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Going Vegan for a Month

Or we should say going vegan for a week? (It’s harder than it sounds!)

going vegan

Editor’s Note: This post is not intended to encourage or discourage veganism as a dietary choice. It was meant to document one person’s journey (a vegetarian) to further reduce animal products in her own diet. We appreciate everyone’s perspective and respect all opinions.

This was supposed to be a story about how I started going vegan for a month and emerged with glowing skin, newfound energy and a complete health overhaul as my rewards.

Instead, this is a tale of how I folded like a flimsy house of cards after a mere six days.

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It all started as a spur-of-the-moment decision to give up worthless (but utterly delicious) carbs like Cadbury Mini Eggs and Cheez-Its. I would go vegan. How hard could it be? Going vegan would be a great way to incorporate more fruit and veggies into my diet, and learn some desperately needed new recipes.

I’ve been a vegetarian for two decades now – surely I could handle life minus cheese, milk, yogurt and eggs, right?

Going vegan: Day 1

After checking to make sure my waffles are vegan (woo hoo!), I slather them with peanut butter instead of butter and drink my coffee black. Not huge adjustments, really, as I love peanut butter and like my coffee with just a splash of low-fat milk. I’m not going to lie, though – I do miss the butter.

For lunch, I have my somewhat usual combo of hummus, carrots, sourdough rye crackers and half an avocado. For a snack I cheat and have my usual Greek yogurt – I just can’t bear to throw it away.

Verdict: This vegan stuff is so easy. Bring it on!

Going vegan: Day 3

I buy some Earth Balance spread (completely vegan!) for my waffles. It’s not butter, but it’s not bad. Have a salad for lunch, and then surprise myself at dinner by trying some new vegan treats at our favorite Japanese place. I sample agedashi tofu (fried tofu in a savory broth – delicious!) and soba noodles with veggies. For dessert, my daughter wants ice cream, so I oblige. I sneak in some green tea ice cream for dessert. I can’t help myself – I’ve been doing so well I deserve a little treat, right?

going vegan

No eggs? No cheese? No dairy? No problem! I can live on waffles for a month, right?

Going vegan: Day 6

I am hungry. H-U-N-G-R-Y. Like, gnaw-my-arm-off hangry. I have my usual waffles and Earth Balance for breakfast and break into my strawberries as soon as I sit down at my desk. I’m tempted to go to the cafeteria and buy a cinnamon streusel muffin, but remember my no empty carbs pledge. Argh.

For lunch, I have homemade chickpea/broccoli/carrot casserole and some whole-grain crackers. I’m still starving – and shaking, to boot – so I break into my soy yogurt immediately for dessert. I am unimpressed.

I’m so hungry that I run out to Stop & Shop to buy another yogurt – Greek and loaded with protein this time – and a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin approximately the size of my head.

Going vegan: The aftermath

That’s it. I’m done. The great vegan experiment is over. I’m just too hungry. But I’m determined to learn from my mistakes. Did I eat too many carbs? Not enough protein? Too much fruit?

I reached out to Jen Bruning, a registered dietician nutritionist with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to answer my questions. She was gracious and knowledgeable and didn’t laugh at my pathetic attempt at veganism, instead offering up some valuable advice.

“Whenever a person is making a big shift in their diet, they’re most successful when they take it one step at a time,” Bruning said. “Going from a full-blown meat eater to vegan will be hard.”

She suggests changing your diet one meal at a time. Maybe have a vegan breakfast one day, or a meat-free salad for lunch. From there, try to work up to a full day of vegan foods. And from there, maybe work up to a week of vegan-only fare.

“You’ll be giving your body time to adjust to different nutrients and to the different mental load a new diet requires,” Bruning said.

The mental demands were something I didn’t quite take into account, given the hasty manner in which I made my decision. The vegan life certainly takes some prep work if you’re going to be successful.

“We don’t live in a fully vegan-friendly world,” Bruning said. “So many different items are available now, but it still takes a lot of planning.”

By the way, I’m still going strong on avoiding useless carbs, although I do allow myself to cheat on Sundays.

