This post is long overdue. I should have written it a while ago, but since there is rarely a shortage on things to bore you with, this post just got away from me.
You may remember way back in October, Lauren of Oatmeal After Spinning inspired me to watch a couple of movies. She had watched Forks Over Knives and Vegucated and was talking about her experiment of a 6 week vegan diet. I was already not eating meat and had nothing better to do so I watched both films, back to back, on a Friday night. I’m that cool.
I was so inspired I began my own Vegan Experiment the following day. I opted for the 12 weeks as discussed in Forks Over Knives which fell over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Masochist here. But I felt so strongly for the love of the cow, I wanted to give it a try.
So this is what I learned during my 12 weeks as a vegan and what I am doing now…
Here are the Pros from my time as a vegan.
- The satisfaction of knowing I was doing something important. I had given up meat off and on a long time ago. Then decided to give it up for lent and didn’t really go back to it other than out of courtesy or desperation. I still ate fish but slowly let go of all meats. I love animals and I had tapped into this heightened sensitivity to the well being of animals over the last couple years. Going vegan just fit well inside of those values.
- I got really creative with my food choices. Soy lattes? Though a .40 up charge were really good. Vegan butter? Amazing. Vegan cheese, um, not so much. But I learned. I got creative with my own food at home. Cooking vegan sweet potato kale chili. And my favorite lunch time special, buffalo Chik’n salad with Morning Star Buffalo Chik’n pieces. I baked vegan cookies for the OBA Christmas Cookie exchange and learned that putting Almond Milk in my cereal was not bad.
- I felt lighter within a week. I had zero bloat feeling. I felt, as weird as it is, just lighter. I felt more mobile and though I might not have felt more energetic, I did not at all feel less. I felt really good.
- An 8 pound weight loss. Maybe I was just lighter. I lost weight during my time of no dairy, no meats. I did feel hungry sometimes, but it was not that hard to find vegan snacks (I ate a lot of peanut butter).
- This light feeling helped my running performance. During my 12 weeks as a vegan I PR’d ALL – THE – TIME. I PR’d (personal record) the 5k twice. I PR’d my 5 miler, twice. And PR’d the shit out of the half marathon by about 6 minutes. Who said athletes can’t be vegan?
I can’t even list all the pros here. I had a really good experience with it. But, with all pros there are cons. Here are some vegan cons, in my opinion:
- Time consuming. Shopping for most vegan items like vegan cheese and butter required a trip to EarthFare because you just aren’t going to find this shit at Giant Eagle. And I did not find EarthFare to be cheap. So where veganism can save money from the perspective of buying things like a block of tofu over a pound of organic grass feed meat, these more high end, organic boasting, vegan friendly shops can cost ya. I mean, shit, Starbucks wants an extra .40 cents for their soy.
- Finding something vegan to eat at every restaurant. You would be surprised how many places I found vegan options. Living in Cleveland with its booming culinary abundance, a lot of restaurants were willing and proud to give you a vegan option. In fact, I learned after my 12 weeks were over that one of my favorite Lakewood local spots had a vegan night with all vegan meals. But, sometimes it was hard to find something. And sometimes things would come out with cheese on it and it wasn’t listed on the menu. Sometimes I would get so excited to see “tofu” on the menu I wouldn’t see it was tossed with feta. And Brunch? I hope you like oatmeal. Brunch with the ladies was near impossible. By the end of the 12 weeks I just wanted a friggin’ omelet. (delicious vegan falafel sliders with unintentional fetta. whoops.)
- Burnout. This might not be a problem for most people. But for me, an unmarried 30-something living alone in Cleveland, I ate out a lot and got burned out on the same old things. By Christmas I became a processed food bottomless pit and wasn’t proud of it.
After reading The Vegan Athlete (review to come), I learned that the writer of the book and many other vegans he referenced as examples transitioned in to a full vegan lifestyle over the course of a year. So with the Vegan Challenge being all the rage right now, and if you are thinking about trying it, remember this…
Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes. You can’t be 100% sure that the breadsticks you got with your meal at your favorite Italian place don’t have milk in it. Your server probably doesn’t know either. If your pasta comes out with shredded romano cheese on it but didn’t say it would on the menu, no one will judge you for not sending it back. The 9th ingredient in that organic granola you bought might be honey (yep, hardcore vegans count honey).
Just don’t beat yourself up. Your attempt alone is meaning enough. You’re decision to go “mostly vegan” is not a copout. Doing the best you can is totally acceptable.
So what am I doing now that it’s over? Well, I am still meat free and have only had fish twice since ending the vegan experiment. I didn’t miss milk and like Almond Milk enough I probably won’t go back. I had a non-fat latte and got an upset stomach. I also learned I didn’t miss yogurt. I ate a lot of greek yogurt before trying vegan and didn’t care for it after. So we’ll see. I plan to still eat vegan butter other than in baked goods.
I thought I would like to try and stay “mostly vegan” or “stay at home vegan” after it was all said and done. But one trip out for pizza and the flood gate opened. I’ve had pizza a couple times, I have also been eating egg whites, and even enjoyed some pancakes. Enjoyed them to much even. Oh, and grilled cheese. I love grilled cheese.
Maybe in a few more weeks this rebel without a cause feeling will pass and I will control my dairy urges more and more. Who knows. I’m glad I did it, it made me feel personal satisfaction to not eat animal proteins because it was important to me. I would recommend anyone try the challenge. Maybe not for 12 weeks, but a month is totally doable. You might find you like it.
Have you done the Vegan Challenge? What did you think, what kind of results did you see? Are you curious about it but afraid to take the plunge? Feel free to contact me with questions, I am more than happy to share ideas and what I learned.