Veganism is taking over the world… 1.6 million people worldwide are vegan, which means 1.6 million people out there are not eating meat, eggs, and anything dairy. Instead vegans eat dairy and meat alternatives that consist of coconut milk, soya beans, lentils etc. There are so many delicious alternatives and I believe you can have a varied and fulfilling vegan diet.
However, to see what all the fuss is about and to try something different health-wise, I experimented with veganism. My aim was to do this long term, however I became so concerned with my health and the effect it was having on my body that I stopped eating a vegan diet after just two weeks. I researched the foods that were high in protein, fibre, and vital vitamins such as B12 to ensure I was getting enough of what I needed. But unfortunately this incredibly healthy diet just didn’t do my body any good. I want to share with you what happened from a woman’s perspective, as the effects are likely to be different compared to man’s experience.
1. I Felt Healthy and Had More Energy
This is the number one advantage of eating a vegan diet. I found that after a few days, I had so much energy. I trained so much harder at the gym and didn’t bat an eyelid. I had energy after a day at work to go to the gym afterwards and train like my life depended on it. The fact that I knew I was also eating healthier made it all the more worthwhile.
After doing some research I found that since animal foods require more energy to digest, taking animal foods out of your diet means you have surplus energy throughout the day, which is such a winner.
2. My Digestive System Thanked Me, Kind of…
Because vegan diets are high in fibre due to all the fruit and veg, digestion works more efficiently than if your body was consuming stodgy animal/dairy products that are high in fat and low in water. The advantage of being vegan is that you’ll never have any trouble going to the toilet. However…
The bloating is real. During the whole 2 weeks of eating a vegan diet, I was bloated ALL THE TIME. If you’re a woman, you know how awful it is before your period to feel all bloated and not yourself. It makes you feel about 5 sizes bigger than you are. The bloating was probably caused by: a) hormonal changes and b) high fibre diet causing excess gas. I think it was a combination of the two – my hormones clearly hated me, which I’ll talk about next.
3. My Period Never Came
This was something I never really expected on a vegan diet because I was sure I was getting enough of all the right nutrients. I ate a really varied diet including cheese alternatives, milk alternatives, soya mince, tofu, chia seeds, grains, tonnes of green and colourful vegetables, vegan snacks, and I even tried soy protein shake to ensure I was definitely getting enough protein. I also tried taking B12, iron, and all the important supplements. But still, my period was 3 weeks late – and no, I wasn’t pregnant. Coupled with the lack of a period was awful skin. I had more spots on my face than I’d ever had, which is the opposite to what is supposed to happen. Upon doing some more research on chat forums, YouTube, and reading nutritional articles, the general consensus was that it’s very common for women on a vegan diet to LOSE or have DELAYED and SHORT periods. Um *alarm bells ringing*, this isn’t normal.
But I refused to believe that these people were getting enough of the important nutrients, because if they were, then their bodies would function normally, right? So I did some more research –
Period irregularities are caused by hormone imbalances, so relying on nutrient-dense foods (like plants) is a great way to fight period pains and mood swings. Instead of Advil, pop some vitamin E-rich almonds or dark leafy greens, which contain magnesium. Not getting your period is a sign that something is off internally, but amping up your nutrition offers a natural solution to combat imbalances
– Guerra, 2017.
So, if you eat dark leafy greens (I did) and ensure you’re getting enough magnesium and vitamin E (I did), then your period should come back, right? Update: mine didn’t come back until a week after introducing a small amount of meat and dairy into my diet again. What’s even scarier is that there is a very blasé attitude online surrounding periods, vegans who lose their period or have constant irregularities don’t seem that bothered by it and some sources even say that losing your period is a positive thing, with our bodies functioning how they are actually supposed to. I mean… what?
Nutrition experts suggest that it is possible to have a period and function normally on a vegan diet, but you have to do the research and eat enough of the specific foods your body needs. This might mean eating 1 cup of chia seeds per day, 1 cup of black beans per day, or 1 cup of flax seeds per day. That’s quite specific. And that’s the problem. In order to be successfully healthy on a vegan diet, you need exactly the right amount of specific foods every day. If you’re feeling lazy, then you NEED supplements. It is a science in itself figuring out how much of what vitamin we need to be healthy on a vegan diet and you just don’t have that problem being a meat/dairy consumer. Many vegans will claim their health has improved but have lost their period or are unaware of a serious B12 deficiency. Out of the 1.6 million vegans in the world, I bet only a small proportion of them are genuinely healthy and get the right amount of vitamins and nutrients.
Form your own opinion by watching Mic The Vegan’s YouTube video about how to prevent deficiencies on a vegan diet. He is not a nutrition expert but has been vegan for years.
4. I Had Meat Eaters to Contend With
I’ll admit, a couple of years ago I’d laugh about how “pushy” and relentless vegans were. Stating it on their Instagram bio or preaching about how harmful meat consumption is for the environment are not aspects meat eaters exactly enjoy. Vegans are passionate about veganism, and rightfully so – it’s a highly respectable lifestyle to lead. But I think this passion comes across in the wrong way and is misunderstood. To vegans, meat eaters are ignorant – and as a meat eater I agree. Imagine knowing that your lifestyle is the best way to live and doesn’t put any animals or the environment under any harm, whilst everyone else contributes to that harm. It would be incredibly frustrating. And I have seen it from both perspectives. In the same way, have you ever tried to justify why you want to try veganism to a meat eater? You don’t want to. You’ll get numerous questions and stubborn criticisms from people that don’t understand what it means to be vegan and that there are actually many benefits. It’s a core disadvantage of being vegan and it’s enough to place doubt on anyone’s decision.
I went into this – vegan experiment if you will – with a completely open mind. I wanted to try something different to be healthy. I am always looking for healthier alternatives and healthy changes that I can make to generally improve my health and wellbeing. But all that followed was bloating and constant worrying about my health and whether I was getting the right amount of what I needed to function normally. It goes without saying, with better research and well-informed advice, I’d feel much more confident about eating a vegan diet. But amongst carrying out my own research and speaking to only a small group of people, I felt concerned, after only a week, that perhaps it wasn’t good for my body. In hindsight, I only gave veganism a shot for 2 weeks, which isn’t very long. The changes and problems I experienced might have only been due to hormonal changes and the transition from being a meat/dairy eater to cutting it out completely. I think if you can tolerate the transition period and hormonal changes, and push through, then you might see all the benefits as long as you do all the right research. I’d also advise speaking to a vegan nutrition expert.
Doing this experiment has opened my eyes to the wide range of nutrient-rich foods that are out there and that you don’t need to have meat and dairy products every day to function properly. As a result, I have drastically reduced my meat intake to only one portion of meat or fish per day, more Quorn/meat alternatives, consuming dairy alternatives such as coconut milk, and incorporating more vegetables, fruits, and seeds & grains into my diet. Reducing how many animal products you consume daily is the first step to making a difference and it’s something I recommend everyone does. I will definitely not write off going completely vegan in the future, I just want to educate myself first and know that it is absolutely the right thing for my body.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather long blog post. Feel free to leave a comment or DM me on Instagram. The blog is mostly opinion based on my experience – to get nutritional advice, speak to an expert.