Girls Gone Vegan!

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Before I started veganism, I had come up with a lot of sarcastic, really hilarious comments that would be included in this final post.  Unfortunately, I can’t use any of them because I’ve actually really enjoyed being a vegan. It’s weird for me to even re-read that and believe that it’s me thinking, saying, writing those words.

“Vegan” was always a dirty word to me.  I admit it, I judged vegans.  (It’s always nice to think of ourselves as wholesome, nonjudgmental people who accept everyone for exactly who they are, but that’s a bunch of B.S.  Everyone has anywhere between 1 and 206 judgmental bones in their body.)  I thought of vegans as extremists who drive Subarus, smell like patchouli, wear Birkenstocks, pay annual dues to PETA, maybe spend their weekends breaking into their local university’s animal care facility to “free” all of the experimental research animals, listen to Ravi Shankar, and don’t laugh at Portlandia because they don’t realize that it’s, like, about them.  (By the way, I only embody a few of those characteristics, all of which started before my vegan adventure.  I’ll let you guess which ones.)  It’s weird that I associated all of those characteristics with veganism, because I know a few vegans, and they’re totally normal people.  Let’s blame it on the media.

Anyways, I stand corrected. I admit that I may have been a total a-hole about the whole vegan thing.   So, to all of you vegans who didn’t know I was at least sort of judging you, I’m sorry for sort of judging you.  You are much wiser than I.

Here are some of my observations from the last month:

I feel extremely healthy.  Everything feels good. I don’t really know how to describe it. I don’t feel lethargic. I’m motivated. My skin has never looked better. All good things.

I feel more positive.  I’m sure this has very little to do with the fact that I’m not eating animal products, but rather that I’ve made a big life change that I was initially very negative about, but it ended up being a great change.  I’ve also noticed that the necessity to plan my food intake has resulted in hyper-planning of other parts of my life, and I feel more motivated and proactive about things.

Cooking takes up a lot more of my time than it did before.  This may not be something that would last if I were to take on veganism completely, as I’d be more willing to spread out all of the interesting recipes I’d discover over a greater time span instead of cramming everything into one month.  I didn’t really mind spending more time en la cocina, though, because I’ve learned how to use new foods.  Also, I did it to myself, so I only have myself to blame.

WWRVD?

There were a couple of challenges throughout the month.

1)    Weddings: I went to a wedding where everything they served had some kind of animal product associated with it. The salad had feta. The dinner was meat lasagna and chicken manicotti.  I suppose I could have eaten the simple side of sautéed summer squash and zucchini (two vegetables that I only really like when they’ve been manipulated so much that they don’t even really taste like their former selves), but I was super hungry so I just ate it all, unapologetically and without comment.  But, I have to ask myself, what would a real vegan do (WWRVD)?  Would you plan in advance and eat before the wedding? Would you bring nuts and dried fruit in your handbag? Would you make a scene? I did none of the above.  However, my stomach hurt the next day, maybe because it hadn’t had to process meat for awhile, or maybe it’s because I’m very mildly lactose intolerant, which I normally don’t notice because I eat dairy regularly in small quantities, making it a non-issue.

2)    Eating Out: I started to get the hang of this over time, but eating out remained more of a chore than something fun for me.  Most of the time, I was successful at veganism.  One time I went vegetarian and allowed cheese on my black bean burger because it would have been pretty blah without it.  I got bored being condemned to the salad portion of the menu.  Another time, I was at a happy hour with a couple of friends, and I put back a couple of Old Fashions.  Get good bourbon in me, and for some reason I want to eat meat. So I did. I ate a delicious machaca beef taco and then my stomach hurt the next day.  WWRVD? Probably not eat a beef taco.

Here are a couple examples of some excellent vegan options I had here in Tucson:

IMG_0018

Lentil Fetoosh Salad (Pita Jungle on Broadway, west of Craycroft).  Pita Jungle is awesome because the food is extremely flavorful and almost every item is healthy. You can eat vegan and not even mean to do it.  My mom also got the Grilled Vegetable Salad (below), which is equally delicious and vegan, even though she is certainly not a vegan.

IMG_0019

Betabel Sandwich (Time Market on University, just east of 4th Ave).  Go here for great, gourmet sandwiches and pizza.  This is a red and yellow beet sandwich with sprouts and an orange-pistachio relish.  It’s amazing how all of those flavors go so well together to make something so tasty.

IMG_0026

What I have learned from this month is that I could very easily and happily be a vegan about 90-95% of the time, but I would just never call myself a vegan.  There are a couple meals that I love that include meat, and I just don’t see myself ever giving them up because I’m a hedonist.  By not labeling myself a vegan, I would never have the guilt associated with eating animal products.  So, I would eat them occasionally when I wanted to, which isn’t that often, and then eat healthfully, and animal free the rest of the time. Easy as pie (made with vegan butter crust).

If you are interested in veganism, other people’s attempts at veganism, or if you just like documentaries, a great one is Vegucated (available instantly on Netflix).  It’s a short doc that follows 3 meat-eating New Yorkers on a 6-week vegan journey.  It’s interesting, entertaining, and re-opened my eyes about issues with meat production.  Good flick.