Even if it was a failure, at least the great vegan experiment taught me to be more mindful of food and what I’m putting into my body. And who knows? I might try going vegan again, now that I know baby steps are key. But I’ll definitely skip the soy yogurt next time.

Have you ever tried going vegan? Are you a vegan that has any tips for would-be vegetarians or vegans? Leave them in the comments below!

Comments
  • Pei-yi K.

    Greek Yogurt & Ice Cream are not vegan. From what was presented, the author had two vegan meals and then snacked on Greek yogurt on Day One.

  • Theresa A.

    Entertaining. Relatable. Endearing. But please give us something useful and practacal , as I expect from wonderful all-knowing AAA. A complete guide of real, honest to goodness vegetarian and vegan restaurants is so needed right now. Every restauraunt is eager to “be on the map” and advertise as vegetarian when, in fact, they offer one sad option at the bottom of the menu! Put your vegetarian regionalists out there. Try those restaurants and tell us in your next book “AAA’s Complete Guide to Vegetarian restaraunts in New England” and “AAA’s Complete Guide to Vegetarian Restauraunts in the Mid Atlantic.” So Needed Right Now.

    • Hi Theresa,

      That’s a great idea. We’re starting monthly reviews of restaurants in the Northeast, and I think that would make a fantastic topic. I’ve got tons of favorites in Rhode Island!

      -Dana

  • Dana I’m sorry that the transition was so challenging for you. I found it to be quite the opposite. After 23 years as a vegetarian I made a seamless transition to veganism and have helped many others to do the same. I think one key is to have a solid support system and potentially a well-qualified coach. A second key is to have a firm grasp on the rationale for the change. For me it was an ethical choice. I have found that many folks who switch to a vegan diet to lose weight or test their willpower have a difficult time persisting. But when you make a change because the new behavior resonates with your value system it tends to be much easier to stay the course. Thanks for the article!

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for reading! Looking back, I think the biggest mistake I made was not eating enough protein, which is why I was so hungry all the time. Carbs alone does not a good vegan make.
      Congrats for helping others choose a vegan lifestyle! 😉
      -Dana

  • I disagree, I’ve been vegan for a long time and it’s not difficult or boring. Look at all the athletes who are changing to plant-based (vegan) diet. It’s too bad she didn’t keep trying as the dairy alternatives, (also easy to make) are delicious and in abundance to what I could get in the ‘70s and ’80s. The dairy industry is cruel beyond words and unnecessary for our bodies.

    • Hi Karla,

      Thanks for reading! I’m definitely going to give it another try sometime. This time around I just found it really difficult – I think not having enough protein in my “vegan” diet was the root of the problem.
      I can’t even imagine being vegetarian in the ’70s and ’80s. Thanks for persevering!
      -Dana

  • Good advice! I usually advise my patients to try one meal at a time, maybe one day a week. Then progress to making that meal their healthy meal and slowly increase until they’re eating healthy. Patience may be a virtue, but it is the first step in change.

  • Michael S.

    Dana: please check out Dr. John McDougall’s website. He’s a strong advocate of eating a starch-based diet that is also whole food, plant-based. (Vegan, really.) And it’s made a great difference for me.

    Among other things, McDougall says we’re designed to each starches like potatoes, corn, squash and grains, and – more importantly – one can’t eat like you tried doing without these things. I know for myself that this is true. There’s just not enough calories in all those vegetables to feel satisfied. It’s no wonder you were shaking from hunger.

    There are tons of great recipes for oil free dishes and sauces online. I use one for an Asian ginger sauce, and it’s great on boiled sweet potatoes – very tasty and very filling.

    Eating this way – oil free – I’ve lost weight and seen my blood work numbers for things like cholesterol go way down. Give it another try!

