Hi guys, this post is going to be different. And to be honest, I have no idea what you’re about to read. Tomorrow is my 3-year vega-versary. Three whole years on a vegan diet. For a while I’ve known I wanted to do a post to mark the occasion. I meant to celebrate years one and two, but each year the day slipped by and I realised a week or so later that I’d missed it and I’m determined to make year three different. I’m torn between making this funny and anecdotal or formal and informative or something in-between.
I’m going to start by saying I knew nothing before I started this. I’d never met a vegan, only knew one vegetarian, I’d never looked anything up online, knew nothing about diets and subcategories within this already restricted realm. I knew nothing about potential benefits; likewise, I knew nothing about associated deficiencies. Everything I learnt, I had to learn quickly. Oh, and I didn’t cook back then either…
However the next part of this post ends up being presented, I hope if you’re thinking about changing your diet or recently have, you can find something helpful from it. If you’re not in either of those categories, I hope you can still manage to learn something or at least find something entertaining.
10 Things I’ve Learnt in Three Years On A Vegan Diet
1. The internet is scary
When I first made my transition and started looking for recipe inspiration online I found one prominent character who would crop up alllllllll the time, Freelee. If you don’t know who that is, please keep it that way. This was at the height of the 80/10/10 craze, which as a newbie I knew nothing about. This woman online was bashing celebrities and fellow YouTubers left, right and centre because of their dietary choices and it was intimidating. There’s also a group of people who hate all vegetarians for not being vegan and think people like me who eat a vegan diet but aren’t vegans (living a fully CF lifestyle) are the worst people on earth. It’s a lot. And it was hard to find people who seemed to be ‘like me’. Ironic from someone who is now a food blogger.
Just want to clarify that not all vegans on the internet are intimidating in any way, but most of the ones I came across back then were.
2. Deficiencies are a real thing
Along with the 80/10/10 there’s also this wild concept that if you’re eating enough calories, you’re getting enough of all the nutrients you need. Which is rubbish, you can eat 2000 calories of potatoes and vegetables, legumes and not get any essential fats or omega 3. You can also eat a lot of fruit and veg, and starches and get nowhere near enough protein. People often talk about being healthy and radiant eating this way, that’s if you do it right. I cannot stress enough how important I think it is that everyone tracks their intake when they first switch. I know for some people that’s damaging if you struggle with food and if that’s the situation, maybe ask someone else to just double check you’re getting enough of the important stuff. It’s way easier to fall behind with certain things than you’d think.
3. Don’t take health for granted
Linking to the last one, your body tells you all you need to know, pay attention. Suddenly have dry skin, hair not feeling so great, more tired than usual? You’re missing something. You can be eating healthy foods and still be low on something, it doesn’t mean your diet is bad, but you could need more of certain things.
4. Likewise, just because it’s vegan, it doesn’t make it healthy
Another wild misconception is that if it’s vegan, it must be healthy. There’s so much vegan junk food. Pringles, Oreos, certain ‘free from’ products are all vegan and all bad for you. Many people change their diets for the health benefits, I was one of them but it’s so easy to take mix the two words together and think everything must be good. I’m not saying don’t eat junk, but don’t eat it all the time under the impression that it’s better for you.
5. Your palette changes so much
A little more light hearted this time, I used to HATE so many things I love now. I used to think that dark chocolate was the most disgusting thing on the planet. White chocolate was the only chocolate I ate and I can’t even imagine how sickly that would taste to me now. I also hated mushrooms and those of you who read my recipes will know they crop up fairly often. Also on the list of things I used to hate but now love: baby corn, nut butter (?!) and courgettes.
6. You view your food differently
I find that the way I build my plate now is very different. I look at it as a whole, treating each component equally no matter how small. This one could be personal to me but I find that a lot of the meat eaters in my life do things differently. When someone asks another person what they want for dinner, the answer is usually chicken or salmon or insert animal protein of choice. The meal is then built around that as though the side dishes don’t really matter, as long as they know they’re having chicken, the rest will fall into place around it? I’d love to know if anyone else can relate to this one.
7. It really does change everything
I’ve already spoken about bad skin and dry hair so I thought it was about time to talk about the positives too. Those of you who read my skincare story may remember that I changed my diet because dairy was giving me small rashes on my cheeks. My one goal on a vegan diet was to stop getting skin rashes. That’s it, I wasn’t expecting anything more. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that I wasn’t exactly unhealthy before. My regular meals would be something like halloumi salad, vegetable stir fry and noodles, grilled chicken with vegetables or salad. That kind of thing. Then, I switched and the following happened to me:
- Sleep -My chronic insomnia cured overnight. I went from regularly going two or three days with no sleep at all to having the ability to sleep every night, even if it was just for a few hours.
- Skin- My painfully dry skin was suddenly less dry. Still dry, but it used to be so dry it was literally painful and now it’s ‘regular’ dry skin.
- Stomach – My digestion improved.
I was a much healthier person in so many small ways.
8. There’s still a lot of people who don’t know what that means
Most of my readers are females around my age and I’m going to make a wild assumption that if you’re reading this and you’ve made it this far you probably know what a vegan is, what a vegan diet is and what a vegetarian is. I’m astounded by how many people I meet in 2018 who still do not know what these terms mean. Raise your hand if you’re a vegan or follow a vegan diet and have ever been asked what the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is.
9. Holy shit, there’s a lot of misconceptions
‘So you only eat salad?’….No.
‘So, you must eat a lot of tofu then?’…I’ve only tried tofu once in my life, and that was just a bite to say I’d tried it.
‘But what do you eat?’…Lots of things.
‘You must get so bored eating the same things over and over again’…I very rarely repeat my meals.
‘Isn’t it really bland?’… That one is just insulting.
10. You absolutely will become a better cook
I mentioned at the top that I didn’t really cook much before. That wasn’t because I couldn’t cook, I just opted for really simple meals that didn’t take a lot of effort. I started eating a vegan diet two weeks after I finished my degree. At uni, I lived in a studio apartment with the most basic cooking facilities you can imagine (I didn’t even have an oven) so I didn’t bother trying to make anything exciting. When you switch you have two options, spend half of your life reading food labels or get more creative with what you make from fresh ingredients. I opted for the second option.
I’m sure that sounded ranty and rambly in a few places but I wanted to make this as authentic as possible. You may have noticed that I opt to say vegan diet rather than plant based. I’m going to be honest here, I hate the term plant based. Even though that’s technically what I am, I try to avoid using it. This is in no way a negative reflection of people who use it, but I’ve encountered a few people who opt for it who still eat dairy or other animal products as ‘treats’ or on special occasions. I’ve read too many labels in the last few years to want to associate myself with that.
Thank you for reading if anyone actually made it this far! I hope you managed to take something away from this or at least found it relatable. If any fellow vegans, vegetarians or vegan dieters are reading this I’d love to know what the biggest thing you’ve learnt is.
Until next time,
For plenty of not bland and tofu free recipes, click here. All photos in this post have the recipes linked if you like the look of anything!