The Final Stats

Goal/Normal

Dec-Baseline

Jan-Vegan

Anthros
Weight (lbs)

121-60

127.5

127.5

BMI (kg/m2)

18.5-24.9

20

20

Body Fat (%)

21-32

21.4

21.2

WC (in)

<35

27.5

27.5

HC (in)

38.5

37.5

W:H Ratio

<0.8

0.71

0.73

Blood Pressure (mmHg)

<120/80

113/77

101/69

Diet
Total kcal

2000-2200

1975

1800-1950

Protein (%)

10-35

16

11-12

CHO (%)

49-52

51

40-50

Fiber (g)

at least 25

26

42

Fat (%)

20-35

29.5

38-48

Sat Fat (%)

<10

7

8

Sodium (mg)

2300

2587

2138-2527

Potassium (mg)

4700

3479

3959-4109

Fruits/Veg (svgs)

5-9

3-7

8-12

Cost of Groceries

$192.59

My hip circumference went down, which I noticed based on how my pants were fitting.  I’d like to get this measurement back up to what it was before (here comes a month of squats!).  I also haven’t really been running or working out a ton this month (other than power yoga), which may explain the drop in my HC due to a reduction in muscle tone.

It looks like my blood pressure significantly decreased, but I’m not sure I buy that.  BP is regulated on a beat-by-beat basis, so a single measurement doesn’t always tell you a whole lot. It’s better to measure 24-hour BP to get a more accurate reading.  This month’s reading is more reflective of my usual BP.  The blood pressure cuff was acting up last month, and I had to take four readings before I even got anything that registered/made sense.

I was totally surprised at how much fat I ate, though when I really think about it, I’m not worried because pretty much the only saturated fats came from peanut butter, and the rest was mono- and polyunsaturated (and high in omega-3 and not omega-6’s) from nuts, avocadoes, and olive oil.  And it wasn’t like this all the time – maybe 30% of the time.  Otherwise, it was down between 30-40%, which is still high, but when it’s healthy fats, the diet isn’t hypercaloric, and the diet is rich in antioxidants, it’s not too worrisome.  I was eating so many vegetables and fruits (8-12 servings a day! what’s up!), which are low in calories, so I guess it’s not completely shocking that I was eating so much fat.  If you are trying to lose weight, though, this is something to watch.

I feel like I should make a comment about the cost of my groceries, but admittedly, I have no idea what a “normal” grocery budget looks like. I don’t skimp on the quality of my groceries, which is possible when you’re cooking for one.  $200 seems like a lot, but maybe it’s not.  I also bought a lot of things that definitely did not get used up in one month (miso, nutritional yeast, nuts, quinoa… pretty much everything other than fresh produce and peanut butter), so that’s something to take into consideration.

Final Thoughts

I have learned that veganism isn’t some kind of crazy witchcraft, and it’s really not that extreme.  Don’t knock it until you try it! I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering making a healthy modification.  Remember that you don’t have to dive 100% in to any health change to reap at least some benefit.  If you’d like to rely less on animal products and increase your fruit/veggie intake, try some vegan recipes and see what you like. Maybe go vegan a few days a week. I can almost guarantee that you will feel healthier, both physically and mentally.  But it is time for me to say farewell to my vegan lifestyle, and start eating like our Paleolithic ancestors (Not that we even know exactly what they ate. More on that later.)!

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4 responses »

  1. Loving the blog, I look forward to every update.

    To comment on WWRVD, I’m of the belief that there are very few “wrong” beliefs/ways-of-life/etc, it is simply fanaticism that ruins things. And Veganism has always been offensive to my tastes, because completely foregoing any animal product seems ludicrous to me. Vegetarianism, I can totally understand; you just don’t eat the animals. So any “Real Vegan” that would go to ridiculous lengths to deal with, for example, the wedding situation, I consider that fanaticism and probably a flaw in the application of the ideology, not a good thing.

    To get to my real point, I’m fascinated that your body acclimated so quickly, that apparently eating meat during this diet actually made you feel ill, and I’m glad you broke the diet to learn this information. I think you should think seriously about perhaps having a designated “diet break” during the duration of each diet to see the mid-diet effects of breaking it. Use the word diet one more time, you moron, jeez I type like a 6 year old. I think this kind of information would be interesting and useful, above and beyond comparisons between baseline data, and data taken during the duration of the diet.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Really good points, Karl! I actually completely agree with the whole fanatacism issue. I think that’s why “vegan” was always a dirty word to me, much like “paleo.” And really just diets in general. With the exception of a few things, I don’t believe that anything in life should be 0 or 100%.
      What a great suggestion about a “diet break.” Thanks for that! I’ve been trying to think of what else I should be incorporating into all this, and I actually thought to myself “I wonder what else Karl would like to know? Whatever, he’ll tell me.” I know that I can always count on you for questions and comments and to point out gaps or holes in ideas/reasoning. I really appreciate that!
      So, I’ll keep up the good work on dieting. You keep up the good work on suggestions 🙂

      • I just happen to be fascinated by nutrition in general, as well as the kind of guerrilla science you’re doing with your own life and body. I’ve done similar things in the past due to my own curiosity, just in different “genres” so to speak.

  2. you are a fraud -probably a very nice one tho – maple syrup is tree blood – eating meat when nothing else is around is kind of despicable – dairy once in a while (non issue?) is sneaky & dishonest – where do you get the naive nasty nerve to call yourself a vegan

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