Will I keep it up?
If you ever wonder who the 30 day food/drink challenges are marketed towards, it’s me. It’s not easy to commit to a new lifestyle so the challenges always feel like a nice baby step, or a glimpse into what your life could be. You can do anything for 30 days and it’s a long enough stretch of time to really see how your body reacts to the change. And just like I had been flirting with sobriety with #soberoctober, #veganuary was my chance to take my flirtation with being vegan to the next level.
Before I even talk about how it affected me, there are some disclaimers. One- I’m not a medical professional and in no way will I say being vegan is the healthiest option for everyone. Two- I did complete 30 days of veganism even though it’s not the end of the month; I started before January. Three- This is my personal experience so it will differ between us if you were to try it, a.k.a. you may not see the same benefits or cons that come with it.
So let’s get started!
What I did/how I ate before the challenge:
- While I have been vegetarian in the past, I was eating a standard omnivore diet
- I started cutting back on cheese whenever I could
- I made several vegan dishes to have some staple dishes in my diet
And here’s what I learned during the challenge.
I did not in fact, miss cheese
This one is the top of the list because I feel it’s the most controversial and what keeps most people from eating vegan foods or taking on the lifestyle. Even when I was a vegetarian, I ate a lot of cheese. In fact, I ate a lot of dairy products and when it came to looking at the foods I normally would eat in preparation for a 30 day vegan challenge, I had to make some major shifts.
What helped significantly was cutting back on cheese before the challenge. I ate cheese in probably 60% of my meals so a couple of weeks before, I cut that down to about 20% and started substituting what would become a major VIP in the vegan challenge- nutritional yeast.
I would only replace it initially on things you would put shredded cheese on like chili or pasta. If you try to make vegan cheese alternatives with it right away, you will still remember the taste of real cheese and this will be a deterrent.
It wasn’t until recently that I made a vegan nacho cheese with it and it had been long enough that the “essence” of cheese was enough for me. And personally, the recipes that only had cashews were not good to me, I wasn’t successful in making a vegan cheese alternative that was tasty until I found one that used potatoes. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.
So the biggest takeaway is cheese alternatives will not taste like cheese, especially if you’ve had cheese recently. Give it some time, and then introduce them if you really want them.
Success meant I had a boring diet
Besides venturing out once a week to try takeout from a new vegan restaurant(new to me), I ate the same thing every day. It wasn’t just because I wasn’t sure what to eat, I wanted to make sure I ate everything I bought from the store.
My diet consisted of:
Morning: Oatmeal with half of a banana, cacao powder, pb(peanut butter) powder, and chia seeds
Snack: Toast with avocado, tofu scramble,tomatoes, and ground flax seeds
Lunch: Protein smoothie with vegan protein powder, oat milk, 1up nutrition greens and reds, banana and frozen blueberries
Dinner: Pasta with red sauce and mushrooms or stir fry noodles with mixed vegetables and tofu
This would be most of my meals throughout the week with some vegan takeout or cheat meals thrown in. But if I didn’t eat the same thing for most of the week, I found that I either didn’t eat at all, or ate really trashy food so I tried to make sure I had a plan.
I lost no weight….
If you go on any kind of social media, veganism is hot right now, especially for weight loss. But while something like the Keto diet would be for weight loss because of its restrictions on carbs, being vegan is more of a lifestyle where the only restriction is no animal products. This means that you be vegan for 30, 60, even 90 days and lose no weight. You might even gain weight since you can be vegan and eat oreos and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The piece of advice that I’d give regarding the vegan diet is that you have to consider it more of a lifestyle change more than a diet. You will have to do the same thing you would have done on a standard diet and eat a deficit, and choose healthier options.
Fortunately, I didn’t take on the challenge in an attempt to lose weight. It had started with both a desire to do less harm against the environment and other living beings and curiosity about whether or not it would help with digestive issues.
…but I felt physically better
And what do you know, it actually did help with a lot of the digestive issues I had been having. Even without being a medical professional or having had any tests run on me, I had started to suspect that dairy and I were no longer friends but it had become such a staple in my diet I didn’t know how long I could go without it.
So when I saw #veganuary trending, it felt like the perfect opportunity to introduce veganism and verify if dairy was the culprit. It didn’t take long to see how much dairy had been affecting me; I saw positive changes in under 3 days. As each day went on, I found myself less bloated and without the brain fog I had figured there would be no cure for. It seemed like even without being vegan, dairy could not be in my diet if I didn’t want to feel terrible every day.
But as time went on, there was another benefit that I hadn’t expected- it took no time at all for me to recover after the gym. After leg day especially, I’d feel soreness in my muscles for a day or so and I felt like that was normal. A couple of weeks into eating only vegan foods, I realized I hadn’t been experiencing the muscle soreness that I had grown accustomed to and even felt like I had more stamina. Now I can do cardio on days that I don’t lift while before, I would not have the motivation for it.
Since it’s been 30 days, I’ve had time to really see how my body reacts to all of the changes and so far, it’s for the better. Not only am I physically feeling better, my moods have been more level and I’ve noticed I don’t have a lot of the anxiety I had before.
Knowing that I’m not hurting another living being and being more aware of my impact on the environment are huge bonuses for me as well. So will I keep it up? There’s really no reason not to. When my only reason for eating meat was the taste, I didn’t see a reason to go back.