Just before the Ironman I saw the documentary Forks Over Knives and Mike and I decided to adopt a “plant-based” diet after the Ironman (we didn’t want to change our diets before a big race). I wrote about our decision to go from a diet full of meat, eggs and dairy products to a diet composed of mostly plants in a July blog post.
Now it has been 2 months on this diet and I have a better idea of whether or not it’s sustainable for long-term. The easiest part for me has been giving up meat. Since we returned back from Coeur D’Alene and filled our cupboards and refrigerator with an obscene amount of fruits, vegetables, beans and spices, I have eaten meat two times. The first was about a week into our regime when I went to a bachelorette party and we went to a steak house. The second was forced – at my 10 year reunion they had literally no vegetarian option at the taco bar and I was starving. Going into this, I’ve said that I’m willing to make occasional exceptions, so I don’t beat myself up about it. However, for meat, I haven’t really even wanted it. I’ve been pretty content with avoiding it and it doesn’t seem to be an inconvenience since there are so many vegetarians out there.
As for dairy, that is a bit harder. We have never been the types to buy cheese and keep it in the house and we already drank Almond Milk, so that part wasn’t an issue (although I do love to buy goat cheese and make salads with it!). It’s mostly a factor when eating out or eating at parties or weddings. For example, a veggie burger at any restaurant most likely comes with a buttered bun. Since I’m new to all of this, I’m not as inclined to ordered my veggie burger “butter free.” I’m also not sure now that I care about a tiny amount of butter on my bun. Another issue is that some things like guacamole may or may not have dairy in them, but I’m not going to tap the hostess at a party on the shoulder and ask “does this have dairy!?” From the get go, I never wanted to proclaim myself as “vegan” for this reason – I don’t intend to be a complete stickler and at times, starve, just to follow this diet. I also can’t imagine a life without the occasional pizza.
Another reason I’m not saying I’m vegan is that a true vegan gives up all animal products – including the leather in their car – which I’m not really willing to do. My plant-based diet is based on health, not animal rights (although I am sympathetic to animals and enjoy that a plant-based diet helps me contribute toward the fair treatment of animals, that is not my primary motivation).
Eggs. This is my weakness. I actually crave eggs, unlike meat. Eating breakfast out as a “vegan” is really difficult. Options are very limited. You can eat oatmeal (be sure to ask if it is made with milk, in which case you can’t eat it), an Acai bowl (full of sugar) or toast with peanut butter and a side of fruit. Not very exciting, especially when your counterparts are noshing on huge breakfast burritos spilling over with meat and cheese. Well this is where I’ve made my biggest exception. When we go out to breakfast (probably every other weekend or once a weekend even), I have been ordering eggs, usually scrambled with veggies, but sometimes with cheese. I’ve also made the exception for cream cheese on my bagel on two occasions ( I LOVE bagels with cream cheese!).
And, we all know all good dessert has dairy and eggs in it. I could easily avoid the dessert, but I tend not to since I love it so much. I have discovered some wonderful dessert substitutes such as Almond Milk ice cream, Coconut Milk ice cream, dark chocolate bars, and vegan cookies from Trader Joes (so good and much better than the vegan cookies from Jimbo’s) so my sweet tooth is often satisfied. However, when I’m at a wedding at the cake is served, I’m not gonna skip it for the sake of my diet.
Personally, I haven’t been hungry on this diet. Mike has been struggling with it since he is much bigger than me and required a lot more calories. It’s hard for me to feed him enough plant-based food for him to be satisfied. He hasn’t been following the diet as strictly as me (mostly he has eaten meat more but he also has eaten less dessert than me so it evens out!) but since I make his lunch and dinner most days, overall he is doing well. We are still working out the kinks in how to feed both of us and give ourselves all the protein we need (see my blog post on how to get enough protein from a plant-based diet) as well as essential vitamins. We are both experiencing some fatigue and a lack on energy in our workouts, but we’re not sure if this is due to recovery from the Ironman (and also lost fitness since we haven’t been working out hard for months now) or not. We are still working through it all and trying to be patient with the process.
I’d give myself an A in the vegetarian department and a B+ in the vegan department. And I’m totally happy with that. Eliminating eggs and meat from my daily diet for two full months has already reduced my intake drastically. I usually ate meat with every single lunch and every dinner, meaning at the very least I’ve passed on meat 60 times since starting. That’s a pretty big difference!
I’m still making my way through the book The China Study and the more I read it, the more I am affirmed by this diet. The years of research supporting the direct link between animal protein and cancer, heart disease and a long list of other diseases is incredibly convincing. Although I have become very frustrated while dining out on more than one occasion (it takes time to figure out which vegan options actually taste good and which are a waste of money), I plan to continue this diet. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I will consider myself a vegetarian and completely eliminate meat, but for now, this “mostly vegan” diet is working just fine. I’m not going to completely deprive myself of the foods that I love; rather live by the principle of moderation.
Have you ever struggled with a change in your diet? How did you handle it?