I Went Vegan For 2 Weeks And Here’s What I Learned
1. Food isn’t everything.
2. Tempeh is actually really delicious.
3. Increased attention = increased awareness = increased quality of decisions
4. It’s okay to be hungry.
5. The more you know… the more you grow.
First of all, I decided to go vegan purely out of curiosity and as a practice in food awareness. After giving some thought to my eating habits, I came to the conclusion that while I mostly eat healthy things, I don’t necessarily always eat healthily.
I eat fast, mindlessly and often when I’m not even hungry! I have a terrible habit of sneaking one “small” treat here and there, and I figured the best way to really think about what & how I eat would be to lay down some restrictions that would make me perk up and pay attention.
So, I decided that dipping my toe in the vegan waters would not only kickstart some healthier habits for me, but also give me a healthy dose of awareness and mindfulness in the food world.
Here’s what I learned:
Number 1: Food isn’t everything.
Since being vegan cuts out a lot of foods I love (chocolate & cheese, mostly) I had to say “no” to some pretty delicious things I would have otherwise devoured. Family dinners were different, pre-game appetizers for the LSU game were limited, and my post-dinner “treat” was some form of fruit or obsolete (#RIPKitKat.)
But I learned that food isn’t everything.
It doesn’t have to be the central focus of an event. I still had awesome experiences with my family around the dinner table and learned not to look so forward to eating all the time. (Trust me, that was a big lesson for me!) When giant food categories are removed from your diet and you have to make-do without them, you learn to find other things to get excited about and focus your attention on.
Number 2: Tempeh is actually really delicious.
I’m not even going to post a picture of plain tempeh because it does look rather unappetizing, but I’m pretty sure I’m keeping this in my diet even as a non-vegan. It’s so. good. Tempeh is basically fermented and combined soybeans into a solid patty form. (Go ahead and wince, I did at first, too.)
It cooks really well and crisps up perfectly. Like tofu, it takes on the flavor of whatever it’s around/seasoned with, so it’s basically as delicious as you make it. I love the crunchiness of it when you toss it in a skillet for a few minutes (which ya can’t get with tofu), and at 19g of protein/100 g, it’s an all around winner in my book!
Number 3: Increased attention = increased awareness = increased quality of decisions.
Like I said in number 1, when you cut out huge categories of food, you have to pay really close attention to what you’re eating to make sure you’re sticking to the “rules.” Reading ingredients on condiment bottles and packs of crackers is something I don’t typically do, but when you’re avoiding dairy and eggs, it’s 100% necessary!
Spending an extra 15 seconds in the grocery store reading ingredients made me think *that* much more about what I was buying. Did I really need a mayonnaise substitute? Could I maybe just not have chocolate after dinner, rather than spending 15 minutes trying to create a vegan replacement that still tasted good?
I got super aware of what I was eating, and not just in terms of ingredients, but whole foods, too. Being forced to pay attention was the best part of this little trial, because it not only made me more aware, but it made me make better decisions in the long run.
Number 4: Its okay to be hungry.
Not that I was starving or anything, but I was hungrier than usual while vegan-ing (new word) because my usual snacks were off limits (yogurt, string cheese, tuna, and some random crackers that happen to have eggs in them, ugh.) Since I was much more limited in the snack department, I snacked less and drank more in attempts to feel fuller. It… sort of worked.
I was still hungry between breakfast and lunch (which is also when I do most of my computer work, hence boredom eating) but it actually taught me something: it’s okay to be hungry.
Most of the time (read: all the time) when I’m hungry, I go snack to become un-hungry. I don’t know about you, but I don’t let myself sit in hunger for very long, and being vegan made me really think about how often I give in to “hunger” or even eat when I’m not hungry!
Newsflash Emily: It’s okay to be hungry! You don’t always have to immediately resolve that feeling. Just chill for a sec.
Number 5: The more you know…. the more you grow.
Like I said at the beginning, in addition to wanting to integrate healthy practices into my life, I was really just curious and hungry for some knowledge. (Now I’m just hungry for some real cheese, dangit!) I learned a lot about dairy-free foods, meat substitutes, and even where my normal diet was lacking in certain nutrients.
Like muscle growth (and all growth), mind-growth only happens when your mind is put in stressful or challenging situations where it’s forced to come up with some alternative solutions. Going vegan cold turkey (cold tofu?) was definitely a challenge for me, and I know it made my mind do some expanding and growing in those 2 weeks!
As a health coach, I feel better equipped to help plant-based clients and friends, and while I do plan on getting back to my eggs and meat, there are definitely some things from the vegan lifestyle I’m going to keep, and I think that’s certainly going to contribute to my growth— physically, mentally and fitness-wise— in the long run!