I hadn’t heard the phrase Veganuary, until well into the month of January. Otherwise, I might have gone Vegan for the month. As it was, my January Challenge was to become a Vegetarian for 30 days.
Along the way, I learned a few lessons.
Likely, the biggest lesson that I learned was :
Originally, I had anticipated going vegetarian for the month of February. When my husband asked me to move it up to January because he wanted to participate, I did. However, I had not mentally (knowledge-wise) prepared.
Which brings me to the next lesson learned:
Know your daily nutrient needs.
I did not look into my daily nutrient needs prior to beginning the month of vegetarianism. It was a busy time for me so I didn’t do the running and/or yoga that I do on the days other than my M-W-F Pilates class. But it wasn’t just because I was busy, it was also because my muscles were sore for longer after my Pilates classes. This may have been due to them being a harder workout for me, or possibly I wasn’t getting enough protein (which is my husband’s educated guess). Our bodies also need specific vitamins and minerals and I wasn’t monitoring any of those.
Keep your house stocked with choices.
If you failed to heed lesson #1, you may find yourself craving different types of food. While I am no expert, my opinion on this is that your body is asking for a certain nutrient. You should keep your house stocked with choices to satisfy your hunger in the moments.
You should also be aware that it’s likely your body will need an adjustment period to any big changes in diet. I’ve shared in my varying purposes for taking on this challenge. In case you missed them, I’m sharing them again. Heart disease runs in my family and I am endeavoring to lower my risks. While I haven’t tested positive for a specific autoimmune disease (of the ones tested), I did test positive for autoimmune antibodies. The main reason, however, was that I have had digestive health issues for the majority of my life.
I was hoping that going vegetarian would miraculously cure them. Instead, the first five days, my stomach was in more pain than in the past. Some people will say that this is a detox period. I don’t know if that is the case. There was a shift on day 5 in which my body decided that it would cooperate with this diet. I should also mention that I was eating vegan for the first 5 days. My goal was to cut out dairy and so I just included the other components of eating vegan.
After that first week, I found myself relying too much on bread and cheese. I could have made much better food choices. I did spend the entire month being a vegetarian and learned that meat was not that important to me. Sure, there were a few moments when I stood before the refrigerator or pantry and thought, “Oh, that sounds good for lunch. Oh wait, that’s meat!”. This mostly goes back to being caused by failing to heed Lesson #3 and partially Lesson #2. Otherwise, I was very happy with the food choices available to me.
After a month spent as a vegetarian, I had a few takeaways other than just the lessons I’ve shared. One such takeaway came in the form of an article that my husband sent me about NFL players going vegan. I was already familiar with the fact that Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen were 80/20 vegetarians. However, I was surprised by the number of athletes who are vegan.
I was quite fascinated by the 300 pound Vegan, David Carter who is a former NFL player. It made me feel confident that I can work harder at vegetarianism and possibly veganism if I focus on my nutrients.
I’m still not sure if I’ll move toward 100% vegetarian or if 80/20 is a better goal for me. I think with proper nutrients I could be 100% vegetarian locally. Where the 20% comes in for me is that I love to try new foods when I travel and some local delicacies include meat.
Who knows?! Perhaps if I fully shift to 80/20, I will begin to view it all through new eyes.
If you’re wondering if I’ve eaten meat since the end of the challenge…I have. Mostly due to the fact that there are leftovers from making meals for the teenagers and I still struggle with food waste.
I’m still working on the balance.
We are all works in progress.
Let your light shine!
32 thoughts on “Lessons Learned During My Month of Being a Vegetarian”
I only heard about going vegan for January last week when my neighbour said that was what she was doing. Good on you! I think it’s great and although I’ve rather missed the boat, I do however feel that I can start slowly cutting out some red meat initially, and then if all goes according to plan, move on from there. Great post and thanks for sharing!
Thank you! It wasn’t until toward the end of the month that I heard about going vegan as well. I think that slowly cutting things out is a great way to approach it. 🙂
Yes, I think that’s the way forward for me ☀️☀️
Great points to take away. and although I don’t plan on going vegan this can apply to all of us. Thanks, Am. Nice post.
Thank you! I do think that most of the points can apply to all eating styles. 🙂
Well done on completing your challenge! So interesting that the first 5 days were hard for you too. It is such a learning curve getting your head around the changes. 80/20 is quite doable I now think. Finding variety and new recipes can be tricky at times but fun trying new things xx
Thanks Dee! My body was quite in shock at the changes, but I do think that 80/20 is doable and a good choice for me. It is fun to try new recipes! xx
I feel like my body is tricky and picky, and I do my best to eat accordingly. I think when it comes to food choices, it’s a YMMV situation. I went six years without meat. Eggs and fish, sure, but not meat. As it stands now, I eat little meat, not for any purpose other than feeling well.
Also, I cannot read you anymore because you’ve publicly written something about too much bread and cheese 😉 lol
I feel the same about my body being tricky and picky. I still haven’t fully figured it out, but I’m trying 😉 I’ve started making these protein smoothies that keep me full for a long time. My Pilates classes are early enough that I can only eat lightly prior to class so I save the smoothie for after.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much bread or cheese…my waistline just didn’t agree. lol. I was eating sourdough baguettes slathered in butter like they wouldn’t exist tomorrow. 😉
As I reflected on your learnings, I realized that these are excellent points regardless of whether one goes vegetarian/vegan or not … ie – be prepared, know your daily nutrient needs, keep your home stocked with good food choices. I think we’re all guilty of eating badly on occasion because we failed to plan.
That is so true Joanne. I do think that the points are applicable to all eating styles. I’ve been guilty of those same problems even when I wasn’t eating a vegetarian diet.
