What I learned from the 7 day vegan challenge

If you follow my on Instagram you’ll know that I recently did the 7 day vegan challenge inspired by the excellent Infinite Waters (Diving Deep) YouTube channel.

I woke up the first Monday morning totally unprepared so I panic bought anything I could find that was vegan in the super market on the way to work. I ended up with some microwave quinoa and some fruit. This was going to be a lot harder than I thought. Not the greatest start.

Luckily the BBC Good Food website has a load of vegan recipes. For my first evening I tried a chickpea curry.

What surprised me most was how much I enjoyed preparing and cooking the ingredients. I used to cook a lot, before I began full time work and sank into cheap easy-to-cook food. It was actually quite mindful as I sliced through the vegetables, surprisingly therapeutic.

For lunch the next day I prepared a crunchy bulgur wheat salad which made me late for work. Upon arrival at work a colleague asked me why I was late and I told him “because I was making a salad”. He of course laughed, thinking I was joking. But there was a deeper truth to my words; that my health and vitality were more important to me than my work.

The next evening I prepared roast summer vegetables. Again, I enjoyed the process of cooking, it was better than spending the time anguished about the next work day. But I was beginning to realise that cooking in bulk is a vegans saviour. So I made enough for lunch and the following day. It was yum 🙂

By Friday I was feeling a bit naughty and made peanut butter quesadillas. This was the first meal my partner didn’t cry at, which was a bonus.

Breakfasts were surprisingly hard. Do you know how many cereals and muesli’s contain added milk!? I even bought a muesli I thought safe. It wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed it had 1% honey in. Come on, give me a break!

Milk was interesting, I’d never considered any alternatives to cows milk before. It was just what I drank. My first attempt was a carton of Almond milk which nearly made me sick. It wasted like dirty dish water. Luckily, I found coconut milk delicious and used this for my breakfasts.

Headaches and fatigue

I began experiencing headaches around Wednesday. I’d been warned about the body’s reaction to changing diet so drastically and I guess this was it’s retribution. The headaches continued for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

To add to my headaches, by Saturday I was extremely fatigued. I was falling asleep on the sofa during the day, something I never do unless I intentionally find the time for a nap. I felt so lethargic and had absolutely no energy. This was probably for 2 reasons, one that my body was adjusting to the new diet and two that I possibly wasn’t getting enough calories (more likely). It can be difficult for new vegans to adjust as a plate of vegetables contains a lot less calories than a plate of meat and chips. So here’s a tip, you’ll need to eat a lot more.

After completing the challenge I woke up on the Monday and guess what? No headache. No fatigue. Not only that but I felt a lot lighter, like I had an abundance of energy. For a couple of days after that I felt brand new, I hadn’t felt that good in years. I’d also lost a couple of lbs!

And I have remained vegan since. Sort of. I haven’t been religiously checking the labels of food but I haven’t gone back to cows milk and I haven’t eaten any meat. I have fallen back into easy-to-eat, albeit vegan, foods. I have started earing Linda McCartney sausages and Cauldron burgers. I have also become partial to a Nakd Bakewell bar. All vegan, yes, but they’re not fresh vegetables with their nutrients.

So I have learned that just because you are eating vegan doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy. I haven’t felt as fresh or vibrant either eating these foods. I want to find that vitality I got a glimpse of again, so I am going to reaffirm my commitment to fresh fruit and vegetables and not merely meat substitutes.

Will I remain vegan? Well I won’t eat meat or drink cows milk again in my main diet. But nor will I check labels for 1% honey, I’m not going to not eat something healthy because it contains a bit of cheese. But in not having meat in my meals and not having cows milk in my breakfast I will have cut out 99% of my consumption of animal products.

One thing I have missed is my nightly natural yogurt with blueberries and raspberries topped with a splash of honey. I’ll have a look at alternatives before using natural yogurt but I’ll use my common sense. To not eat a healthy desert every night because it isn’t vegan is counter productive. Health and vitality is what I’m going for.

And that brings me onto the final thing I have learned. The over consumption of meat in our society has dire consequences for the both ourselves and the planet. Farms are now factories, cows pollute the earth more than cars and we are consuming our way to ill health as meat and dairy take their toll on our bodies.

I won’t dive deeper into that area in this article, but suffice to say I am convinced meat and dairy, or more the way we mass produce and consume meat and dairy, is a huge problem and while I’m not going to nit pick my diet, it is something I have discovered in my search for vitality that I hadn’t been too concerned about previously.

I encourage everyone to give the 7 day vegan challenge a go. You have nothing to loose by seeing how you feel after 7 days, you can always go back. But my bet is that you will feel lighter and more energised that before and you’ll want that feeling again.

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