Well, our month long adventure into veganism is over! The verdict is in and while we saw some big changes in our health, the energy and money required to go completely is just too much for us.
Some of the highlights and our takeaways from this adventure:
Health - we definitely saw some improvements in our health. The biggest change for myself was no longer feeling the afternoon slump once 3 o'clock rolled around. I'm going to try and not be gross here, but our insides definitely felt cleaner, if you get my drift. As for my asthma, I didn't notice any improvement at all. In fact, I found myself using my emergency inhaler more frequently than I would have liked. In terms of my anxiety, I really didn't notice a difference, but then again, this was a bit of a stressful month for me at work and at home. My acne was pretty much gone for the first two weeks, and then I had it flare up really badly. Whether that was due to fluctuating hormones, a couple of slip ups in the diet department, or other reasons, I do not know. Lastly, I don't know if the diet made any difference on my immune system. I got the flu last week, despite eating very healthily and it was AWFUL. No amount of vitamins or fruits and veggies made me feel any better.
Money - we did not see any savings in our grocery bill. I would say we actually spent about 15-20% more on our groceries than we were used to. In an era where everyone is watching every dollar, this is huge for us. While we will continue to purchase more produce than we normally do and purchase almond milk over cow's milk, I am hoping our grocery bill will even out once again.
Time - the biggest thing for us was the time it took doing all of this. Because dairy, eggs, meat and chemical preservatives are so pervasive in the food available to the American public, it required more time for us to plan our meals and purchase better quality food. I am a busy woman. I work 45-50 hours a week and I'm sorry, but my time is precious. I don't want to spend two to three hours at grocery stores (yes, plural) every week trying to get the best deal or find the needed ingredient for my meals. Plus, many of our normal go-to meals were automatically out the window (you try substituting cream of mushroom soup in a casserole...it's just not possible) which required a lot of brainpower we simply didn't have to plan our meals. As the main breadwinner, chef, and homemaker in the family, I felt that all of the planning fell on my shoulders and I was too exhausted most days or too brain dead from work to really do it efficiently, which cost us more money and led to poor diet choices.
Attitude - the general attitude of this household was not a positive one while we did this. By the end of the month, we were not a happy group. I think a lot of it may be due to the feeling of deprivation; we couldn't eat many of the things we normally did and liked. Emotional eaters are us! Also, it was incredibly difficult to get Billa on board and get her to eat anything we were eating. And admittedly, there were a lot of things we tried that I just couldn't handle, let alone my child (mushrooms or eggplant). Michael will eat just about anything put in front of him, so his opinion is a little biased if you ask me. The lack of variety and feeling bored with our food choices also contributed to a poor attitude. We felt trapped a lot. We paid good money for this, so we have to eat it. And when we weren't at home, it was worse; finding vegan options that are cheap and fast is nigh to impossible, even in a vegan friendly city like Austin. And because we were bored with our food choices, more often than not, it lead to us not eating at all and getting snappish because we were hungry.
Milk - the one plus to this whole thing was our discovery of almond milk! We LOVE the stuff! It's slightly sweet, and it's wonderful in cereal or in baked goods. Plus, the chocolate almond milk is a dessert in and of itself. The biggest thing I noticed was how my body reacted to cow's milk after doing no dairy for an entire month; I think I am definitely allergic to cow's milk. We had hoped to wean Billa off of it to see whether it affected her allergies, but that was not as easy as we had hoped. It was fine for us at home, but everywhere else, cow's milk abounded. Plus, with everyone getting sick in the last week of the diet, there's really no way to tell if cutting cow's milk for her made a difference or not. I think we will keep trying and see what happens. But we won't be buying regular milk anymore, which was the easiest change for us by far. I think we will still eat cheese and some other dairy products, but in very, very small quantities.
Hummus - this wonderful spread has become our best friend. Billa even likes it, which is a freaking miracle in and of itself. We ate it a lot before the diet, but it's an item we are now purchasing every week in mass quantity. I tried making some myself which was yummy and had a slightly different texture, but the cost of making it was more than just buying it, so I'll skip the process and save myself some time. Huzzah for hummus!
Weight - another big plus to this diet was that I found myself eating less, eating more healthy options, and consequently, I lost seven pounds and 2% body fat. I'd like to lose more body fat, and maybe a couple more pounds, but for that to happen I'm going to have suck it up and embrace cardio. Blech. But losing seven pounds was nice!
Overall, the consensus is that being vegan is just not a lifestyle that was a good fit for us. I found myself missing and craving a lot of things I really love, like cheese, bacon, hot wings, and other not so good for you treats. I stayed pretty strong in avoiding most of them, but the emotional ties to those foods are really hard to break. I can see myself consuming them in moderation now, but giving them up entirely was just too much for me. The time required to make the diet work is staggering and I just do not possess enough hours in the day to do it, plus getting Michael or Billa to contribute to the planning was an argument I just don't want to fight anymore. The money was also a big factor.
However, we will be keeping some behaviors from this. We won't be drinking cow's milk, and we will be reducing the amount of dairy products we consume. We will be eating more fruits and veggies and whole grain dishes. We will also be cutting back significantly on the amount of meat we eat, probably eating no more than two to three meals per week with meat, and making those lean. We are also going to eat out less, because we noticed that when we did, our bodies were very violent with us afterwards. we could see ourselves being vegetarians, but not vegans. Still, it was a worthwhile experience and I highly recommend that everyone at least give it a go once in their life.
So there you have it! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.