In March 2011, our public relations specialist, Erin, started a 30-day vegan challenge. A volleyball injury had sidelined her from yoga and most other sports so she was looking for ways to challenge herself in the pursuit of health and happiness.
I decided to go vegan because I wanted to be more aware of what I was eating, where it came from and the impact it had on my environment. I embarked on a month-long vegan challenge without knowing much about what I was doing. As a long-time pescatarian (translation: I don’t eat meat or poultry but do enjoy fish), I figured it would be easy to cut fish and dairy out of my diet for 30 days.
While I didn’t really miss things I thought I would (mainly cheese and yogurt), avoiding these items was much more difficult than I imagined (it was much harder to be a vegan than a pescatarian). Finding pescatarian options had never been an issue; I’d go to restaurant and become excited by the many options available to me. As a vegan, life is not so simple. Cheese, butter, milk, mayonnaise, eggs haunted me around every corner. At one point, I ate a grape that had been touching a piece of cheese and it tasted like a little piece of heaven! Looks of ‘why are you so difficult’ follow me. Pangs of hunger torture me.
benefits of going vegan
As I got further into the challenge, I started feeling so amazing that it made me wonder what was going on. I started looking into it and here’s what I found out:
- High Energy - When following a healthy vegan diet, you will find your energy is much higher.
- Vegan Glow - The nuts and vitamins A and E from vegetables play a big role in healthy skin, so vegans typically have good skin health.
- Live longer - Several studies indicate that people who are vegan or vegetarian live an average of three to six years longer than those who aren't.
- B.O. - Eliminating dairy and red meat from the diet significantly reduces body odour. Going vegan means smelling better.
- Bad breath - Vegans often notice that they no longer have bad breath. Imagine waking up in the morning and not having morning breath….your partner may thank you.
- Long, luscious locks - Many who follow vegan diets report that their hair becomes stronger, has more body and looks healthier.
- ‘That time of the month’ - When switching to a vegan diet, many women tell how PMS symptoms become much less intense or disappear altogether.
sweating it out…vegan style
At the beginning of the challenge, I'd had a nagging worry that I wasn’t going to have the energy to work out has hard I normally would. I thought a lack of protein and minimal food options would zap all of my energy and that cardio would be my worst enemy. WRONG! The exact opposite was true; I had way more energy during my workouts and felt stronger and better than ever. Pre-workout I would have a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana. Post-workout recovery included a vegan protein shake.
readily available protein
When I told people I was doing the vegan challenge, the most common question I would get was “How do you get your protein?” The truth is there are many other sources of protein besides animal protein and let’s not forget that animal protein is quite difficult for the human digestive system to absorb. Good sources of protein include soybeans and soy foods (like tofu, edamame, and faux meats,) beans and other legumes (lentils, peas, peanuts, chickpeas,) whole grains (quinoa is a complete protein and is also rich in calcium and iron), nuts and seeds, and vegetables (especially dark green ones). Chances are if you’re eating a varied diet and getting enough calories to meet your energy needs you are getting the protein you need as well.
Despite the challenge, it was worth it. By the end of the month, I felt amazing, looked healthier (some called it ‘the vegan glow’) and knew this was a lifestyle I wanted to commit to. Ironically, I thought my experience would be the opposite of what it was: that I would be ready to maim for a small square of cheese. So far I’ve enjoyed three-and-a-half months without a piece of cheese (milk, eggs, or any other dairy product) and life as a vegan feels pretty darn good!
take the plunge: vegan challenge tips
- Eat often – snacking throughout the day on fruit, veggies and nuts keeps your energy up
- Vegan protein powder and make shakes with frozen fruit are awesome for post-workout recovery. I used Vega Sport Plant-based Performance protein powder
- Mint dark chocolate saves the day when you need a like a pick-me-up
- Challenge yourself to try it for 7 days – you won’t regret it!