A few months ago, I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I always say I will try anything once. Well, almost anything. So after hearing continual praise from those who have changed their diets to no longer include meat and dairy products, I decided to try it for myself.
From the beginning, I knew going vegan would be a challenge. Though I do not consume a lot of red meat, I enjoy it from time to time. I also eat a lot of fish and poultry. Eggs are a mainstay for me as well. And then there is my sweet tooth, which I admit needs to be kept in check. All in all, I do keep it in check, meaning I eat whatever I want, just in moderation.
I am slim but like most women have what I consider my problem areas and sometimes secretly wish for a stomach virus so I can quickly kick those few extra pounds to the curb in a matter of days. Silver linings. But now that the days have long since passed when I could count on my preschoolers to bring home the nastiest germs, I am left to my own devices. Enter my 30-day vegan challenge.
Nope, no one challenged me. It was all my own doing, and I set the bar high, allowing myself zero forgiveness. No day off and no room for error. The result was 30 of perhaps the most miserable days of my life. As for those who crossed my path during this time, all I can do is apologize for acting, let’s just say, batshit crazy.
For the record, I know many people whose lives have changed for the better after becoming vegan and do not attribute my anxiety and nervousness solely to the diet itself, although the sudden change in my eating habits could have played a role. I also acknowledge that I do not know enough about the science behind eating this way and its short- and long-term effects to either recommend or dissuade someone from trying it. What I do know is that following a regimen, any regimen, in a way that does not promote balance is destined for failure.
Following a regimen, any regimen, in a way that does not promote balance is destined for failure.
When I became a vegan, I did it, pardon the expression, cold turkey. I did not ease into an eating plan and instead excised all of my favorite comfort foods from my life right from the beginning. I cut myself no slack and gave myself no room for error. When I did screw up, I chastised myself for it and then ratcheted up my vigilance yet another notch. By the end of the month, I felt worse about myself, not better. And that was after losing five pounds!
Seeing my struggles, a friend who is committed to eating vegan admitted to me that she eats eggs every week, adds honey to her tea, and allows herself cheat days, which makes the lifestyle workable for her. She suggested I do the same. At the time, I would hear none of it and insisted that since I had already come this far, there was no logical reason why I should stop. To give up now, I went on, would mean admitting defeat and that was not something I was willing to do.
I did make it to the end of the 30-day trial period I had set for myself. And then I gave up. I cooked myself eggs for breakfast and ate a biscotti with my coffee. I added chicken back to my salad and sprinkled my pasta with grated cheese. What I did not do was recreate Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving and eat everything I had been missing during the previous month all at once. Instead, I satisfied my cravings in small doses and brought a sense of balance back to my life that I felt was lacking during my experimentation period.
Despite failing at being a diehard vegan, today I consider myself healthier, both physically and mentally, just for having had the experience. Although I was already conscious about my dietary choices, after spending 30 days as a vegan, I am now even more aware. I think about all of the foods I eat, whether or not they are healthy for me, and how I feel after eating them. More importantly, I realized that when it comes to wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all. While this particular lifestyle works for some, it does not work for me, which makes coming to such an understanding the biggest health benefit of all.
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