On Being Vegan

If you're wondering why or how anybody would deliberately make a shift to a vegan diet, then today's guest author may answer some of your questions. P.S. I'm an 'almost-vegan'.

Nearly four years ago, I started seeing a sudden yet noticeable change in my body.  I had developed a light rash on my neck and upper back, had serious stomach discomfort on a regular basis, and gained 8 pounds in just 3 months for which I couldn't account.  I had always been very self-conscious about my weight, though I was rarely even 10 pounds from my goal weight, and was living on a pretty strict regimen of veggies, fruit, grains and lean protein. 

I wound up taking drastic measures and cut my daily calorie intake to 600 as it seemed to be the only thing that worked to get the weight off.  After months of pain and aggravation, I went and saw a team of specialists. I spent hundreds of dollars on countless tests, but the results were worth it all. 

First it was discovered that I suffered from rather serious malabsorption issues and need a battery of nutritional supplements, but once those began, the rash disappeared. 

The second?  It turns out that I was no longer able to metabolize animal protein.

I was stunned.  I grew up on steak and shellfish and loved cheese.  I would have been more willing to give up gluten than any of those items, but I took their findings to heart and went on a vegan diet for 2 weeks.  It was remarkable to see every symptom disappear, and I lost a pound more than the weight I had gained!

As you might imagine, becoming a vegan was a significant change in my lifestyle, but I have never felt better.  I quickly learned that many of the foods I “feared” for their high fat content, like avocado and nuts, were important elements in my diet.  Essential fatty acids, iron and protein were critical for me. 

I was also leery of eating too many grains with so much talk about the detriments of carbs at the time, but rice and potatoes helped to round out the vegetables I so relied upon.  There is no question that it took time for me to enjoy seitan or tofu rather than sushi or grilled chicken, but I really don’t miss them anymore.  

If you are considering a vegan diet, some of the essentials for your shopping list are:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • fresh fruit
  • quinoa (a high protein, grain-like seed)
  • whole grains and potatoes
  • beans
  • dairy substitutes for milk and cheese
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegan proteins (tofu, tempeh, seitan) 

If you are really ambitious, you can cook everything from scratch, but markets like Whole Foods have wonderful pre-made items for you to choose from. 

I would also suggest that, as with anything, you start slowly.  Many restaurants have begun to offer meatless Mondays ~ no meat items appear on their menus on those days  ~ so you can start by having vegan Mondays and eliminating all meat, dairy, fish and eggs for just one day a week. 

Then you can start to think about some of the foods you eat, and where you can make replacements.  For example, do you enjoy yogurt in the morning with some berries and nuts or cereal with milk?  You can replace your yogurt for soy yogurt and your milk with non-dairy alternatives like almond, soy, rice or hemp milk.   They are delicious, come in a variety of flavors, and there is very little to compromise!  

This article was written by Yonni Wattenmaker, creator and author, The Trendy Vegan. For more tips, recipes and restaurant reviews, add your email to the home page of www.thetrendyvegan.blogspot.com!

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