Confessions of a Baby Vegan

Note: the gorgeous cover photo was found at Studio Codie Caissie. See it here

“Ew you sound like a vegan.”

“I’m vegan-phobic.”

“LOL if I were a vegan I would kill myself.”

– A sampling of quotes from friends and family

Three days ago, I decided to go vegan. I’m in horrible health, bingeing on sugar and fat, drinking in excess, not moving my body or sleeping or drinking enough. And I’ve been in horrible health for the last ten years as I’ve stepped through eating disorders with bingeing, starving and purging ebbing and flowing. At this point, I’m desperate to be healthy, and being vegan seems like a pretty surefire way to achieve that.

A quick note: I’m not just a ‘regular’ vegan, which would mean that I could be eating lots of processed vegan grains (white bread and rice), processed vegan food alternatives (vegan cheese, or soy protein burgers) and vegan snacks (potato chips, pretzels, Doritos, etc.) Nope– I’m avoiding processed foods as much as possible and sticking mostly to plants, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Today I had a fruit smoothie with chia seeds, a squash-and-pecans concoction for lunch, stir fry with tofu and quinoa for dinner, and a sweet potato for dessert. Yum.

I could go on and on about why I’ve gone vegan, mostly in order to defend myself from those who would accuse me of doing it to lose weight (you’d be partially right) and those who would accuse me of zealotry (you’re wrong on that one, actually). But it might be more useful to provide a truncated list of the main reasons, so here they are:

  1. I don’t believe in eating animals. I’m more ambivalent about dairy and eggs, but I do feel that the way we keep dairy and egg animals is inhumane, and therefore I shouldn’t eat them.
  2. I don’t believe animal products are good for our bodies. People who eat plant-based diets live longer, healthier lives. Of course, lots of people at small amounts of fish and meats, and are also perfectly healthy when balanced with many plants. But it’s not healthy at all to eat them in amounts that we do, and then again, see point one.
  3. I’m desperate for a solution to my eating disorders. And if this could possibly be it, I’m willing to try it. No more counting, no more obsessing… just eating fully, of plant foods.
  4. It’s better for the planet to eat this way. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been a little ambivalent about global warming (obviously it’s not a myth, I just suck at recycling). So if changing my diet is a way that I can make a serious impact on my environmental footprint, I owe it to the planet to do that.

Okay, so there are my main reasons. So here’s an abbreviated list of the things I’m worried about:

  • Going out to restaurants. Most places don’t have vegan options other than a salad, hold the cheese, chicken and ranch dressing.
  • Family and friends retribution and stigmatization. See quotes at top of the post.
  • Spending more on food. I know it’s a myth that being vegan has to be expensive, but I’m still concerned that buying more healthy veggies, nuts and legumes will add up in expense, compared to my typical eggs and oatmeal diet.
  • Not being able to eat my absolute favorite foods. I’m talking about my grandma’s cheesy lasagna, cream cheese frosting, and pizza. There are substitutions, and by being vegan, I’m not giving up these foods for life. I’m taking a flexible approach where, if once in a rare while, I truly feel like I’ll gain joy from eating a non-vegan food– maybe some cheesecake on my birthday– of course I’ll do it! As long as the balance is far more vegan, plant-based foods than not. I’m shooting for about 95%.

I’m into day three, and actually feeling really…. great. My energy levels are excellent, I’m feeling positive and comfortable with my food choices, and I’m not having cravings. Again, for simplicity, I’ll share a quick list of the positives that I’ve already experienced (after three days!)

  1. I’m not counting calories or food amounts. Like, at all. I can’t even describe how rare that is for me. Usually if I’m in that kind of place, I’m in one of my short periods of recovery from the eating disorders. Last time I had one was 4 years ago.
  2. My digestion is going really smoothly. Twice daily kind of smoothly. It’s great, considering I had IBS in high school and early college and usually would only go once a week.
  3. I’m not bingeing, nor am I having the urge to binge. When I’m hungry, I’m eating. Bananas, sweet potatoes, prunes, oatmeal, blueberries, peanut butter. Peanut butter! I’m eating it and not feeling guilty and depressed about it!
  4. My energy has been oddly stable.
  5. Because I’ve been eating only vegan foods, I’ve had to put a lot more effort into meal planning and cooking. I thought I would find it arduous, but I love it. I love cooking, I love getting home and chopping vegetables for half an hour. It’s so much more cleansing (literally, too) than watching an episode of Friends, plus I end up with a healthy dinner.

And some negatives….

  1. My skin is really broken out. But I’m certain it’s because of the wild bingeing that happened over the last two weeks. Something tells me that three days of being vegan wouldn’t cause me to have a massive breakout. Nope– that’s been in the making for some time, and it’s finally showing up.
  2. I’ve been a little extra gassy. Lots of lentils and beans.
  3. I’ve had to be a little bit evasive around friends, coworkers, and family. When I’m offered food with eggs, chicken or cheese, I have to decline, and usually that’s the end of it– but occasionally, I’ve been pushed and had to really defend my choice. It’s weird, actually… and I’m realizing that we need to be a lot more respectful of people’s food choices.
  4. I actually underate the last few days without trying to at all. After the days had ended, out of curiosity (not compulsion) I counted up the calories, and came in well below my daily maintenance amount. Today I’ve been more mindful of having snacks when I’m hungry so I don’t have a significant undereat.

Okay, that’s my quick and very parsed-out explanation of my vegan experience over the past couple of days. I’m very excited to continue doing this, and for the time being I am just taking things one day at a time. If this Saturday I have a piece of cheese, so be it. Whatever. But I’m thinking that my default might indeed become plant-based vegan, because this is feeling really, really good.

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