Due to the high cost of collecting and removing the excess amount of cattle manure, the manure is often dumped near by. Surrounding soil from the cattle deposit gets over-saturated with the hurtful substances contained in the manure, resulting in ground and water pollution.
Plant-Based Diet Prevents Disease
Choosing a diet heavy in fruits and veggies help prevent chronic diseases, such as:
- Diabetes: There have been numerous studies that have followed patients with Diabetes and after switching to a plant-based diet for only 2 weeks, they were free of symptoms. (I know this because my mom has diabetes and I’ve been trying to get her to go plant-based after reading the research. She’s still a work in progress.)
- Hypertension control (low blood pressure)
- Lower chances of developing cardiovascular disease
- Weight loss
- Lower cholesterol
- Better vision
- Clear skin
Cons To Going Vegan
Odd One Out
The last thing I wanted was to make the people around me feel awkward or that they had to modify dinner plans or meals because I was the only vegan joining. Nope, no, not me. All my friends have been so accommodating with my diet, and experiencing that support has felt really nice. But because vegans are such a minority in the food world, I can’t help but feel as though my diet is sometimes a burden on others.
Limited Vegan Options
Vegan options are growing, and fortunately much of the world is trending towards plant based eating, however, vegan options at restaurants are still limited. I often find myself eating salads with olive oil or balsamic (as most dressings contain dairy). I’ll also go for the appetizers or side dishes, such as such as brussel sprouts, veggies, rice, bread and potatoes. Many dishes contain butter, dairy or a meat stock. To be honest, sometimes I’d be so hungry, I would eat a dish knowing that perhaps (most definitely) it contained something non-vegan.
Yup! Vegans may experience more gas than usual. Perhaps it’s from all of the beans we eat. According to nutritional studies, beans contain carbohydrates made of molecules that are too large to be absorbed in our small intestine during digestion so they pass into the large intestine still intact. Other foods, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale are all delicious, but because they are high in fiber, they can naturally lead to gas and bloat. I personally experienced less bloat after eliminating meat and dairy from my diet, but definitely experienced a slight increase in gas at times. Yikes.
I will continue to not eat meat or dairy, although I no longer consider myself a vegan. I personally feel like these “categories of diets” are too unrealistic to live by 100% if you live in society. I can definitely appreciate those that do make the effort to avoid all meat and dairy, as it takes much dedication, discipline and a true passion. I feel that this diet tuned my health, as well as made me aware that I can live well with eating only plant-based foods. This past weekend I broke my vegan diet by eating a pizza with some mozzarella cheese on top. Did I feel bad? Yes, because I was going against my values at the time, and no, because it tasted SOOOO GOOOOD.
I can proudly say that I believe I can have certain dairy products in moderation if need be. Again, I don’t desire it, but if I have limited and/or no options, I’ll eat it. I’m going to continue making my delicious smoothies (with honey) each morning and will continue to buy my veggie groceries. I do miss fish, especially shrimp, so who knows, maybe I’ll go pesca-sometimes-vegan-tarian. We’ll see.
Please comment below! Would love to hear your thoughts, stories and/or ideas 🙂