I’ve been vegetarian for so long that it’s old enough to legally drink. Like many long-time vegetarians, I’ve tried and failed to go vegan several time (mostly when I was in college). After going low(er)-carb earlier this year, I tried a change of approach and decided to switch to a plant-based diet. My reasoning was that it would be easier to focus on eating more plants than completely avoiding animal products. I’ve only been at this for a week, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Going vegan in the Pacific Northwest in 2016 is ridiculously easy. Admittedly, the last time I tried going vegan was over 10 years ago in a Texas college town, but man it’s a lot easier here/now. (My mother’s response: “Try being vegetarian in Chicago in the early 80s”) There are now products like Vega which, while expensive, are super convenient. I was even able to find vegan products at a sketchy (we’re talking vomit-covered sidewalk) grocery store an hour and a half outside of Seattle. Crazy.
- It’s pure hell for 36 hours, then you feel amazing. When I went low-carb, I didn’t immediately feel like I was kicking heroin, but I did have a lot of days after where I felt less than stellar. When I cut out the dairy, I had flu-like symptoms for about a day and a half. Since then, I’ve felt detoxified and invigorated.
- Vegan athletes/weight-lifters now make sense. Before, when I’d hear about vegan athletes, I’d be a bit dubious. The stereotypical vegan is skinny and undernourished. Here’s the thing, for many people (myself included), taking massive doses of animal protein leaves you feeling gross – but that’s not the case for plant protein. I’ve been able to survive my hot yoga classes a lot better eating this way.
- Going vegetarian to vegan is way easier than going vegetarian to low-carb vegetarian. I think a lot of the problem that I had with cutting out carbs was that it was about one thing: me losing weight. Going vegan-ish will lead to weight loss, but it has even more of the benefits of vegetarianism: minimizing animal cruelty, being less taxing and the world’s food supply, and being much better for the environment. I’m not saying everyone should go vegan, just that for many people, it’s easier to stick to something if it’s bigger than just you.
- It’s (probably) cheaper. The jury’s still out on this one, but I suspect it’s ultimately cheaper to eat this way. Sure, at first I had to deal with the fact that my grocery bills increased by 25%. But I’ve also been able to pack lunches everywhere and avoided eating out. I’m also a lot less hungry and less likely to eat foods for psychological comfort. At the very least, I’m breaking even – with the added bonus of having more energy to make more money!
- It’s all about finding “the one” – whether diet or exercise. When I started at my current hot yoga studio, it just clicked. I fell in love with it and never had trouble finding motivation to go (I did have to cut back when I was finishing my dissertation, but went right back to daily classes once it was done). I feel the same way about this new diet. I’ve seen other people do the same thing with other forms of exercise and other diets. Again, I’m not saying that plant-based diets are for everyone, but for a lot of people it might be “the one” for you.
Have you considered switching to a more plant-based diet? If so, what are some small, manageable changes you could make?