It started with Veganuary.
I was working at a health publication at the time and it seemed like it was all anyone in the wellness world could talk about: Veganuary this and veganuary that. It is, for the uninitiated, a movement which challenges people to give up meat and animal products for January.
So I thought, why not try veganism on for size? At the very least, I reasoned with myself, it would make a good story. I could already see the headline: “I went vegan for a month and it was the worst 30 days of my life.”
Except, it wasn’t.
No one was more surprised than me to find I actually thrived on a plant-based diet. My digestion improved, my skin cleared, and I had bucket-loads more energy. I really only had one qualm. One big, cheese-shaped qualm. It turned out that giving up meat was a breeze (I’ve never been much of a carnivore) but put a wedge of pecorino in front of me, and it’s a game over.
So come February, I did what any self-respecting cheese-devotee would do: I ate my weight in brie. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, it turns out – especially when it comes to a passion for cheese.
But back to the vegan thing – so while I felt good, I knew myself and my cheese vice well enough to know the vegan life wasn’t for me in the long-term. The thought of a life without cheese felt like a sky without stars. No matter how much I longed for a bod like Miley.
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Another thing – I’m too old for fads. Celery juice now makes me scoff, and when I hear people preaching the weight loss benefits of the keto diet, I can’t help but internally groan. I’ve already wasted far too many hours of my life eating cauliflower instead of rice, and wrapping my burgers in lettuce leaves. So if it’s not sustainable, it’s a big fat ‘no’ from me.
However, while I reunited with cheese like an estranged lover, I wasn’t tempted by meat, surprisingly. I hadn’t missed it. Nor was I craving it. Fast forward, nine months: I’m still not.
My digestion has never been better
Some studies have shown a significant difference between the gut health of vegetarians and those who eat meat. However, it is believed that a vegetarian diet might improve gut health due to the high levels of fibre it contains.
One particular study, which monitored people with obesity who were put on a strict vegan diet for a month, found participants had altered types of gut microbes and lower levels of gut inflammation.
I’ve suffered with digestion issues for most of my adult-life. Bloating has been my default. While I’d always noticed that eating a lot of meat, particularly red meat, made me feel a bit blah, I had never fully made the connection until I switched over to a vegetarian diet and things improved.
My energy is turbo-charged
Unlike the time I gave up carbs for a story and felt like I was running on empty, I actually jump out of bed in the morning – I feel like a different person. Or a more bouncy, energetic version of myself, at least.
My skin cleared up
Before I went plant-based, I had heard talk around about how giving up meat and dairy can help your skin. It’s true! To be transparent, pre-period or post-chocolate binge, it still isn’t pretty, and good products can make or break, but I have definitely noticed an improvement. My skin is clearer and, for want of a more technical term, more glow-y.
A tin of lentils is a lot cheaper than a fillet of salmon. Tofu is cheaper than steak. Fruit and vegetables, especially when bought seasonally, are cheap! Go figure. Sure, you can obviously buy animal products on a budget as well, but I was buying organic meat, so cutting that out completely slashed my weekly food shop in half, and let’s just say, I wasn’t mad about it.
I lost a tiny bit of weight
This feels a tad superficial (and smug) to mention but it is often something people often ask about when it comes to cutting out meat. While I am a big believer that health, not weight, should dictate our dietary choices, I also found I naturally lost a few kilos without trying since giving up meat.
But, be warned: some people actually find they put on weight after giving up meat, especially when they suddenly increase their carb-intake, or live on vegan “junk” food. So I think this was more a result of increasing my fruit and veg intake rather than cutting out meat itself.
While I definitely feel better on a vegetarian diet, I wouldn’t say it’s a hill I would die on. Who knows? For me, right now, it works.