The 24 Day Vegans

MeaganGeneral9 Comments

After our half marathon, Steve and I entered what I like to call Excuse Land when it came to running and with various injuries, being extra busy with work, traveling to see family and having friends visit us, we had plenty of them! By the time we made it past Thanksgiving, we only had a few runs to our credit, but had continued to eat like we were still training for the half marathon (and we were eating out or ordering food much too often). Needless to say, we were both starting to feel pretty unhealthy, which was pretty miserable considering we had spent over a year committed to our running, health, and weight-loss. We decided we needed to detox, and, feeling inspired by the vegan lifestyle Scott Jurek describes in his book, Eat and Run, we felt that the best way to do this was by trying out veganism. So, from December 1 to December 25, Steve and I were vegan (I know, tantamount to blasphemy in America’s Dairyland), and I wanted to share our experiences with you.

Telling people you’re vegan elicits one of two responses. Half of the people you meet counter your confession with some version of “Oh, I wish I could be vegan, but I just love cheese, steak, ice cream, etc.” Overall, a pretty mild reaction — they wouldn’t do it themselves, but they’re supportive of your endeavor. For the other half, the response is some variation on “You’re crazy!”, “You aren’t getting enough nutrients!”, “We were meant to eat meat!”,  “Why would you do this!?”, etc., etc., etc. Side note: Oddly enough, we found that there was definite divide in the responses we got when both Steve and I announced our vegan experiment on Facebook. I may have been clearer about it being a temporary thing, but, whereas most of the comments on my status were supportive, and even included several recipe suggestions, people were spazzing out about Steve going vegan! Is vegan sexism something that exists?

The most dedicated vegan I know.

The most dedicated vegan I know.

Anyway, turns out that being vegan is actually not as bad as many people imagine. I think some of the initial panic that people have about trying veganism stems from them mistakenly equating plain ol’ veganism with raw veganism. Raw vegans are really on the “rabbit food” diet–they consume no animal products and nothing cooked above a temperature of 118 degrees F, so all processed foods are pretty much out. Standard veganism means you abstain from all animal products (and, believe me, it was amazing how many sneaky dairy or animal-derived products can be found in products with mysterious names like linoleic acid, L. Cystein, and casein), but, there are so many vegan alternatives and “accidentally” vegan processed foods that I never felt truly deprived during our 24 days of veganism. Yes, you can’t have meat, cheese, or dairy, but there are many super tasty meat alternatives, some acceptable cheese alternatives (we enjoyed a couple vegan pizzas), and (something I think people forget), being vegan still allows you to eat rice, most pastas, breads, and many processed foods like Oreos! There are also several vegan margarine options and, if you are a baker, easy substitutes for things like eggs (1 egg = 2 tsp. baking powder + 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil). We enjoyed delicious homemade vegan pumpkin muffins (Recipe!), vegan dinner rolls, I re-discovered how amazing roasted and salted pistachios are, and we enjoyed trying new recipes like vegan sloppy joes (made with tempeh). Other favorites include Field Roast vegan hot dogs/sausages and Almond Milk (a great option for runners who want to have cereal before their morning runs, but don’t want to get an upset stomach from having dairy), both of which have become must-haves in our refrigerator.

In the wise words of Envy: “Short answer: being vegan just makes you better than most people.” Just kidding, no super powers or holier-than-thou thoughts here!

Being vegan was great for me in so many ways. First and foremost, I felt fantastic on the vegan diet. I have a sensitive stomach, but I had zero tummy troubles the whole time we were vegan, which is probably related to the fact that meat and dairy are harder for your stomach to break down and process than fruits, veggies, and grains. I also felt really energetic–it was great to eat a big vegan meal and not feel like I needed to take a nap afterwards like I would if I had a big steak or a plate of cheesy pasta. One of the most surprising (and best) parts was the amount of food I was able to eat. Having a vegetable- and fruit-heavy diet means that you can eat a lot of food before you reach your daily calorie goal, because, although they are nutrient-dense, most veggies/fruits are low in calories relative to meat and dairy. Better yet, despite feeling like I was eating a huge amount of food, I actually lost 5 pounds! I’m also a fairly picky eater, especially when it comes to vegetables, so this was a great opportunity for me to force myself to add some more variety to my diet.

One of the downsides of the vegan diet–I’ll let Portlandia explain.

Unfortunately, Steve’s body had a much different reaction to our vegan diet. His stomach was upset most days and he felt bloated and weird most of the time. However, his sister is vegetarian and noted that she also felt terrible for the first few weeks of her transition, so it’s possible that Steve’s condition would have improved had we stuck it out for longer. One of the less pleasant effects that both of us experienced (Warning: Poop ahead) was the change in both the texture and smell of our poop. Yes, it’s gross, but you should know that if you decide to try out veganism, it is possible that things are going to get significantly smellier. Also, vegan farts are the worst, and, for some, may become much more frequent.

All things considered, though, I would call our 24 days of veganism a great success, even to the point where, several weeks later, I am still considering going vegetarian or mostly-vegan (I love cheese, OK?) full-time. For now, I am happy that we are incorporating more vegetarian and vegan meals into our diets, and I am certainly more aware of how foods are affecting the way I feel. How many of you out there have tried out veganism or are vegan now? Have any good recipes? Share it up in the comments!

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