Hi – well I am only for a vegan diet if someone is healing leaky gut- otherwise that – I personally think we should eat meats that align with our blood type – but that is a long topic – and I am O blood and so red meat is my lifeline.
and the book “you know your body best” [Ann Louise Gittleman] had a nice point when Ann shared her vegan days were the hungriest days of her life.
and with my Keto kind of eating I am more satisfied than I have ever been – and I think that is what it comes down to – feeling satisfied and energized for life –
anyhow, I have learned a bit about auto immune disorders and in my very humble opinion, I believe they are related to microbes in the gut and blood.
I might post about it soon – but only so much time to write these days –
but enzyme supplementing might really help you a lot – I like Puritan’s Pride brand and then try one called “serrazimes” they help heal the gut.
Further, anyone healing needs to think in terms of “immune system strength”
and that takes a few things –
but a mistake I made years ago was to only cleanse and scrub the GI – when it needs help- like sending int he Marines and Navy into the gut – and enzymes, probiotics, good fats/oils, aminos, minerals, and vitamins can restore and change your life forever – I know because it is the story of my life- I healed my gut
oh and if you have a trader joe’s near you – try the acytel L carnitine – it is 5$ and feeds the body and brain – amazing stuff – but it always depends on what “we” need – we all have different bioterrains and some basic things help all – but then at different times you might really benefit from certain things.
This is all so interesting! Thanks so much for sharing it. I know we’ve had conversations in the past about eating for blood type. I have read a book on that subject. I do think I need to add some supplements because I think gut health is an important key to overall wellbeing. Interestingly, even though I have these digestive issues, I’ve always considered my immune system to be strong because I rarely, if ever, catch the various viral or bacterial infections that consistently go on around me.
I am not one who believes in being hungry, so no matter the route I go that best suits my body, I don’t plan to have a growling stomach. 🙂
well thanks for the nice reply.
I am hesitant leaving too long of comments but felt led to – even tho I hate it sometimes.
and here are a few things to just ponder.
many people have flukes and there is no way to know until you pass them.
It is nothing to be alarmed about – they are small flat worms and we get them from swimming in lakes – sometimes from drinking water – sometimes from food.
further, as we live in a world that involves eating, we collect certain things in our GI tract.
for example – some have giardia hanging out dormant in their live ducts and later – when they reach a certain age and have a certain level of immune stress – then that can emerge and take on a new roll.
but my point is that many times we have stuff accumulate and the native Indians used herbs because they knew this.
— then – not sure if this is the case for you – but a lot of women have candidiasis and heavy metals.
separately those things can cause problems and strain immune system – but together they both take on a new role – or can weaken immunity even more.
And so some people take candida complexes (or candida rid cleanses) and then do EDTA chelation (the IV edta is expensive and I know I and others had great results after using the bottles – we did a weeklong chelation and then supplemented – source naturals and arizona botanicals sells EDTA caps and they gently chelate heavy metals – and trust me – it is more common than you think –
and I know so many people with autoimmune issues who turned a corner after a bottle of EDTA (I am in various health share groups)
without making this long – the aim is to work at cleaning the gut (start with a liver support because that is where all immune health starts) and always go slow and do no harm –
and then to add the right supplements as you rebuild.
This might change as you get stronger.
And sadly, the docs know very little about this because their training is heavy on drugs for symptoms – or specialty things like making a device for acid reflux instead of getting to root causes.
and regarding the growling stomach –
two things that helped me during some of my earl cleanses (and still help) were eggs (brain food)
and now foods unflavored whey protein isolate (a meal in a glass without any gunk – and I added some full fat greek yogurt for the brain) fills ya up and oh so good –
and I am not sure all of your symptoms – but as noted earlier about enzymes –
supplementing with them is crucial.
I like Puritans Pride –
and just this week tried one someone raved about:
Spring Valley Probiotic Multi-Enzyme Digestive Formula Tablets
(and it is 7.00)
but trader joe’s has some too –
Very interesting post, Amy, thanks for giving your insights. Although I love meat in all forms, I should reduce it significantly, my doctor says.
Thanks Marcus! I do like meat as well, but am hoping to overall reduce my intake 🙂
I think you covered it all! When I’ve gone veggie or even when I tried vegan, my stomach issue always worsen for some time. I think it comes down to balance…for me anyway. 80/20 is a great balance in my book. I don’t eat much red meat at all but to be fair, I’m not really a huge fan on it so it’s not a difficult choice for me. I think being vegetarian all day and eating chicken or fish with dinner (not as the main component of dinner) is my sweet spot stomach wise.
Good luck to you and I’d love to read an update on this in the future. <3
Hi Nikki! I do think balance is key! It’s just discovering that balance that I need to work on. 😉 I like how another blogger broke it down as 80/20 being four meat meals a week. I think that helps me have something to work within.
I’ll definitely keep an update in mind because I plan to keep tweaking it until I find my sweet spot. 🙂
It’s wonderful that you gave vegetarianism a try. I’ve been a vegetarian myself for more than 20 years now, and I could never go back. 😁
Most people who I know that are vegetarians couldn’t be any happier with their choice. I really think if I didn’t have other people to feed, it would have been an easier journey. 🙂
I applaud your effort for even trying! This is not an option for our family 🙂
Thanks! It wasn’t an option for my teens. lol. Which made the process a little harder on me. I’m glad the hubby joined along though 🙂
Thanks for introducing the 80/20 concept into my brain-sphere, never heard of it until reading your post. Neat!
I suppose if people are vegetarian for ethical reasons, then this wouldn’t work for them. I’ve heard of other people who opted for 80/20 and I felt like this was much more realistic for me. Glad you liked the post! 🙂