Let’s face it, I’m a meat eating, seafood loving, cheese devouring chow hound. So why NOT take a three month hiatus from my flesh and rind-packed diet to explore the riches of the world’s grain, bean, vegetable and fruit inventory? And thus, I floundered clumsily into a 1 month January Vegan Challenge with little to no planning and not knowing what to expect.
BUT WHY PIP?
Excellent question, to which my college philosophy teacher would respond, WHY NOT? But in reality, after taking a shallow swim in the food documentary pool and battling some health issues, I figured it worth changing my diet – if only for a month. That, and let’s face it, even if you’re a carnivore at heart, we simply eat too much animal product and not only is it straining our health but it isn’t doing our planet any favors either.
Deciding to shake things up in 2021, I abandon sober January for something transformatively different. What began as a modest month long January Vegan Challenge, blossomed into a three month deep dive exploration into the ‘underground’ world of veganism. Ok, so it’s not particularly underground, but being a lover of ALL food, it was a rather lofty challenge for “charcuterie platter Pip”. So January 4, 2021 marked the beginning of a no meat-seafood-dairy-egg journey that would morph into a much longer journey. Experts say it takes, on average, 66 days to change a behavior and even longer for your body to detoxify from certain foods. If there’s any truth to these figures, more time was most likely necessary. I started for January and didn’t pressure myself to continue. But once I started, I couldn’t stop…
22 Things I Learned During my 3 Month Vegan Challenge
- Fake meat is just not my jam.
- I used to grab cheese snacks, now I grab fruit and/or nuts for snacking.
- I kissed a lot of nut milk frogs to find the right one. But still never as good as good old fashioned half & half in coffee.
- I’ve said goodbye to that post meal over-stuffed feeling.
- Carbs are NOT the enemy. Plenty of potatoes and pasta were consumed during this challenge and I actually LOST weight.
- Many restaurants prepare their vegetables in delicious butter but are happy to substitute olive oil upon request.
- There are a plenty of restaurants with vegan menu options – check out this post for some of my favorite Atlanta dishes.
- Junk food veganism is a real thing. It might be worse than regular junk food?
- Dried pasta is usually egg-free and free game!
- There are plenty of fruits and vegetables I’d forgotten about until this challenge like yuca root.
- Tahini is for more than just hummus.
- Hummus gets old, fast.
- Previously, I was NOT getting enough fiber in my diet. I think you know what I mean here?
- I can still drink alcohol. Insert sigh of relief.
- Making a big weekly batch of a versatile sauce or dressing to use throughout the week helped keep me on track. Here are some of my favorite sauces/dressings (coming soon).
- I became a question asking machine when dinning or ordering from restaurants, annoying even myself.
- When in doubt, order french fries. MODERATION here. But when I got overwhelmed with asking questions sometimes it was just easier to grab something now, and eat healthy later.
- Store bought veggie burgers can be loaded with fat and chemicals – double check labels.
- As unpopular as this probably is, I really don’t like smoothies. Something about pureeing my food like that is just unappealing.
- It’s super easy to eat WAY too much soy. Proceed with caution.
- I miss real butter and real half & half the most.
- Meat and dairy are expensive. Grocery bill cut by a 1/4.
- There are a LOT of fairly clean Pip Tested, and Taste Approved Vegan Condiments (coming soon) on the market now to curb your cheese and dairy cravings.
HOW DO I FEEL AFTER COMPLETING THE JOURNEY?
Now that my vegan journey is ‘complete’ and I’ve filled my tank with heart healthy vegetables, fruits and whole grains, do I feel any different? But nature and trade, I am already a healthy eater and cook. I have a general dislike for fast food and very rarely partake in a drive-through meals unless it happens to be one Atlanta-based chicken shack that I just can’t seem to neglect on occasion (but only on occasion).
My preference for healthier foods in general and my love of cooking help keep me pointed toward fresher, less processed foods. I’ve never been a lover of sweets or sugar, I partake once in a while, but don’t really crave sweets. Don’t worry I’ve got plenty of other vices. I have an obsession of salty things like chips, and I simply adore fried food. Let us not forget I’ve yet to meet a cheese I didn’t like. So I guess to answer the question as to whether I feel any differently health-wise after the challenge is, well, not really? Not to say there aren’t some changes because there are but not quite as drastic as i’d hoped. Actually, here are 4 BIG noticeable differences I’ve seen in my body (hopefully not TMI – mostly for my ladies out there) that do need mentioning however.
- I’m more regular. This is fun for everyone man or woman! This also does not come as a huge surprise because I’m consuming 5 times the amount of fiber as I was before the challenge.
- Little to no breast tenderness and swelling during ovulation. Breast discomfort skyrocketed for me in my 40’s. I would say they were 98% less painful, less swollen and less tender by month 2 and by far the most noticeable difference in my body during the challenge.
- Painful cramping during my period was reduced by 50-60%.
- I lost 7 pounds in the first 45 days. These were some accumulated COVID pounds in need of shedding and I didn’t even notice I was losing weight because it just came along naturally by eliminating animal products!
CONTINUE A PLANT-BASED DIET OR SHOVE ALL THE MEAT AND CHEESE IN MY FACE?
My Magic 8 Ball says “Outlook Unclear.” I certainly haven’t jumped back into devouring chicken wings and burgers, but I’ve had a couple bites of meat and dairy and here and there. My answer is I really don’t know where I go from here. I’m a girl of moderation over deprivation so I think I’ll most likely stick to some kind of healthy balance. Currently, I’m tracking about 95% vegan only a few weeks out. Did you know there is something called a Flexitarian Diet? It’s mostly plant-based but allowing for some meat and animal product occasionally. I feel like I could get on board with this!
Would you consider a Vegan Challenge – even if only for 1 month?