With so many diets and food-related lifestyles being practiced today, I’m often asked for my opinion as a nutritionist. And so I recently decided to give veganism a trial.
Why I did it:
So many JSHealth readers asked me what I think of it. And honesty, from my nutritional knowledge and personal past experiences, I wasn’t the biggest fan. But I felt I needed to try it a bit longer with some adjustments so I could give you a real and honest answer. Our bodies are unique and constantly changing, so something that didn’t work for me in the past might be great now.
How I did it:
I was in Bali for a week visiting various health retreats. Because so much of the Balinese cuisine I experienced was plant-based, I have to admit it was significantly easier. Most of the options were vegan or vegetarian, and most of the food was made for me. I wasn’t in my kitchen cooking like I normally would. I think at home, this would be more challenging. However, these places really inspired me with how delicious and creative plant based, vegan food options can be. I’d love to incorporate these dishes more regularly!
What I was eating:
- Lots of fruits and vegetables – a huge variety
- Complex carbs – brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, oats
- Beans and legumes – I love lentils
- Good fats – avocado, coconut, seeds and, in moderation, nuts
- Vegetable and fruit juices and smoothies
- Lots of water
You may be thinking the options are limited – but I have been surprised by how many options are entirely plant-based!
How did I feel initially?
- Definitely hungrier, and hungrier more often. I needed to eat more than usual. I typically eat balanced portion sizes of whole foods (animal protein included) but I definitely needed to eat more fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds to feel satiated.
- I missed my morning coffee made with whole milk so much!
- I felt I was detoxifying.
How did I feel after 7 days?
- I felt more energized and generally in a good mood.
- My skin and eyes are clearer.
- My bowel movements are more frequent, perhaps because of all the fiber I’m getting from rice, oats, fruit and veg. I usually “go” once a day, but I have been going 2-3 times a day now.
- I love eating more fruit than usual – I typically don’t eat much, maybe 2 pieces a day, but I have been starting my day with a big platter of fresh papaya and mango, and I’m loving this.
- I ate more in general – I just felt I needed to.
- No more dark circles under my eyes – interesting!
- My head felt clearer.
- I woke up starving.
By Day 5, I started to feel more satiated after meals. Before this I was feeling too hungry and not satisfied like I would after eating animal protein.
I was eating more carbs than I normally do and I have really been enjoying nourishing my body with whole grains like brown rice and sweet potato.
I felt more connected to the world I had a deep sense of connection to the universe. I felt more spiritual than usual, and like I was doing something good for the world. I really felt a sense of compassion for animals – something I realized I don’t think about enough.
I was meant to do two weeks, but truth be told – I didn’t. I was craving protein and my normal diet again by day 10.
What happened to my weight?
Well, I don’t weigh myself so it’s hard to say for sure. I definitely felt lighter and my stomach seemed flatter – I was less bloated. It was, admittedly, a short period of time but there did not appear to be a major impact on my weight.
I will say this, though:
Many of my patients and friends have felt (and I’ve felt this pressure too!) that looking at the “model-like girls” on Instagram or YouTube who advocate a vegan-friendly lifestyle definitely contribute to others wanting to follow this lifestyle.
But this is not a good enough reason to go vegan.
My fear is that too many teenage girls struggling with body image issues would see the very thin girls on social media and immediately want to follow their way of life – without really understanding enough about it all. I worry they may stop listening to the needs of their bodies. This is when young girls run into trouble with their relationship with food. And they risk missing out on the nutrients that support a growing body, too.
Seeing thin girls makes you want to follow what they’re doing, right? We can all fall for this.
I will say again: we are all biochemically unique.
It may be great, but it also may not work for you. Listen to your body. We don’t have to put diet labels on ourselves.
I am so inspired by eating plant-based – and yes, I would consider my way of eating now to be “plant-based inspired.”
I think a vegan lifestyle is incredible if it works for you and if you are doing it for ethical reasons – I so respect this.
I would have loved to continue, but I have worked so hard to tune in to my body and listen to its needs. I really do feel animal protein makes me feel more energized, satiated and able to function at my best, and it comes back to what I’ve said before – I think it does not work for everyone.
I was reminded of the importance to respect the uniqueness of our bodies and figure out what works for us. I talk so much more about how I learned to do this in my book The Healthy Life. What works for me is different from what works for you, but doing the work is life-changing.
I encourage you to tune in to your body and tune out from what YouTube, Instagram, magazines and friends are telling you how and what to eat.
Trust your body – it knows best.