Why I went Plant Based – And Initial Reactions to Plant Based Diet
I was going through some old writing that I had from when I first transitioned to eating plant based. At that point, I didn’t really care about my health THAT much, but I REALLY cared about not looking fat in my wedding dress. As my wedding date was looming closer, I frantically tried different diets: keto, no fruit, low carb, high fat, high protein…blah blah blah…nothing was working! Not only did I feel terrible on all the different diets, I also wasn’t losing the weight I wanted.
I think I always knew deep down that whole food, unprocessed, plant based eating was the best “diet” out there. It was always in my back pocket as an absolute last resort way of eating. I could tolerate a short term diet to drop lbs, I just didn’t want to give up my favorite foods permanently – burgers, cheese, pizza, ice cream, cheese, steak, pastries….and did I mention cheese?
The only thing that could get me to try a plant based diet was that for the first time in my life, my desire to look good outweighed my love for tasty food. At this point, I didn’t care if a plant based diet would give me cancer down the road, or increase my chances for other chronic illnesses…I just wanted to get skinny, STAT.
Did the plant based diet work to get me to my target weight for the wedding?? Yes, yes it did. I credit the weight loss to my plant based diet, intermittent fasting, as well as a sprinkle of stress from stupidly not hiring a wedding planner.
While it was the external beauty benefits that drew me into plant based eating, the health benefits have kept me coming back for more. Even though eating mostly plant based is a way of life for my husband and me now, there were some definite struggles in the beginning, as you will see. Welcome to my world from July 2017, when I decided to go plant based 🙂
My cheese OBSESSED, filet mignon loving, foodie self has decided to go plant based for the 2 months leading up to my wedding! Even more shocking – my meat and dairy OBSESSED, body building fiancé has agreed to eat *mostly* vegan with me. (UPDATE: Jeremy ended up being an even more strict plant based food eater than I was, AND I am 99% sure he has cheated less than me…)
It all started on a wild Friday night. We had big plans to watch the latest blockbuster film, “What the Health,” and be in bed by 10. Jeremy’s son, Ashton, also watched the ENTIRE documentary with us, which is no easy feat for a 9 year old boy. This might be partially due to the fact that we prefaced that this was a very “adult” movie and he would have to pay really close attention to understand (and may have to cover his eyes at inappropriate parts.)
I don’t want to rehash all the details of the movie, but it presented several compelling reasons to reduce or eliminate the amount of meat/dairy you consume and increase your intake of healthy grains/nuts/seeds/grains/vegetables/fruits. Many people make this shift for their personal health, environmental reasons, and animal welfare. Right now, I am just hoping to look good for my wedding in 2 months. (UPDATE: Yes, I realize that What the Health has been at the center of a lot of controversy. However, it can’t really be debated that eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods with a focus on plant based is the healthiest eating lifestyle, so I still stand by many of the conclusions presented in the documentary.)
I am currently living in South Africa with my fiancé, and while I have absolutely LOVED living with him and seeing him every day (we did about a year of long distance before I moved), my South African lifestyle has not agreed with my body. I’m a “happy eater,” so whenever I am in a good mood, (which I almost always am with my fiancé), it is easy for me to say “Yes!” to ice cream, burgers, nachos, and anything with cheese. We also do a ton of traveling (we have been out of town on a trip or vacation at least once a month for all of 2017), and when I travel, I like to fully immerse myself in the culture – especially the food culture. My Dad always taught me that you have to try every food at least once, and I definitely take that to heart when I travel.
While all this travelling has been incredibly nourishing to my soul, my body has not been impressed. When I moved to South Africa, I gained almost 20 lbs, my hair and skin became dull and lifeless, and I was almost constantly bloated. I know this is diet related because I went back to the United States for a month and 10 pounds melted away when I started eating like a civilized human again.
Now that my wedding is almost exactly 2 months away, I am ready to do basically anything to prevent myself from waddling down the aisle. Smooth skin and shiny hair would be a great bonus. Enter “What the Health.” If my wedding wasn’t a couple of months away, I would probably have watched it and kept a mental note in the back of my mind that I could continue with my eating habits and if I ever had any health problems, switch to a vegan diet at that point and see results in just a couple of weeks. However, this is a unique time in my life when my desire to be shallow outweighs my desire to try every sample of chocolate at the farmer’s market twice.
Here are some of my initial observations in my first week of eating plant based:
The first week of plant based eating was a success! It was actually much easier than we thought it would be, and it definitely opened our eyes to a new way of cooking. Both of us had pretty low expectations going into this experiment. I didn’t think it would be possible to find food satisfying without cheese, butter, or that yummy meat flavor. I used to religiously go to grocery store next door to my gym after working out and do a couple of rounds eating all their samples. Pretty early on I realized that the samples were not compatible with the vegan diet. Goodbye scrumptious samples of Malva Pudding, breakfast sandwiches, and cheese and crackers. I know I sound a little dramatic, and I am being dramatic. Is it kind of sad to not be able to eat freely whatever I want? Yes, kind of. But really just kind of. It isn’t terrible.
So now onto how I feel! Jeremy and I have both felt much more bloated and gassy this week. I think both of our bodies are revolting a little bit and detoxing all of those animal products out of our bodies. I definitely wouldn’t say that we have had the instant gratification I have read about those going vegan – and I am hoping there is a bit of a learning curve.
One thing we were both concerned about is being hungry all the time. Before the thought of being plant based even crossed our minds, Jeremy told me that he never feels satiated after a meal unless it involved meat. He also has tried to stay away from carbs as much as possible. Seriously, my fiancé would eat just a plain chicken and THAT’S IT for lunch and dinner. Breakfast was a protein shake and maybe some egg. Needless to say, I was nervous that he would join me on this plant based endevour and be grumpy and hungry all the time. Luckily, as of now, plant based diets haven’t struck out on both accounts. We have actually been extremely full and satisfied. We both agreed that we have been more full and more satisfied on a consistent basis than we were before we started this adventure.
We feel full and satisfied because we are eating whole food meals that we prepare ourselves. We use lots of quinoa, lentils, beans, brown rice, and tons and tons of vegetables. The vegetables have so much more water content than we are used to in our meals, and all of this fiber is making us BLOATED. And gassy. Definitely the downside. But on the positive, we always feel full and satisfied…never full and I feel like laying down and staring at the ceiling for the next 3 days, like I would often feel after eating a meat/dairy/simple carb meal. When I wake up in the morning, even if I had a large dinner the night before, my stomach feels light and fresh. I can’t think of a better way to describe this, but all of the bloat from the previous day disappears by the morning.
The good so far:
1. It has been much easier than we thought it would be.
2. We are cooking from home more, using real ingredients and much less processed food.
3. Wake up feeling light. Never get overly full.
4. Don’t ever feel hungry.
Not so good:
1. Increased bowel movements/gassiness
2. You do have to make more of an effort when you are out to eat, and say no to some favorite foods.
3. There is definitely a detox period that is more difficult if your diet was heavily meat/dairy based. While I do have increased gassiness and bowel movements, it is NOTHING compared to how Jeremy is feeling. But he is such a trooper and is wanting to stick this out with me 😊
I am so glad that I journaled the first couple of weeks of eating plant based. We had so many worries that don’t even cross my mind now (like not feeling full.) All of the gas and bloat from the huge fiber increase is also a thing of the past for both of us.
What do you think would be the most difficult part of starting a plant based diet for you?