  • Eating this way should feel like you are substituting, not sacrificing. If you need some inspiration, you may enjoy a book that discusses the link between human health and animal welfare. “Stop Eating The Animals: An Appeal on Behalf of The Voiceless to Adopt a Meat-Free Foodstyle” is available on Amazon.com

  • I’ve been replacing snacks and breakfast with vegetables. My newest concoction is cutting up half a bell pepper – red, orange or yellow – and dipping the pieces into guacamole. Costco sells a big box of mini-portions, maybe a few tablespoons each. These are the perfect size for this. I’m also eating some green vegetables raw that I normally cook, such as baby bok choy. That added to the guacamole and pepper is yummy!!

    • Hi Susan!

      Guacamole is my new favorite snack! It’s great with carrots. Baby bok choy and guacamole must be delicious! Another great snack is half an avocado filled with hummus. Yum!

      -Dana

  • Richard G.

    I understand your first attempt was not a good one. I always go whole hog (pardon my reference to the pig). In 1991 I decided to start eating healthier so I went vegan cold turkey. Back then it was more difficult.
    There are really good cheese by Chao and Follow My Heart
    There are great coconut and almond milk yogurts and tofutti soy sour cream and cream cheese.

    Alternates to meat that are high in protein and the almond and cashew and hemp milk beverages are real good. Aldi’s now has a lot of vegan products that they share with their sister store Trader Joe’s

    You can do it and reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol. There is no cholesterol in anything vegan.
    Better health to you and anyone else interested.

    • Hi Richard,
      Thanks so much for the recommendations! I’m a big fan of Quorn “chicken” and some of the Field Roast “meats.” I’ll have to give coconut and almond milk yogurts a try.
      -Dana

  • Michelle M.

    Dana, it sounds like you absolutely should give veganism another try. There are plenty of books and resources on plant-based eating available to you- audible one. Also, check out nutritionfacts.org, and you can also enter your food intake on cronometer.com, to see what your currently missing on a standard American diet. (WFPB vegan diets are more complete in many ways, including fiber, and important micronutrients that most people miss out on). It sounds like Jen Bruning did have a helpful perspective. Also, if you were shaking for some reason, it sounds like you might not have been consuming enough calories, since you stopped eating the unhealthy, but high calorie saturated fats you had been getting from meat and dairy. Upping your intake of nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grain starches like quinoa, potatoes, rice, dark greens & fruit should not leave your body shaking. It’s not so hard once you realize the vibrant life you begin to gain from not consuming animal products, and also the clear reward of not contributing to the death and suffering of animals, and the decline of our environment as a whole. Good luck. ✌ -Michelle, WFPB vegan, R.I.

    • Hi Michelle!

      Thanks for reading! I think I made the mistake of eating way too many carbs and not enough protein this time around. I’ll definitely try again!
      Another reader suggested writing about vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Northeast, and I’d love to do that in the future. Do you have any R.I. favorites you’d recommend? My faves right now are The Grange and Veggie Fun (Veggie Fun won my heart by delivering delicious soba noodle soup to my workplace on a chilly December day. 😉
      -Dana

  • Michelle M.

    Dana, maybe the macronutrients weren’t quite right, but I personally believe in a high carb diet. I eat lots of starches like grains and potatoes, and fruit. Plenty of veggies too. I don’t believe the protein myth, we really only need 10-15% of calories from protein. You will find Dr.Gregers site helpful I’m sure. Also maybe starting your day with a big smoothie (with non animal protein), and a bowl of oatmeal would be a filling way to start the day. Some favorite restaurants of mine in RI, are India, Green Basil in NP, Garden Grille, Julians, Wildflour, and the Grange. Here is a link to the RI vegan awareness page for a restaurant guide. http://www.veganawareness.org/2016_restaurant_guide_.aspx

    I do wish this article was at least titled differently, as it does give the impression that veganism is hard. When in fact most vegans find it quite simple to eat healthy and not eat animals, especially with the plethora of resources and options now. Meal planning on a vegan diet is no different than an omnivorous one. Also, I do recommend you watch Earthlings ASAP, it will change your life. Best, Michelle

  • Brenda W.

    It’s not so bad! My daughter became ill, by necessity to live she had to, I joined her. It’s about advocating for yourself at a restaurant. Just because they don’t have a ‘vegan’ option, so many dishes can be made vegan.

