Believe it or not, I was not the one who decided to go vegan in my household. Well, not initially. I had toyed with the idea in the past, but never really considered it an option. I still don’t really consider myself fully vegan because we still occasionally eat honey and do some other things die-hard vegans would banish me from their kingdom for.
Surprisingly, it was my husband who convinced me to go almost entirely plant-based with him. Last October, we were just sitting on the couch and, out of nowhere, he goes, “Let’s go vegan.” Honestly not sure where that came from. If you know my husband, you know he is the opposite of an herbivore. He loves steak with his whiskey and is a proper Ron Swanson–just add the beard on top of the mustache. So you can imagine the mental gymnastics I started performing as I tried to rationalize the suggestion and determine if it would even make sense to turn down such a unique proposal.
I ultimately decided I was game and we started intensely researching (via Pinterest, of course) which meals most appealed to us. I quickly learned about this beautiful world of plant-based foods which expands FAR beyond salads, much to my excitement (queue amazing blogs and YouTube channels like Pick Up Limes). I’ll spare you some of the intense research and highlight some basic ingredients I began to discover that I had previously either never heard of or just not used that often: nutritional yeast (cheesy), flax seeds (fiber and omega-3 fatty acids), cashews (cheesyish), coconut oil (baking butter), tofu (meat substitute), all the beans and lentils (protein!), soy/oat milk (dairy milk), coconut milk (saucy), semisweet/dark chocolate (still trying to get over milk chocolate)…The list goes on and on.
Regardless of what truly pushed us toward adopting this diet, I’ve been truly surprised by the effects. I assumed I’d become a shriveling weakling with literally no muscle and would be constantly fighting sleep, but that hasn’t happened so far. In fact [personal experience here], my husband and I feel physically lighter and we’ve both lost weight. I’m still hovering within my recommended BMI, but lost about 5 lbs, and my husband, who needed to lose some weight, lost about 20 lbs in a 6-month period so far without the addition of regular exercise (which is our next challenge).
Now my question is–how could be eating a plant-based diet be viewed as unhealthy? I’m thoroughly surprised by how this way of eating has been portrayed when so many fad diets I hear about are the real culprits of malnutrition.
I make these comments as someone who has, thus far, been successful at keeping myself healthy on this diet. I often hear about people who have not been able to eat the right foods or take the proper vitamins and it ends up adversely impacting their health. I’ll say this before moving on–DO NOT force yourself to adhere to this diet if you cannot maintain your health while doing so. It’s really not worth it. I just want that to be clear to anyone who’s reading this.
On another note, I had already been mostly vegetarian and more so pescatarian up to October of last year, so it wasn’t as difficult as cutting out chicken or beef cold turkey (lolz). I think the slow transition I’ve made has really helped make this lifestyle change much easier for me than it is for some people. Instant changes can be much more difficult that gradual ones.
If you want to know why I initially went vegetarian almost four years ago now, check out this post here.
Summary: I don’t think I could look a chicken in the face and behead it, so I’m not going to live in denial and consume their bodies anyways. Factory farming is REALLY bad for our planet (pollution, resource depletion, disease, lots of greenhouse gas emissions). I feel healthier without meat in my body.
Now, I’m convinced I’ve been able to stay vegan for last 6 months for a few reasons. The main one is that it has been really easy for me to maintain. I’m legitimately not interested in animal products (aside from milk chocolate) anymore. I’ve accidentally taken sips of iced coffee with milk in it and bites of food with dairy cheese on it and I swear it just feels like it coats my mouth with this film that won’t go away, which I really just prefer not to deal with.
The next major reason is that it gives me an excuse to refuse unhealthy food. It is so much easier for me to say no to food by just saying, “I don’t eat meat/animal products” rather than trying to explain why I’m trying to eat healthier, especially when refusing food when you’re somewhat in shape often provokes the person offering the food to say you don’t need to worry about your weight (Spoiler alert–I just don’t want your cupcakes, man).
The last big reason I have kept this up is because I’m stubborn AF on environmental issues. I don’t want everyone to become vegan or even vegetarian for that matter, but I like to be the weird one in a group who provokes that conversation. Granted, the vegan thing actually makes people less likely to talk to me and more likely to talk to my husband for some reason. I hope to prove that we’re not all that scary, though some truly can be.
Highlights from the dietary swap for funsies:
Hardest to give up: Half and half in my coffee
The details: I now opt for black coffee (it’s better anyways). Non-dairy creamers have never worked for me in my hot coffee, but drown my iced coffee in oat milk and I’ll be one happy caffeine fiend.
Easiest to give up: Cheese
The details: *Surprise!* The thing I thought I’d miss the most is actually one of the things I feel like was best to bid farewell to. Now, I just opt for no cheese–or the vegan kind when I really want a grilled cheese for pizza.
Favorite additions: Rice and beans on the regular, tofu poke bowls, and this awesome modified buffalo pasta recipe
The details: Just like before I swapped diets, I’ve had my regular, go-to meals. I cycle between the aforementioned options because I’m not really the best at finding new meals to cook regularly. I’d rather stick to habits when I can.
Challenges: Finding vegan food on the road
The details: My default meal when travelling is Subway almost every time. I’ll have a “Veggie Delight on Italian Bread with sweet onion dressing, please!” a.k.a the salad sandwich
I’m obviously no scientist or nutritionist and am only one case among millions of others, so please don’t base your entire diet off of what I’m saying if it doesn’t work for you. If you’re interested in going plant-based, feel free to start, but be sure to stay in tune with your body. If it’s not working, stop or figure out what’s wrong and fix it.
For those who have literally no interest in giving up any animal products, I plan to write another post about the environmental benefits of adopting a more plant-based diet, why we do NOT need the whole world to go full-fledged vegan for it to have positive effects, and why changing your diet is one of the most significant ways you, as an individual, can combat climate change.
And, last but not least, for those who are on the fence about giving up any animal products, I encourage you to try meatless mondays or just omit meat from a few of your meals a few days a week. Voting with your fork is a real thing and you can directly impact how businesses draw up menus and the serve customers. We have the power to change the world.
I’d love to hear your thoughts/struggles/success stories revolving around the topic of a plant-based diet, so feel free to use up that comment section below or shoot me a message. Looking forward to chatting!
Some resources to backup my rambling:
Science vs. Vegans: Are they right?
Food and Nutrient Intake and Nutritional Status of Finnish Vegans and Non-Vegetarians