Recently I took on a two week vegan challenge. Two weeks where I ate no animal products, this means no meat, dairy, eggs or honey. It wasn’t a huge change for me as I was already vegetarian and ate a lot of plant based meals. However, going the whole hog felt like a pretty big step. I mean, I just love feta.
I decided to take on this challenge because why the hell not! I was already mostly plant based for multiple reasons; the main ones being the planet and the animals. The more I was learning through the Living Consciously Crew Facebook group, the more my eyes were opened to the impacts of our dietary choices. I figured I might as well try a two week period of vegan eating, it is short enough to feel achievable but long enough to be a challenge. Plus the whole group were doing it together, which was super motivating and empowering.
What Did I Learn?
I admit, prior to the challenge I was hesitant. I doubted I would be able to stick with it. However, I soon realised that it is so much easier than you think. So so much.
Some places it is easy. Some places it is definitely not so easy. I have experienced restaurants who have a whole vegan menu and others who don’t even have a vegetarian option. I have been served the most incredible plant based spreads; and at other times I have had to eat a side salad and fries.
Eating at Home.
When eating at home, you are forced out of your comfort zone. No longer can you just throw together an omelette for lunch. You need to think outside the box. I loved this, as it taught me to make new meals and experiment with new ingredients. Who knew beans could be cooked in so many different ways? Plus, it turns out most foods can be “veganised”. Just google it and an alternative will pop up!
Eating vegan is so much cheaper than eating animal products. This is not only at home, when you’re buying your own ingredients. But when you’re out at a restaurant too. Just stay away from excessive amounts of the fake meat replacements as these are pricey! Wholefoods are all you need and they’re much cheaper!
You need to be a savvy vegan. Be sure to consult a knowledgable (and open-minded) dietician before you take the plunge. Vitamin B12 and a vegan Omega 3 are often required.
As soon as you decide to eat a vegan diet, prepare for everyone to have an opinion on your choice. These can be positive or negative. I found it easier to avoid going into depth about it with people unless they asked kind questions. I’m not doing this to start debates!
Vegan Doesn’t Mean Healthy.
There is plenty of vegan junk food. Burgers, doughnuts, biscuits, cakes, everything. These are equally as indulgent as ones made using animal products and should be consumed in moderation!
The Protein Debate.
In the beginning I worried about protein, but as time passed and I read more about it; I soon realised that you don’t need half as much as you think you do! I also learnt that there are way more sources of it than I originally thought. Just be wise about your meals and try to include complete protein sources throughout the day with a balance across all three macronutrients. I also supplemented every so often with a vegan protein powder; I recommend Form, Vivo & Awesome.
The world isn’t always vegan friendly, so sometimes you need to think ahead. I always packed a vegan snack bar in my bag to keep me going if I couldn’t find anything else. It is also useful to bring a packed lunch to work to avoid being stuck eating leaves. When it comes to social eating, offer to bring a main meal to a dinner party. That way everyone can taste test your new cooking creations and you get to join in with the foodie fun too!
Read The Label.
A lot of things are “accidentally vegan” such as Oreos! A lot of things are accidentally not vegan such as marshmallows. Always read the label and don’t be afraid to ask if the answer isn’t clear.
Most Importantly: How Did I Feel?
Honestly, I didn’t feel any different when I was vegan to when I ate meat or when I was vegetarian. I haven’t felt noticeably different throughout any of my dietary changes. I was expecting to either experience huge energy drops or huge energy highs. Instead, I just felt content, happy and healthy. My body felt strong and energised, performing efficiently and effectively inside and outside the gym. Plus, I think it looked better than it ever has!
It felt amazing to be eating with a purpose. Often our diets are governed by our aesthetic goals, which can lead to wavering motivation and often feel selfish (at least that is what I experienced). Through this challenge I found that eating with a goal greater than myself, the wellbeing of our planet and the animals who live here, gave me a much greater sense of fulfilment.
So What Now?
Going forward I will be adopting a label-free lifestyle. I will be eating a 90% plant based diet with an occasional vegetarian meal thrown in. This challenge has taught me that I don’t need animal products to feel, look and perform well. Ultimately, I want to live a lifestyle which not only helps me to thrive, but helps the planet to as well.
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