    I can’t believe the amount of energy I have, I’m told I look 15+ years younger than my calendar years. When people have asked what I”m doing..my advice .. one step at a time. Cut out dairy, or cut out meat.

    And for your restaurant review – two locations in Boston: By Choloe! Amazing ALL Vegan Restaurant. https://eatbychloe.com/menus/

    I agree with Michelle, the article title should have been tweaked. It feeds those who feel veganism is one just being .. as my brother calls me “A food bitch”.

    • Hi Brenda,

      Thanks so much for reading! I’m so glad the vegan lifestyle has worked out for you and your daughter. 😉 Someday I hope to make the leap.
      Thank you, also, for your restaurant suggestion! A By Chloe just opened in Providence, and I can’t wait to try it! Everything on the menu looks absolutely delicious.

      – Dana

  • Camille C.

    I don’t even know where to start with this article. Are you seriously saying that after being vegetarian for two decades you found it that difficult?? Oh come now. I’m sorry but it all sounds like nonsense to me. You sound completely uncommitted. Maybe you need to find the right reasons to do this. Maybe if you do it for some other reason than yourself, like maybe to help stop the horrifying cruelties suffered by the animals in the diary and egg industries or for the health of the planet…? The last thing that’s needed are articles like these that DISCOURAGE people from going vegan, or give credence to all the excuses people use to avoid evolving into compassionate mindful humans…ugh.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks so much for reading. My story was meant to document my journey to further reduce animal products in my diet, and the funny ways in which I failed. I appreciate your perspective and thoughts. Thanks!

      -Dana

  • I was angered to receive this email from you. I have been vegan for 10 years, and found it to be much easier than expected! The author of your article is describing a “plant-based diet,’ not veganism. Veganism is about doing everything one can to alleviate the killing and suffering of animals. It has nothing to do with superficial concerns such as “glowing skin”. It is a moral and ethical choice to save beings that cannot speak for themselves from torture and death. I am very, very disappointed, AAA.

    • Hi Erin,

      Thanks so much for reading. This story was meant to document my journey – as short-lived as it was – to reduce the amount of animal products in my diet, for both health and animal welfare reasons. Perhaps someday I’ll make the leap into full veganism. 😉

      -Dana

  • Singher Z.

    what can i say, you’re just like many having no determination to go vegan. vegan diet, what i meant is, whole foods plant-based diet or life style is the only way to save your health or life, and only when you realize that you would have a will to go vegan for as long as you live. many sick and fat people indulge too much animal based foods to give up all that to go vegan. but when it is a choice of life or death, maybe you could make this right choice.

  • Roseanne V.

    Please read Dr. Joel Furman. His book EAT TO LIVE finally put all the pieces together for me. If you think of your health and avoiding disease and prescription medications it makes sense to eat a diet of foods that actually feed your body with nutrients.
    A lot of your food choices were poor; especially the waffles filled with empty calories. Your body was starving for nutrients and that is why you were so hungry. A healthy diet is NOT ONLY about not eating meat and dairy, but about nourishing your body with high nutrient foods such as leafy greens and legumes. Nuts produce very tasty milk and “cheese” as a great substitute for dairy. Read the book and it will help you to understand why meat and dairy should be very limited or removed from your diet: without the why it is so difficult to understand and if you don’t understand then there will never be a real reason for such a change.
    You can be vegan and still be very unhealthy by eating fried foods, oils and high calorie processed starches.
    Not eating animal products because of animal cruelty is an excellent reason!
    Read Skinny B*tch and I promise you will be changed.
    But if that is not your conviction then do it for your health. Stay around longer for your kids! Do some reasearch. It’s not an issue to be trifled with.

    • Dana L.

      Hi Roseanne!

      Thanks so much for writing. That sounds like an amazing book – I’ll see if my library has a copy. I’m always trying to look for ways to eat healthier, for both me and my daughter.
      I do love almond and coconut milk – soy milk not so much. 😉
      Thanks for your encouraging words. Take care!
      -Dana

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