Near the end of January, some friends and I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary about a man’s ambition to juice fast for sixty days. Now, I have no desire to lose weight, so I was not inspired to juice fast. I need my food.
However, I did take note that Joe was eating a lot more fruits and vegetables than me. In fact, I’m pretty sure my main source of plant intake was applesauce, which, while delicious, is definitely not going to give me all of the plant-based nutrients I need to be at optimum health.
But where would I start? Being a meat, bread, and potato eater for twenty-one years, how would I best find the fruits and vegetables I liked, and truly bring change to my diet?
Simple: by forcing myself to eat the complete opposite of everything I had eaten before. To do this, I decided that I would try and follow a vegan diet for an entire month.
Initially, I planned to make that month March, after using February to research what I could and would eat for the following month. But, on the first day of February, I went to eat breakfast, and found myself taking note of all of the plant and grain based options available.
Waiting was no longer an option. I took the plunge immediately, and without preparation, into what has been one of the most fulfilling months I’ve lived so far.
Now, before I go into more detail, here’s what I’ve noticed about eating this way:
- I felt great, and have continued to feel great eating more plants. Working out seems to work better, also.
- I have found it much easier to focus on things like schoolwork. Before, my eyes would simply dart around a paragraph, frustrated that I couldn’t focus enough to read it. Now, I can calm my thoughts enough to focus on my tasks easily when I want to.
- My eating habits are so much better that it’s ridiculous. There’s definitely something to be said about having to think before you eat; if you have to pay attention to what you get instead of just eating the easiest thing you can find, you will probably choose healthier things.
- Restaurants and fast food are both major inconveniences for vegan/vegetarian diets. However, there are options available if you look, and what I’ve found has been awesome so far. My personal favorite is falafel. One of the biggest benefits to this inconvenience is that you actually have to read the menus at restaurants, and there’s a lot more real cooking involved at home. This forces creativity upon you, and makes eating a much less repetitive experience.
Now, what all did this diet change entail? Well, vegans won’t eat:
- Meat, obviously
- Dairy products (if you’re lactose intolerant like me, this is by far the easiest change)
- Gelatin (comes from bones; it’s what Jello is made of!)
- Cochineal/Carmine Extract (you can choose whether to look this one up or not, but you might not like it…ignorance is bliss?)
- Anything else animal-derived
Most of this was very easy to avoid, since I’m used to looking at labels for dairy now. I did mess up a few times, though. I ate Pop Tarts a few times at work, which have gelatin in them. I didn’t think to look for that until just recently. Also, I drank some juice, which, upon a recent shopping trip, I discovered had cochineal extract in it for coloring. Yep. Smite me if you must, vegan gods.
Other than those mishaps, the month of February went by without any real struggle. I enjoyed it, to be honest. I even enjoyed it enough to keep part of it going! I am an ovo-vegetarian now, meaning I eat plants and eggs. Editors note: I’m sort of glad Martin isn’t able to toss me out of windows with his mind anymore.
I can’t say if this is a permanent change, but for now, I feel great about what I’m eating. I’ve wanted to be vegetarian for years, and was absolutely sure I would starve myself without meat.
In short, this experiment was an incredible success, and I am happier now because of it.
Now, should you try this? That’s all on you, bro. Notice that I mentioned no evidence for health claims against meat, or concerning the potential nutritional benefits of a vegan/vegetarian diet. Nor did I mention animal rights, or any emotional argument for or against anything.
I am not a food scientist/activist of any kind, and I am only offering un-biased, anecdotal evidence. Do your own research if you’re interested, and find which sources you trust. All I can say for sure is that if you find yourself not eating healthily, or not eating enough fruits and vegetables, you will almost definitely benefit from looking outside of your normal diet. Take a month challenge, take a week challenge, it doesn’t matter. Just do what you can to eat well, and eat happily.