As far as glamourous lifestyle choices go, going vegan is to now what having a second home in the country was to last decade. It’s so de rigeur. Anna Magee is trying it for 30 days to see what the fuss is about.
Healthista recently reported on eight new cookbooks from all these hyper-gorgeous vegan bloggers many of whom claim to have saved themselves from everything from ME to cancer by going vegan. There is also a prevailing idea that women who go vegan have glowing skin, such as Angela Liddon, creator of the ohsheglows.com blog that receives a guzillion hits a day and who cured herself of an eating disorder with her whole, vegan lifestyle. And just look at her skin (left). Not to mention the blogger Deliciously Ella who is just. so. pretty.
Then there are doctors such as T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University whose book and subsequent film Forks Over Knives advocates a vegan diet for weight loss and overall general health.
I have been paleo for about four years, a diet I love because it got me off the diet treadmill and into an eating routine that was both satisfying and conducive to keeping my weight stable. But, I have recently been feeling guilty over the massive amount of meat it demands. How about the planet and all that methane gas that comes from cows’ backsides? The miles and miles that animals have to travel to slaughter? Mostly though, I have been thinking too that primal man probably didn’t have access to meat, eggs or fish three times a day as do us modern paleo people so I couldn’t help conferring that in fact, our caveman ancestors probably subsisted on quite a large amount of plant food between the times they could hunt wild boars and other beasts to eat.
RELATED: How the paleo diet saved me from 20 years of dieting hell
While my weight is stable, I have been having ridiculous PMT and headaches of late, not to mention a degree of tiredness that can render me almost anaesthetised pre-period. I wondered, would going vegan for a month or so help that? Moreover, what would a vegan with a stupidly busy life like mine – without loads of time to spend cooking date truffles and nut loaf – actually eat?
I couldn’t help feeling kind of psychologically empty after eating
So here I am, ten days into my 30 day vegan challenge, which began on Monday April 13th. I set that date because it was the Sunday after I cooked a huge roast lamb for friends. Here are the spoils of my organic, grass fed lamb made Greek-style to my mother Lina’s recipe (flooded in lemon and orange juices, olive oil, garlic and oregano and slow-cooked eight hours), my last meat supper for a month. By George, it was good.
The first week
I spent most of the first week on a plant-eating high. Here’s the thing: normally I would be routine with my food, choosing crab meat or tuna and salad at lunch and fish and veg or a curry in the evenings, pretty much from force of habit. But being vegan forces you to eat creatively. I am trying not to eat too many grains as they bloat me so things like rice and pasta are off the menu. That means I have had to think hard about what I want to eat and how to make it tasty, in the absence of animal fat which – in my book at least – makes most things taste delicious. Still, even though I felt better in the first week, I couldn’t help feeling kind of psychologically empty after eating. A bit like, ‘Is that it?’
being vegan forces you to eat creatively
It helped that various vegan-friendly brands have sent me the most delightful vegan hauls to make my journey easier. These include the vegan ready meals from Amy’s Kitchen, new organic plant protein company which That Protein who make protein powders out of pumpkin seeds, hemp and brown rice and Clearspring whose Japanese, macrobiotic and organic miso seasonings, sea vegetables and coconut oil I have long been a huge fan of.
I do love to cook but it has to be fast and simple, so the first week I spent challenging myself to make delicious but super quick vegan lunches and dinners.
Here are the highlights of the week – look out for the recipes in coming blogs:
TOFU AND VEGETABLE LAKSA
The star ingredients were tofu from Cauldron foods, the firm variety that crumbles but doesn’t melt, light coconut milk and Clearspring brown rice noodles which only require ten minutes soaking in boiled water. Fresh chilli and lime helped too.
VEGAN SUPER VEG AND FRUIT SMOOTHIE
Star ingredients include Nutiva‘s hemp protein in chocolate, Xynergy green powder ( a mix of chlorella, wheatgrass, barley grass and spirulina which vegans need because it it high in B12) and Clearspring’s King Coco coconut water for the liquid base.
CAULIFLOWER, BUTTER BEAN AND COURGETTE CASSOULET
The star ingredients were roasted nori sheets crumbled over the mix and a dressing of silken tofu (the kind that mashes into a cream), juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of white miso paste from Clearspring, a dash of cumin, tablespoon of flaxseed oil and sea salt all blended together.
Lowlights of the week
I had dinner with girlfriends at swish media haunt Shoreditch House, where – given that the place is over-run by bearded hipsters in skinny jeans and girls with top knots – you would expect a few vegan offerings on the menu. There was nothing. Zip. Nada. Nothing but sides of vegetables. I had to smile at the waiter – feeling like a fraud when I said: ‘I’m a vegan’ knowing I had technically only been vegan for six days – and ask him to give me the black rice and okra without the egg, which he obliged to do. It tasted stunningly uninspired and all those carbs gave me bloat. One of my friends commented on Facebook the next day: ‘Anna Magee ate carbs’ – so momentous is it when myself and rice meet.
Meanwhile, I gazed longingly at my girlfriend Tory’s plate as she tucked into the poultry option, unable to concentrate on a thing she was saying.
So has it made any difference?
I thought it might be fun to take my vital stats at the start of the programme and see what happens through the four weeks of the challenge. So, I have been testing out the new Tanita RD-901 Body Composition Monitor with Integrated Bluetooth, a set of super scales which is amazing. You simply stand on it and it tells you everything about your body – including your metabolic age! – except what you’re thinking (maybe it does that too, I just haven’t found the setting). Find out more here.
Weight 56.2 kg
Body Fat 24.6 %
Muscle Mass 40.2 kg
Visceral Fat (fat around the inner organs) 3.5
Base Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body burns at rest) 1254
Bone Mass 2.2kg
Water level 53.7
Metabolic age 30 (I’m actually 45)
After one week of veganism:
Weight 54.9 kg
Body Fat 22.8 %
Muscle Mass 40.2 kg
Visceral Fat (fat around the inner organs) 3
Base Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body burns at rest) 1250
Bone Mass 2.2kg
Water level 53.9
Metabolic age 30
So a few small improvements in the numbers, in particular my visceral fat and overall body fat.
I had a nosebleed last Saturday. I used to get these but was treated by my GP with cauterisation – where they burn off the broken blood vessel that is causing it. But I was dumbfounded to have my first in years last week. I mentioned it in the office and another girl had had the same experience after going vegan for a while – something I will definitely be asking a doctor about for coming posts. Any vegans out there know why might cause this? Anyone else had the same experience?
Also, my muscles are sooooo sore. I do a lot of exercise, mostly the resistance / cardio variety and this week – ten days in – despite having more energy to exercise, my muscles have been unfathomably achey and don’t seem to be recovering as well as they normally do. Last night I went to bed at 8pm and when my alarm went off at 5.15am I still couldn’t get out of bed and slept until 7am my legs were so sore. I would welcome any seasoned vegans who can give me some advice on how to avoid this level of muscle pain.
More next week.
RELATED: 8 best vegan cookbooks
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