V is for Vegan

Last year while I was living on campus, I took part in a vegan challenge. 20 pounds later, I’ve decided to give it another go. Disclaimer: I am not a health expert, these are my own experiences and what works for me may not work for everyone else. 

It seems almost cliché to say that my weight is “something that I’ve struggled with all my life” because in reality, it’s something that I’ve been completely comfortable with for a majority of my life. There have been times where I found myself in fitting room with a pair of pants pooling at my ankles and no strength left in me to pull them up past my thighs, but those days were far and in between… until now.

After a three-month hiatus as my old job, I returned to a familiar customer who asked if I had been gone on maternity leave. Ouch. Her comment was fueled by my lack of energy and the weight I had supposedly gained while away, and after helping her find a couple of items and seeing her on her way, I spent the last few hours of my shift glancing at myself in mirrors I passed by. Admittedly, I had gained weight and I definitely wasn’t as high-spirited as I had been three months ago, and I realized that one of the biggest things that had changed for me was my diet.

Back at the beginning of the year, I was taking part in a vegan challenge, but as of late, I’ve been eating anything that comes out of a drive-thru. When I  originally started the vegan challenge, it wasn’t about saving the animals or the planet – although those are great aspirations and reasons to go vegan. I did it strictly to see if I could. As a Caribbean-american whose diet consisted of curried chicken, plantains, rice, and anything with seasonings and peppered piled on I needed something different that would help me stay on track. Veganism definitely helped in that area. Here are some pros and cons on going vegan, and ultimately why I decided to go back.

Pros

  • Weight loss: one of the more obvious reasons to go vegan. For me, it forced me to really consider what was going in my body. During the challenge, I saw a weight loss of about 45 pounds within three months.
  • Energy: Eating tons of greens and less meat that made me feel bogged down gave me the energy to not only wake up early in the morning and get to sleep earlier, but also get myself in the gym. I had a lot more energy to really put in the work that was required to build some muscle and burn fat.
  • Skin: I looked this up, but apparently going vegan also helps with your skin. I’m one of those lucky few who rarely breaks out (yes, even on my period) and my skin looked more even and less discolored once I was set with my eating. This was a huge plus.
  • Speaking of periods, for the ladies out there, while I don’t have the standard PMS symptoms (breakouts, mood-swings, etc.) I was cursed with horrible cramps that diminished once I started eating a lot better and working out. So if that’s not a reason to get right with your health, I don’t know what is.
  • Digestion: I found out earlier in the year that I was also lactose sensitive, and while this is more of a side note, it made sense to just cut dairy out of my diet for the sake of my stomach.

Cons

  • Expense & Time: Sometimes, it was incredibly expensive to eat vegan. A lot of organic foods are a bit more costly than the processed ones, and finding products that aren’t laced with secret animal products can take a bit more digging and research that requires time.
  • Vitamins: Another reason that going vegan cost me a bit more, is that I did spend a few extra bucks on vitamins to make sure I was getting the proper intake. While I typically was fine with everything I was eating, I am naturally deficient on things like iron, but that aside, my vegan friends typically haven’t had to take any additional supplements unless they wanted to.
  • Creativity: Sometimes when I’m just getting home, it can be hard not to cave and head to Burger King to grab something quick to eat. Being vegan requires a bit of creativity and a lot of prep time at least as a beginner. I used to prep my meals a couple days in advance just to avoid heading somewhere strictly because I wasn’t in the mood to cook. So if you lead a hectic lifestyle, that may be something to consider.

All in all despite the cons, the thing that I missed most about veganism was the energy that came along with it. I was able to sleep better, work out long and harder, and just lead a better life when I wasn’t bogged down with dairy and meat. When I was eating vegan, the idea of figuring out what to eat when you take out all dairy and animal by products was fun, and I actually enjoyed it. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t starving myself on berries and grass and I was eating things I’d never tried before like tempeh and humus. What I ultimately found out was that I ate certain things out of necessity and habit but by going vegan,  I was left with food that didn’t leave me in a food coma (the bad kind). And just in case you missed it, I also had a hell of a lot more energy and that’s what I miss the most.

So if you’re thinking about going vegan, definitely do your research and ask your doctor and/or nutritionist about it. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. Take into consideration that diet is only half of the battle and without exercise, you’re only doing half of the work. But for those interested, I will be posting some of my favorite vegan recipes to share. Stay tuned!

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