Homemade vegan cheesecake with blueberries and peanut butter swirled in. Yeaaaah!

Feb 30-day Challenge: The Vegan Diet And How It’s Changing Me

Instead of doing new years’ resolutions for 2016, I had the idea to create a list of 30-day challenges with the underlying motive of making me a better, healthier person. Self transformation! That thing we’re all quietly striving for, but not actively pursuing even though we mean to.

For February, I’m eating vegan — we’re eating vegan! I’m doing this with my partner in crime. If this was going to be a real challenge I knew that going vegetarian would be too easy. I enjoy so many foods that don’t have meat in them that it would just become a temporary rice/pasta/bread binge.

Let me preface this experience by making it clear that food has preoccupied my mind since childhood. I thought about it all-the-damn-time. I love cooking, eating out, trying different cuisines and recipes, and I might like almond croissants and fruit tarts more than I enjoy the company of people. And I can eat a loooot. Being so full that I’m short of breath and very uncomfortable is something I know all too well.

But here’s what I didn’t expect:

1. My food cravings and hunger pangs reduced dramatically

We’ve heard it all before from every health-obsessed dieter and exercise junkie. Eating clean makes you feel great. But psychologically? I’ve never been able to kick my inner food conscience. Not the one that tells me having another donut is a bad idea, but the morbidly obese food-obsessed devil that sits upon my shoulder and talks about food as though it’s arousing.

“Are those… cupcakes?… filled with… oh-my-god… cream cheese frosting?… fuck.”

No portion control methods, high-protein low-carb diets, or really… anything killed that voice more than going vegan. I’d be sitting at my desk and thoughts of snacking because I just “felt like eating”, or smelling food and practically needing to partake would overcome me throughout the day. I even used to hit walls in productivity where my brain was basically saying Nope! I refuse to do any more work until you feed that stomach. Let’s think about fried chicken now instead of being productive!”

In the past two weeks, food has gradually become the last thing on my mind. I no longer eat because… well… it’s lunchtime! I eat when I feel actual hunger pangs that pull me away from awesome hobbies or tasks I want to accomplish. Food is no longer ruling my day and occupying my mind every second. It’s something wonderful that I deliberately take time for and enjoy.

I can’t explain it. I’ve eaten all-natural and unprocessed before, but the sexytime food monster on my shoulder didn’t go away. Whatever this is, it makes me want to follow the vegan lifestyle a little more often going forward — whether it’s for 2/3 meals a day, or most of every week.

2. My carb-heavy diet is reducing my body fat more effectively than any protein/meat heavy exercise regimen I’ve tried

Yeah, I’m eating a lot of carbs. Beans, rice, bread, pasta, fruit, and the list goes on. I’m tossing a TON of veggies I don’t normally eat on top, but seriously at least half of every meal is chock-full of carbs. I know carbs aren’t inherently bad, but they’re demonized by so much of the fitness community and I hear about avoiding them in passing conversation so damn often.

This is easily coming hand-in-hand with food no longer preoccupying my mind every minute of the day, but my arms, abdomen, etc are all looking more toned than ever, and the key here is I’ve never once felt like I’m starving myself or not eating the quantity of food I naturally want to eat.

That sounds rather normal, yeah? Well, it isn’t for me. Even just to maintain my weight and not gain or lose any, I’ve always had to convince myself to eat a little less than I want to. To stop after one cookie, to eat slower, off a smaller plate, or simply let myself feel go hungry at night because I binged earlier in the day.

Right now, I eat as much I fucking want to, whenever I fucking want. We went into this with a plan for preparation, so I have delicious and convenient food ready to eat at any moment of the day. Mountain of popcorn at midnight? No problem. In fact, on Valentine’s day I ate so much food that I think… I was more full than I’ve ever been in my life to date. And yet, the upward trend in fitness and health continues.

3. I feel more in-control of my habits, cravings, and emotions than ever

Not sure about the rest of you, but I used to experience a lot of ups and downs. Days where I just felt incredibly tired and unmotivated, or days where I just couldn’t pull myself away from a video game. Going to the gym? Nah, not feeling it today. Feeling bloated, or sluggish on some days felt like part of life. That’s just how it is, right? Everyone has their good and bad days?

And well, it’s gone. I haven’t felt bloated or gassy even ONCE in the past 18 days. Even when I was running on less than 5 hours of sleep, I didn’t need tea or coffee to get by, and I still felt rather energized and peppy.

This has had an incredible positive boost on my motivation to do things. For once, I can honestly attest that my primary motivation for my diet choices aren’t for weight maintenance, muscle mass, or other superficial reasons, they’re for me to feel good.

I probably won’t stay vegan forever, but this challenge is certainly changing my relationship with food a lot more than expected. February’s a good month so far! :)

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