Despite the fact that I have been a vegetarian (and a little bit pescetarian) for more than half of my life now, I STILL never had the slightest desire or inclination to become vegan. Until last month.
Last month I watched Game Changers, a documentary about elite athletes who are vegan. It was absolutely life changing.
I have learned A LOT about nutrition over the years but even so, Game Changers challenged some of my most deeply held prejudices against veganism from the nutritional angle. And the argument for veganism for global sustainability was a complete wake up call.
I had no other option but to give myself a Vegan Challenge. I decided I would start the next week.
Like the fire department employees in the documentary, I decided to do a blood test before I started and again six weeks later to measure my results and back up the experiment with indisputable numbers.
Actually transitioning to veganism wasn’t hard for me –and I should give more credit to my 20 friends who also decided to give it a 2 month trial and never actually began– because I am accustomed to nutritionally challenging myself. I don’t like easy.
In my fitness-crazy years, I shattered my mental paradigm about food-for-pleasure and replaced it with food-as-fuel. Because this mindset delivered me the results I was after, it literally broke the chains of any food dependency for me. Ever since then I have been able to consciously recognize whether I am eating to please my mouth or eating to please my body.
The difference between these two things is astounding and I encourage every person to experience this.
When you eat to please your body, your body lets you FEEL it. Your body rewards you. When I started doing pescetarian keto (which I did hard core for nearly three years), my energy was off the charts. I was never starving or tired, like my previous hard training diets left me. My body was so very happy. Despite EVERYONE’s warning about how dangerous keto was, my blood results proved otherwise. Consuming nearly 100 grams of fat per day with keto, my triglycerides nevertheless dropped to a rock bottom 50. My blood values across the board were excellent.
Of course, to hit the right combination of macros to make keto work, you have to track and combine and devise the perfect formula that works for you. It takes time, energy, patience, and a good macros app. Maybe it’s more than most people want to work at, but when you nail it, oh man…
That’s probably why my Vegan Challenge wasn’t too difficult. Keto trained me to seek out new ways of cooking. I scoured Pinterest for any interesting vegan recipes. From the Vegan Bakkal in Moda I bought every single thing that looked tasty or useful. For the first stage of my challenge my top goal was simply to surround myself with plenty of viable options…not to be left stranded and therefore compelled to backslide.
Immediately after beginning my vegan challenge, my body responded. Incredibly. Even MORE energy than keto, especially immediately after meals when my body would simply be humming with energy. I employed intermittent fasting as well (eating only 8 hours out of 24), which was easy because the food was satiating enough.
As the weeks passed, I buddied up with another vegan at work and we shared lunch prep duties, bringing a lunch for two every other day. That kept us motivated… as did the vegan magnum bars (ice cream) and sugar free bitter chocolate bars from the Vegan Bakkal.
My vegan challenge was actually far from a challenge. I finished my six weeks, did my blood test, and even though I am no longer strictly holding myself to a vegan ideal, I find I have no real desire to be non-vegan. I discovered enough food that I really like and being vegan just FEELS better.
After a six week stint of strict veganism, my total cholesterol plummeted 40 points, with my LDL dropping 7 points. After being anemic my entire life, now my iron levels have skyrocketed due to dairy products no longer blocking absorption. My B12 has actually climbed, now that I actively supplement it. Though as a non-sugar eater my blood glucose is already good, but the vegan diet dropped my glucose another 11 points.