Experiment 3: Eating a Vegan Diet
+Reduced weight by 6.9 lbs in 30 days
+Reduced body fat by 6.2 lbs in 30 days
+Saved over $240 by cooking at home
+Happiness and energy levels were higher
+I cooked a lot more, finding new and interesting recipes
+I’m in the best sharp I’ve been in for years.
– Going around peoples’ houses for dinner was difficult and problematic
– I wanted to eat out less, something that I normally like to do
– Initial hangover after removing meat and dairy was tough, I felt ill and was unproductive
For many the word ‘vegan’ is a dirty word, that challenges a core part of our identity, of what we eat. I do not have any positive or negative associations with the word however, the thought of becoming vegan scared me, even if only for 30 days. This resistance that I felt and my ego’s excuses, was a sign that I wanted to take the challenge, even if it was going to be uncomfortable. I find that I learn more when I challenge my assumptions, try new things and force myself outside my comfort zone.
While living in Thailand I became vegetarian with relative ease. However in Asia, the environment is conducive for being vegetarian as you are surrounded by many others who are Buddhist and often don’t eat meat. In North Carolina, meat is part of the idefinity of the state, so I knew that this was going to be much tougher.
I weighed myself before the experiment with the following readings:
During the first week, compared to my expectations, I was surprised how non-restricting the diet was. My heart sunk when I realised that I couldn’t eat chocolate however.
After the first few days, I felt like I had a mild hangover. I slept until past 9 am and my head ached with a foggy haze all day. I did a big shop at Wholefoods which provided a number of inspiring food options, including some excellent vegan peanut butter cookies.
By the end of the first week, finding food that I enjoyed eating was easy and the craving for meat/dairy diminished. However, my energy, motivation and general feeling of well being was low. I wonder if it’s correlated to being vegan or unrelated.
This week has seen a marked improvement on how I feel. I have more energy and motivation and feel lighter and healthier. My weight is decreasing and I don’t have sweet cravings after meals like I used to. I have established a routine for my meals, which helps to save time and avoid decision fatigue.
Breakfast: (1) Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar , (2) Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana, Pineapple, Mango Smoothie, (3) Coffee
Lunch: (1) Ciabatta with pesto, hummus, avocado, cucumber and salad, (2) Bean Salad (3) Green Salad (4) Wine
Dinner: (1) Eggplant Curry (2) Lentils (3) Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry or: (1) Fried Swiss Potato Pattie (2) Green Salad (3) Bean Salad
I have been resisting going to restaurants and out for meals with friends. On the one hand this is beneficial, as it adds a layer of friction, causing me to cook more and eat out less, saving money and ensuring I eat healthier. However, on the other hand, I am no longer doing something that I enjoy and I’m having less social interaction. I have started to take a Vitamin B12 supplement as this vitamin is only available in meats and dairy.
At coffee shops I no longer eat pastries and other sweets, which again, is both a positive and a negative. One blessing to this diet is that I have found some amazing vegan recipes including these wonderful Blueberry pancakes:
I have started to feel tired and less motivated again, however compared to the first week, it only lasted a few days. I have seen further decreases in my weight, which will be a nice head start coming into the festive period. I am starting to have cravings for a good juicy burger, which I promised myself after this experiment is over.
Begin vegan has been my most interesting experiments to date. I began the experiment fearful of what the 30 days would hold. However after finishing, I have gained so much knowledge and insight about myself and my diet.
Forcing restrictions on yourself , in many aspects of life, from art to food to a business niche, can ironically result in greater freedom and possibilities. It opens up a world of ideas and perspectives that you may not have considered previously.
Often when you have too many choices, you suffer from the paradox of choice, where things become overwhelming and your satisfaction decreases. I initially thought that being vegan would be restricting but in fact it has shown me how to overcome resistance, shown me new recipes, and an increased sense of freedom. I feel like it has suppressed my ego and helped me see things in a different light. It reminds me of living in Thailand. There you can live cheaply and very well on little money. Now, living back in the west, I have a sense of security, because I know that if things ever got really bad, I could always have a happy and cheap life in Thailand. Not only did I lose almost 7 lbs in weight, most of it was fat as shown below:
Also reducing my intake of meat had a huge, personal effect on the environment. I was staggered to learn that by eating one less burger you save the same amount of water as not flushing your toilet for 3 months! If that is the case imagine how much water, and CO2 I saved by not eating meat and dairy over the last 30 days.
I do not want to be a strict vegan as I would like the flexibility to eat meat at special occasions such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, however being vegan provides a structure that allows myself to live a healthier, more environmentally sustainable life.
Going forward, I think I will give myself one day a month of non veganism, as well as when I am offered meat at someones house. This will provide the structure and provide an out for my cravings.
This has been one of the most valuable and eye opening experiences that I have conducted yet, and despite my initial reservations, I am very glad I took the challenge as I believe I have become healthier and mindful of what I eat, such an important element of our lives.
The hardest point is the start, once we have momentum, the friction reduces and we can be do whatever we want to do. Be it eating healthy, exercising or anything.