30 day vegan challenge

When I was younger, I used to be a vegetarian. I did not like the idea that animals were killed for my food. As I got older and especially as I was traveling more, sometimes it was easier to have a more flexible diet, so I became a ‘flexitarian’. This requires a certain numbing of the mind; to dissociate eating meat with thinking of where that meat came from. Slowly but surely there was always a ‘reason’ (excuse!) to consume animal products: I was in a location with limited options, this specific dish was a specialty of the area I was visiting, a friend had prepared a non-vegetarian meal and I did not want to be rude, the meat just smelled soooo good, cheese tastes so great and is an easy source of protein, and sometimes I felt like my body indicated that I NEEDED meat. Without a deliberate decision, I had become an ‘opportunitarian’: eating meat and other animal products whenever the opportunity presented itself.

I decided to do a 30 day vegan challenge, meaning no meat, fish, eggs, dairy or other animal products for a month, to give myself a complete reset.

Why do a vegan challenge?

Even though I would never buy meat to cook for myself, since I eat in restaurants most of the time, I had really become an ‘opportunitarian’ I wanted to be taking a conscious decision again about whether I would eat meat or other animal products. I wanted to take back control over what I eat.
I love animals and don’t think it is right to make them suffer for our pleasure. If an animal has a good life on a farm and then gets killed, it’s one thing, but I despise the ‘factory farming’ that is ‘producing our meat nowadays. The living animals are already considered meat when they are still alive and treated horribly. It’s not humane, it’s not sustainable, and it’s not healthy for consumption.
The alternative is to eat only organic and local products from small farms.

But then the question arises: is meat good for us? The risk of colon cancer is much higher when you eat a lot of meat. Dairy is meant for baby animals, not for adult humans. No wonder so many people are lactose intolerant.
Then I started watching documentaries on the topic and to my surprise I found that the meat industry contributes more to global warming than all cars and airplanes together!

I became more and more convinced that I had to do something.
I wanted a ‘reset’ for my mind, a detox for my body. My goal was not to become a strict vegan, but to be more aware of what I ate and to consciously choose when I would eat meat or other animal products, instead of it being a given, or letting circumstances decide.
So the motivation was there, but the discipline wasn’t. To change a habit it often helps to do a 30 day challenge. So I did!

Vegan pizza

The beyond burger

Vegan sushi in chevice restaurant with my dad

Eye openers:

  • Two years ago I stopped eating eggs when I found out my body doesn’t react well to the salmonella that is likely to be present in eggs. I used to have eggs and veggies for breakfast for years, so this already required a major shift.
  • I tried to eat less meat and fish, but it was especially hard to cut down on dairy. It’s easy to replace yoghurt by delicious coconut, almond or soy products, but cheese is just in everything and it tastes so damn good!
  • Eating vegan in restaurants is much easier than I thought. During the challenge I spent time in Amsterdam, London and Miami and to my surprise every single restaurant and even pub had delicious vegan options, sometimes even complete vegan menus. So great to find that it is really becoming a ‘mainstream’ option and that most chefs readily accept the ‘challenge’ to prepare a nice, balanced, creative, tasty, healthy vegan meal, whether it is on the menu or not.

  • I did not miss meat at all. I thought my body would indicate that it wanted red meat, as my iron is generally low. I did crave protein, though, so I made sure I did eat enough protein. I bought vegan protein powder and mixed it with my morning oatmeal or coconut yoghurt or smoothie.
  • There are many amazing alternatives to meat. I am especially impressed by the ‘Beyond Burger’, which is almost identical to a beef burger. It even has the same texture and color: it stays slightly rose in the center when cooked well. https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/the-beyond-burger/ During lunch in a hamburger place in London, even non-vegetarians opted for the Beyond Burger because it looked and tasted so good!
  • Most vegetarian dishes have cheese in them. If there is no vegan option and you take a vegetarian alternative, you’ll be surprised at the amounts of cheese used.

  • In the beginning I missed the ‘full’ feeling I used to have after a meal with animal products. That comfortable, sleepy, full stomach, “I ate too much” feeling. After about a week, I actually started to enjoy this lighter feeling.

  • Finding vegan options becomes an ‘adventure’ once you set your mind to it.
  • I lost some weight, feel leaner and lighter. I will stick to a basic vegan diet, with some ‘freedoms’ whenever I feel like it. One thing I don’t want to give up, for example, is an occasional dollop of fresh creamy butter on fresh bread… 🙂

Tips:

  • Eat enough protein to give your body what it needs and to prevent cravings. I bought a bag of vegan protein and added it to coconut yoghurt, oatmeal, smoothies etc.
  • Yeast flakes are a great substitute for Parmesan cheese. And a good source of B vitamins. I add the flakes to soup, veggies, pasta and many other savory dishes.
  • I was already used to not eating eggs, which otherwise may have been the most difficult part of switching to a vegan diet. Miss eggs in your breakfast? Try adding some hummus to some fried veggies and mushrooms: it gives the same structure as scrambled eggs.
  • Treat yourself to a vegan cake, ice cream or raw chocolate whenever you get the chance. Since really good vegan sweets are not yet as readily available as ‘normal’ sweets, this also prevents you from eating too much sugar. So when you do discover a place with amazing cakes or ice cream, reward yourself.
  • Make sure you always have some vegan food ready. Nuts and dried fruit are easy to bring along. I love to always have some boiled sweet potatoes in my fridge. You can eat them with some (vegan) mayonnaise, turn them into soup, use in stir-fries, mash them: the possibilities are endless.
  • Look up some tasty vegan recipes online.
  • Consider it an adventure: You don’t have to be perfect; it’s the idea that counts.

Documentaries

Get facts, inspiration and motivation from these – and many other – documentaries:

Meat the truth https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/meat-the-truth/

What the health https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5541848/

COWspiracy http://www.cowspiracy.com/

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