This is the final post from My Vegan Challenge. To read from the beginning of the week-long challenge click here.
Welcome to the final instalment of My Vegan Challenge. A solid seven days as a gluten-free vegan has allowed me to experience a snapshot of what it would be like to live an entirely plant-based lifestyle…
1. Throughout the week I experienced what I can only describe as a feeling of lightness.
2. My nails got REALLY strong out of nowhere.
3. I lost body fat. Without counting any calories or going hungry.
4. I saved some animals. Statistically, every vegan saves 198 animals from slaughter every year, which equates to almost four animals per week.
5. I helped the environment. The carbon footprint of a vegan is less than half that of the typical meat eater.
6. I cooked and tasted lots of new things.
7. I ate lots of fresh food and wasted nothing as it was often the perishable items in my cupboards/fridge that I was relying on for the bulk of my meals.
8. I enjoyed the experience of the vegan lifestyle.
1. Supplementation is essential. B12 is totally lacking in the vegan diet. Calcium and iron are also limited. Ensuring I was getting adequate protein took extra effort.
2. Dining out is difficult. Even in a city like Belfast, where I was based throughout my challenge, the vegan options are quite limited. Certain niche and ‘healthy’ restaurants serve more palatable vegan options. These venues are few and far between. Outside of cities, vegan options are still quite rare in typical Irish restaurants. I only dined out for dinner on the final day of the plan.
3. Recovery from exercise took longer.
4. Vegan cooking can be quite time consuming. I had to plan ahead and make sure I had all the necessary ingredients to hand.
5. There is little-to-no healthy vegan (and gluten-free) ‘convenience’ food in typical Irish shops. If, on the odd occasion, you don’t feel like cooking or don’t have time and you’re not based in a city, you may not be able to source a nice, quick, vegan dinner.
6. It takes a lot of effort and discipline to consistently maintain a vegan lifestyle in a healthy, balanced way because it is such a restricted diet. Lets be honest, sometimes you just want to have
a bar of chocolate a bag of jelly babies. Of course if more vegan options were available it would be a lot easier.
7. When eating as a vegan, it can be difficult to get the balance of macro nutrients to fit a high protein, low carb diet. The particular plan I followed (22 Days Revolution) was high in unrefined carbohydrates and low in fat and protein. When lifting weights, higher protein levels are recommended in order to aid recovery and muscle growth. I added in extra protein sources when I could.
Since finishing My Vegan Challenge I have remained about 70% vegan. Most of the times I have eaten meat, dairy or eggs have been when out for dinner in restaurants which lacked a vegan option, or when I was a dinner guest at someone’s house. I have cooked meat (chicken) once since completing the challenge two and a half weeks ago.
Below are just some of the vegan dishes I have had since finishing the challenge.
As you have hopefully seen over the course of the week and from my diet since, vegan eating is anything but boring. There is so much variety and so many flavours to what you can create. I didn’t stop the diet because I wasn’t enjoying the food – I loved the food.
I didn’t supplement enough in terms of B12 and iron and I definitely felt the result of that in the last two days of the challenge. This was ultimately what made me finish the challenge on day eight. Anyone taking on this diet should definitely plan ahead to ensure all their nutritional needs will be met.
I also wanted to be able to enjoy a meal out in a really nice restaurant I was going to the night after I finished the plan. I didn’t want to be restricted. It can be hard to really treat yourself on a vegan plan because it is not adequatly catered for in most restaurants and shops and because it takes a lot of forethought, planning and effort. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t wake up the day after the challenge ended and reach for eggs and bacon, on the contrary I have been far more conscious of all dietary choices made since. Still, it is nice the odd time to be able to mindlessly indulge after a period of really clean-eating.
Whilst I’m not ready to be a full-time vegan forever more, I am definitely incorporating a lot more plant-based eating into my diet. Before I took on the vegan challenge I very rarely ate eggs or dairy anyway, so the main thing I was ‘giving up’ was meat. I’m delighted to have gone from eating meat twice a day to eating it maybe three or four times a week now.
I’m a firm believer that the best way to make a dietary change is to set aside a week, plan ahead and try it out, then reevaluate. This is actually how I initially went gluten-free and at the time it seemed impossible but now it is totally second nature. I took that approach with this vegan diet, an entirely new way of eating, just for a week. As I suspected it has impacted the way I eat in a positive way. I feel like I’m another step closer to a cleaner diet, both for myself and the planet.
The Clean Coconut x
P.S. I know lots of you have been asking if I will be posting recipes and the answer is yes! Honestly, I’m the kind of cook who adds a ‘handful of this’ and a ‘dash of that’, so it will take some discipline for me to start measuring out my favourite recipes but I will get on it asap 🙂
You can now find some vegan recipes by clicking here.
Also check out my guide to going gluten-free here.
P.P.S. If you haven’t watched Earthlings yet – DO IT! You can find it on Youtube by clicking here.