I just thought I needed to post a bit of a report at the end of the month of eating vegan. It’s been interesting (but not difficult at all) and the short version is that as long as we keep feeling healthy I think we will keep eating plant based.
what was easy:
This month has not been anywhere near as difficult as what people might think it has been. For a start, I love cooking a variety of food and I love a culinary challenge. So the creation of animal free meals has been easy. I was already starting to get into the habit of closely reading ingredients lists on any processed foods so scrutinising them for animal products was again just a small step up. Our veggie garden is still producing plenty of food for us, and I have a pantry full of grains and beans and spices.
Both Gary and I are pretty good with trying just about any food. We aren’t fussy at all. So expanding my cooking even more was not a problem.
What was difficult:
Desserts and snacks when out or at work, which is probably a good thing. My work is across from a service station so we regularly duck across the road for snacks during the day. This is pariticularly helpful on days when I’m too busy to eat a proper lunch – I was relying on a chocolate bar and some biscuits to get me through to a break later in the day, which is obviously an unhealthy choice. Now I have to plan ahead and make sure I’m taking some fruit, muesli bars, or nuts etc to snack on.
If I do go and get lunch, another habit I used to be in was grabbing something to finish off the meal – e.g. I might get a lamb and salad wrap, with a cocolate slice or cupcake. Cutting out dairy and eggs means that immediatly cuts out most cakes and slices you find in a bakery or cafe, so I am simply not consuming those high sugar and fat treats. Instead I cook vegan versions at home and we all know home cooked can be better because you control what goes in.
The other difficult part has been eating out with friends, because sometimes the choices people make of where to go means it’s difficult to find vegan options. But we have gotten by. One place had no vegan options, so we asked for a plate full of veggies and a side of chips. We had to eat again an hour later as it wasn’t filling, but it got us through the meal without any issues.
How I feel:
I feel great. I have not missed meat. I’ve had two particular temptations – funnily enough both while camping and at the start, and end, of the month. The first was when we were camping at Mount Buffalo and one of the boys pulled a bag of prawns out of the esky. Cold cooked prawns are a favorite of mine. I didn’t have one though. The other was while on our Easter weekend camp near Corryong. We cooked a roast chicken on a spit over the campfire and it looked (and smelled) amazing. Again, I managed to beat the temptation.
I did also have some dairy. We were camping on the property of family friends, and they have a dairy. In the interest of educating myself (and also curiosity and a touch of thinking cows are pretty awesome up close) we ventured up to the dairy on the sunday morning. I want to write a seperate post about my observations as I think it was pretty lovely there. Anyway, long story short is that we were given some fresh, raw milk to try. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity and had a mouthful, knowing with my lactose intolerance and the fact that we haven’t had dairy for a month that it was likely to be a bit uncomfortable.
It was delicious, absolutely delicious. It was creamy and rich, not at all how even full cream milk from the supermarket tastes. A few minutes later the aforementioned uncomfortableness in my stomach struck, with my body protesting against the rich unprocessed dairy. My stomach regretted the choice, but my taste and my curiosity did not.
Dairy has been relatively easy to avoid, except for trace elements in processed foods. Most supermarket chocolate bars are out, even the soy cheese I thought was ok was not once I flipped it and read the ingredients. having cut out dairy has it’s obvious benefits for someone who has had varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Apparently it is possible for the amount of dairy you can tolerate to fluctuate. My brother also had it as a child and can now drink as much milk as he wants. The amount I can happily have has been pretty low for the past couple of years – A little in my coffee or some parmesan on dinner and that’s about it. Cutting it out completely means the stomach cramps, gas, eczema and bloating associated with tipping over that minimal amount is eliminated. So that’s a pretty easy choice.
Eggs, again, I’m not sure about. I’ve avoided them for the purpose of being vegan for the month, but I’m still not certain where I sit on continuing to avoid them. I think that’s a post for another day.
I don’t feel like meat. I don’t feel like dairy. I don’t crave those things and I feel like I’ve been doing something good for my body.
Healthwise I feel pretty awesome.
It is hard to link my current achievements with my running to just veganism, as I’ve been improving gradually over the last few months anyway. I would say that eating plant based is a factor though. I have had two breakthroughs this week with my running. The first was running 6kms in 39:10. While this is by no means a fast pace, it must be compared to the Color Run I did last November. That was a 5 Km run and I did it in 40 minutes. So I have dropped a minute and added a Kilometer. I am impressed. 6Kms is also my longest run since I was a teenager without numerous extensive walk breaks. I backed that up with a 4.2 km run 2 days later – not impressive distances for any regular runner, but they indicate a milestone for me.
the other breakthrough was doing that 6Kms in my Vibram Five Finger KSO’s. These shoes take some getting used to, and if you go too hard too soon you will damage your feet. Basically they are more suited to making your foot muscles and leg muscles work the way nature made them. If you haven’t run barefoot or minimal before those muscles won’t have been used so much and they will HURT until you strengthen them. The best explanation I found for the difference between traditional running shoes and these sorts of shoes is that Traditional shoes will do the work for your feet. With these, your feet do the work. Anyway, I got overexcited and injured the tendons under my foot initially. After a rest and going all the way back to basics, I’ve built up to 6kms in them without any ill effects.
But back to being vegan…. I’ve read plenty of accounts from vegan athletes saying that plant based foods has resulted in shortened recovery times. I have felt like this, but I think it’s too early to definitively say being vegan has done this. I do definitely feel more energised and less weighed down after eating though, and I’ve also felt like I have more energy at the end of a run or training session.
Hockey season starts again this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve found the few training sessions I’ve been able to get to (the timing is extremely difficult with work) I have been able to push harder than usual and I am still not drained at the end. My overall fitness and nutrition has improved and I think I will only keep improving for the time being.
Will we keep doing this?
Yes. As long as we both feel healthy and there are no concerns, we will. For my part I feel better within my body eating only plant based, and I don’t believe that humans should need supplements so I like to focus on eating a wide variety of foods to ensure we get the most nutrients. Ethical reasons for veganism are something I’m still working through, but health reasons are enough at the moment. There are a few things to get through, including the Chocolate Lotta’s mother Annika brought over from Finland for us (Which is amazing and delicious – thanks Annika!) but for now I’m simply not buying anything with animal products and accepting things like delicious Finnish Chocolate when people give it as gifts.
I will try and post again later as I have more to talk about, but it’s time for me to head off for a bit.