I became VEGAN for one month

Why did I do it?

The main reason was that I wanted to eat healthier. To be honest, it’s not the animal rights advocate part of the story that drove me towards this diet (but there are a lot of things to be said about the environmental impact as well). In this last instance, it would feel unreasonable for me to talk about the benefits of veganism as the agriculture itself depends on exploiting animals (yes, we all know that plants can convert sunlight to energy, but they don’t just grow on the light. They need to extract the nutrients from the soil, and the soil itself gets its parts from any kind of animal residue. Having this in mind, there’s no industry that doesn’t rely on overexploitation; the only way around this would be shopping locally sourced foods).
What determined me to try this lifestyle were the studies, even inconclusive studies to be honest, and the research following some real examples of people who improved their overall health drastically by switching to a vegan diet in addition to some of the things I have heard myself from some of the lecturers at my university.

What changed?

Overall I felt slightly more active during the day with a little sleep the night before, being able to pull through 16 hours a day of work and running errands. After all, carbohydrates are at the foundation of your energy levels and you can find them easily in a plant-based diet. Generally, I felt pretty good as long as I managed to get the necessary daily nutrients needed. Maybe one of the first things that I noticed was about my digestion. Eating more plant-based products increased my daily fibers intake, to substitute the animal products, and sequentially improved digestion.

What I’ve maintained?

I’ve got everything I could get from a non-vegan diet – every nutrient I needed, every vitamin and every essential amino acid (amino acids that our body can’t produce). There are plenty of superfoods, rich in proteins, all essential amino acids and vitamins that you could try and add in your diet, but essentially every plant contains every single thing you’ll need, just in a variety of proportions. As long as you consume the right amount of amino acids, studies show that the source it’s actually irrelevant in strength or muscle mass. Don’t we already know from when we were little that fruits and vegetables are the richest in vitamins of all the foods?

As I was trying to switch to a plant-based diet, I tried not to starve myself. My main focus was to keep my weight steady, without cutting down on food. Subsequently, I was very careful to get as many benefits as an animal-based diet would provide.

Also, I would like to make my point about the B12 vitamin that many use as an argument of why humans were not meant to be vegan. This vitamin is made by bacteria, so in my opinion, in a natural environment, with no processed foods and no over refined products that exceed the sanitary standards, there would be bacteria everywhere. In this case, the B12 deficiency wouldn’t be a problem. I believe that this germ-free world we are trying to live in might be a pretty decent reason why you can’t get by without B12 supplements as a vegan. Probably it wouldn’t be enough if you would stop washing your vegetables beforehand, but at least it would be some B12 intake afterall, right? Nevertheless, there are plenty of products fortified with B12 that you could actually and easily implement into your diet without breaking the bank, shopping at your regular supermarket.

What did I miss?

Frankly, there wasn’t a thing to miss. I didn’t miss meat, cheese, nor dairy as I had plenty of tasty meals to try. I found mostly everything I needed in vegan substitutes that worked just fine for me. What was hard to get around was talking about food and restaurants, especially listening to my friends brag about their meals. Honestly, those were the hardest days to get by, but the lust would only last a few minutes.

What is the problem?

For the first weeks, I fond it very challenging to source healthy food that could provide the necessary daily protein intake. There are some superfoods everyone talks about, but at first, I didn’t find them sufficient. They’re rich in nutrients for some vegetal products, but you can barely find an equivalent to animal products. The most protein-rich aliments are soya products (and other derived foods) and pasta (or even gluten-free options for pasta that have even much more protein). You get plenty of advantages eating quinoa, chia seeds or other superfoods, but at first, the percentage of protein still didn’t feel substantial enough to be satisfying. Other options are nuts and all sorts of beans, and plenty of recipes you could easily find online.

After a while into this diet and getting used to eating non-animal products I started to manage my meals and get what I was actually looking for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s truly manageable to get your minimum daily intake of protein from a vegan diet for a normal person, about 50-60g of protein a day, and if you’re really determined you could get over 100 grams to keep up with an active lifestyle (like going to the gym and working out). You only have to be more careful about which aliments you choose and which meal options you could opt-in for, so you won’t neglect this nutritive need.

The most important thing when you’re switching to such a diet is to do your research. If you’ll jump straight to a vegan diet, not knowing any options you have to choose from, you’ll fail to care for your nutritional needs and you’lll end up starving yourself. I did not start this diet in order to lose weight, nor to lose fats, but to keep my kilos and the same level while eating healthier.

What did I decide?

At the moment of posting this blog post, I have already gone through 6 weeks of veganism, not just one month as I said in the beginning. Right now I don’t want to stop living this lifestyle. I don’t really want to go back to that desire for animal products, as I know that I could live happily without it. Nevertheless, I believe that balance is key to everything, so I don’t want to compel myself to never have animal products again. I don’t plan on going back to my latter carnivore diet, but I will not restrain myself from eating meat from time to time if I really feel the urge. To be honest, I feel some kind of reluctance of consuming meat or dairy products knowing the drawbacks and as long as I will have the option to choose veganism I will definitely do so. What I’d like to call it is selective veganism – being mostly vegan with the occasional bit of dairy and meat products. I will keep my vegan diet as long as I’m not constrained by social situations, money, or uncontrolled lust. But who knows? Maybe I won’t need that freedom at all, but only knowing that I can allow myself to eat whatever I want from time to time will be sufficient

Selective veganism is the way many of us might see as a little more approachable. You are vegan, aside from certain social situations. By cutting down on the amount of meat, fish and dairy you consume, you are helping mitigate the environmental impact of our food and eating more healthily, yet you don’t alienate too many people with your complicated dinner requests. Being the only vegan in a group might make you a little self-centered and attract some kind of attention even if you don’t mean to. I’m not an extremist and I really wanted to keep my diet to myself in order to see what works for me or what doesn’t before I was able to make any claims.

The downside is that you will never be accepted by true believers. “You can’t please all of the people all of the time,” Abraham Lincoln once said. But you can eat less meat most or some of the time.

In the end, I don’t want or need to convince any of you to try veganism, I’m just documenting my journey. I hope this will help those of you that are already thinking about this before and to give you a little courage to start your journey.

Stay healthy and happy, whatever that means for you!

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