Notes from a Self-Imposed 30-Day Vegan Challenge

I like to experiment with my diet from time to time. A couple years ago, I decided I’d try going vegan — just to see what it would do for me. I’d been having some issues with my face/neck breaking out, which was unusual, and I wanted to see if it’d give me the same energy-boost going vegetarian had years ago. At the time, I was realistically more of a pescatarian or flexitarian. To this day my diet remains predominantly vegetarian, sometimes even borderline vegan, but occasionally I do eat fish, poultry or wild game.

Start Date: November 17, 2014 (knowing full well I wouldn’t adhere at Thanksgiving)
Current Phase: Day 17/30

So far, I’ve been a terrible vegan!

The weekend before my foray into veganism, I went home to visit my family during deer season. My step-brother, sister-in-law and two nieces were also visiting. The oldest had arrived with what was claimed to be an earache from their flight, but by Saturday morning it was obvious she was sick. By Monday evening, it was clear that I was too. My mom sent home leftover homemade chicken noodle soup on Sunday for Boyfriend. I gladly ate its healing deliciousness while I was home sick on the sofa with every necessity within arm’s reach.

Within that first week, I also discovered that smoothies or oatmeal, even with brown sugar and cinnamon, don’t cut it for breakfast. At least not for my body, and honestly the oatmeal was just gross. I tried both options a couple of times before giving in to the urge to just eat my usual breakfast, which includes eggs of some kind — over-easy with toast or scrambled for a delicious breakfast burrito.

This is approximately what my oatmeal looked like. Hopefully, this tastes better than mine did!

Lunches have consisted of leftovers from dinner, or the trusty PB&J sandwich. More than likely a sandwich because I’ve also been terrible at cooking lately, which isn’t helping anyone succeed at this self-imposed challenge. During the first week, we made several meals, all of which were yummy and served me well at lunch, as well. Luckily my boss and her parents are vegan, and she was kind enough to share their tried-and-true recipes along with some pointers (for me that meant how to successfully cook tofu)! It’s been a lifesaver and definitely made my attempt easier.

The past two weeks, however, haven’t gone so well. At all! It’s getting cold and, apparently, that means I’m getting lazy. It’s dark by the time I leave work and then I have no desire to cook good, hearty, warm food when I get home. Boyfriend isn’t any more interested in hanging out in the kitchen than I am. We’ve eaten like crap and our bodies are definitely paying the price.

We’re both relentlessly tired, bordering on exhausted (I skipped my trapeze class, went to sleep at 8:30 PM, and slept solid all night); we have no motivation to do much of anything at all, and we’re kind of grumpy.  My break-out issue is returning, with the bloat not far behind — thanks gluten-based carby food coma.

Vegan Challenge: The Upside

I’ve managed to not consume dairy-milk at all, and I’ve only eaten cheese twice. (It was my birthday and I wanted Mexican food, so sue me.) I knew that cheese and eggs were going to be my weak points, but surprisingly I don’t really miss or crave cheese. I’ve found that avocados make a great cheese replacement for sandwiches and the like, and I love avocado so it’s a win-win. Eggs returned for breakfast; it’s my favorite meal and a bowl of cereal or oatmeal just isn’t very satisfying.

In eliminating animal by-products from my diet, I’m forced to snack healthier. Typically, I eat fruit for snacks, but no more yogurt at lunch means branching out to try new fruits I wouldn’t typically choose. I’ve also taken a look at the amount heavy, hard-to-digest foods I eat regularly. Most of these are gluten-based — pastas and breads — and cutting back on them more consistently than I have in the past reaffirms the suspicion that I may have a slight intolerance (hence the breakouts and bloating).

We’ve passed the halfway point, but I’m not sure that I’ll make it the full 30 days. Even if I don’t, this short time has definitely given me a chance to look at my diet and learn more about eating healthy, whole foods. The usual flexitarian diet suits me better, but there are clear ways I can do it better than I have been! Alas, on to more experimenting and tweaking.

Have you tried or are you following a vegan diet? What has your experience been like? What are some of your favorite vegan recipes or blogs? What foods do you miss or could you not live without?

Originally written for the WordPress blog Taste for Two.