In the first days of January I, rather unoriginally, needed to lose weight. So when my boyfriend (who’s vegetarian) mentioned going vegan for 30 days, I jumped at the opportunity, thinking we’d both shed a few pounds easily.
Here I am on 31 Jan, still enjoying my veg, but…
I’m really into eating “clean” foods and cooking from scratch – in really think that eating simple fresh produce is the key to both a healthy body and a balanced mind.In the past I’ve been on a “macrobiotic” diet for two years and felt (and looked) my best by a mile. Plus, I’ve always been curious about veganism as a compassionate, “eco-friendly” lifestyle so was looking forward to trying it out.
So I honestly thought the vegan thing would be easy peasy. Plus 30 days isn’t that long so I figured if I got bored, it’d soon be over.
What actually happened:
Of course, nothing went according to plan. Although I felt more energetic for a few days, I’m embarrassed to say I quickly started fantasising about eating dairy products: yogurt, eggs, cappuccinos. After about a week I’d already had 2 or 3 “cheat” snacks.
I kept to vegan meals anyway, and towards the middle of the month I started feeling unwell – tired and tearful and slightly disoriented. My boyfriend kindly suggested I should go back to eating normally; I didn’t want to, but was forced to admit I felt much better, like by magic, almost immediately after eating eggs.
After that, it seemed obvious that the vegan thing wasn’t really right for me – I’ve not managed to keep it up, I’ve not felt very good, and I haven’t lost any weight (let’s face it: I’m going to have to exercise!).
Still, it’s been a valuable experience and I’d encourage anyone to try it:
What I’ve learnt:
If proof was needed that you can learn a lot even when you fail (I need to keep reminding myself), I’ve actually learnt quite a lot this month:
- Brilliant new recipes: I’ve had to go out of my ways to come up with new meal ideas; I tried exciting new ingredients (with more or less success), and it’s been really refreshing. Some of them have already become firm favourites and we’ll still cook them in the future.
- Mindfulness about what I eat: this month I’ve had to think carefully about what I put into my mouth, and it made me realise I do eat a lot of unnecessary snacks, in a really mindless way, especially at work or while watching TV. Sometimes out of stress or tiredness or boredom, but mostly out of habit. Having to remove all the snacks that weren’t vegan has really helped me much less.
Although I eat 90% vegetarian (the other 10% being when I visit family in France, or when there’s no other healthy option), I also realised how much animal products I do eat out of habit, even though some of them can be easily swapped by healthy, lighter plant-based alternatives (vanilla soya milk, anyone?), at least some of the time.
- How our everyday choices impact the planet: I’ve also thought a lot about the men and women who make veganism a permanent life choice. While I’m by no means saying they are more saintly than anyone else, I truly admire their commitment to living a lifestyle which is kinder to animals and the planet. It’s something I don’t think I could ever do, if only for the love of cheese (I remain French, after all).
- The importance of listening to our bodies: However much I like the idea of a plant-based diet, I was reminded that there’s no point doing something that doesn’t feel right in our body. Just like there’s no point trying to be a size 0 when your natural weight is more towards size 12, there comes a time where we just have to accept that’s what our body is like, and love it just the way is.
Plus, this experiment has reminded me that our body is pretty good at telling us what it needs, even though we often choose not to listen (because yes we’d rather eat a whole box of chocolates). So if we can learn to tune in to its subtle messages, I guess we’ll all be if not healthier, at least happier.
Top tip for those who might give it a go:
Even though I was disappointed it didn’t work for me, I’m happy to report my boyfriend has lost over a stone, and feels mega energetic, so I’d still encourage anyone to try going vegan, if only for a few days – it might do wonders for you, not only physically but also in terms of understanding a more compassionate lifestyle.
My best tip would be, don’t be too hard on yourself. Even though I failed to do a 100% vegan month, I’d say that being even 80% vegan has been beneficial and inspiring in terms of general wellbeing,
So if you do end up cheating a little mid-way, keep going : you’re worth it.