Vegan January: My Month Of New Eating

This January, I decided to go vegan for 30 days. For much of my life, I’ve been one to alternate between eating meat and not eating meat. I’ve had periods of time where I’d spend two years vegetarian and then go back to eating meat when I felt like it.

Before starting college, I was vegetarian for five months. Prior to that, at times I would refrain from eating meat for a week or even months once in awhile. From a moral standpoint, I can see the benefits of a vegetarian diet. However, when I’m asked why I took on this “flexitarian” lifestyle, my answer is pretty simple: I really just don’t miss meat. People tell me that they couldn’t live life without chicken wings or steak and I get it, but if I had to pinpoint a food that I couldn’t live without it would probably be Sabra hummus or avocados.

After my first semester of college commenced and I had been home for a few weeks enjoying home cooked meals and holiday leftovers, I decided to try something new: veganism. I knew that I could easily live without meat for a while, but cutting out animal products entirely would be a bit more challenging considering my love for cheese and chocolate.

However, the biggest challenge would be from my job. As a barista, I’m allowed to make myself whatever drinks I want while working and I wasn’t quite sure if I could handle cutting out a decadent, free latte four days a week. Nevertheless, a few days after Christmas I researched some vegan recipes and headed to the grocery store ready to eat cruelty-free for a month, which somehow crawled its way up to 40 days. Here’s everything that I went through and learned.

1. My typical post-Holiday bloat disappeared in rapid time.

We’ve all been there. After a few weeks of eating greasy, delicious, home-cooked food, we find ourselves a little more sluggish and a lot more bloated than before, which is totally normal. Usually in a few weeks or so of going back to a normal diet we start to get back in the swing of things. But after going vegan, my holiday bloat was gone in days and has yet to return.

2. The food was a lot better than I expected.

Going in, I expected the food to be bland and boring, but that was not the case. While I was home, I cooked meals that my entire family enjoyed even though my family is in no way vegan. Some of my favorites included a knock off recipe for the Cheesecake Factory’s ‘Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta’, ‘Smoky black bean and sweet potato chilli’ and ‘baked southwestern spring rolls’. When I got back to college a week later, I expected UD to lack in vegan options, but this was not the case at all. Almost every station in the dining hall catered to my vegan diet, Main Street was loaded with amazing options and Perkins had more than enough to keep me a happy vegan.

3. That being said, going out with friends and family can be hard.

When my mom dropped me off after break, she insisted on taking me out to dinner. Obviously I was in (free food is always a go), but it took us a little longer than usual to choose a restaurant that offered vegan options aside from a boring greens salad. However, looking over menus beforehand was definitely worth it in the long run. We ended up at Home Grown which has multiple vegan options.

Going vegan means refraining from a lot of the tasty foods with empty calories that hold us back like Twix bars, Doritos and Ben and Jerry’s. However, for every food like this that I couldn’t eat on a vegan diet, there was another option just as good to replace it. The replacements are what kept me energetic and feeling wonderful. I stopped going back to my dorm to nap in between classes because I simply wasn’t as tired as I had been. Instead, I would focus on productivity and getting homework done during the day instead of pushing it off until after my nightly Netflix binge. With more energy, I also felt a lot more motivated to get active. I started going to the gym and actually wanted to walk places instead of piling onto a packed bus. I started waking up earlier to walk from my dorm on Ray Street all the way to ISE and tend to fall asleep at night looking forward to the morning walk.

5. My free lattes from work no longer tempt me.

When I got back to working as a barista after a month at home, I had no problem staying away from the temptation of a free drink, which I originally thought would be impossible. Instead of steaming myself a triple shot French vanilla latte with mounds of whipped cream, (10/10 would recommend) I would steep some hot tea with honey or pour myself black iced coffee and would leave my shift feeling a lot less sluggish and a lot more energized than I had before.

6. I’m not vegan anymore, but I may as well be.

After 40 days of veganism, I decided to give it a rest. However, even though I wouldn’t consider myself a vegan anymore (I had cheese with lunch!), I have found that I don’t crave the unhealthy foods that I used to love nearly as much. I still drink herbal tea instead of lattes in the morning, I still don’t eat much meat, I still put hummus on bagels instead of cream cheese (it’s really good, I promise) and I’d still choose garlic naan bread from The Indian Sizzler over a slice of Grottos any day.

Overall, just eat what makes you feel good. If you’re happy, healthy and enjoying life, that’s all that matters.