I have now completed my 30 day vegan diet experiment. Overall, I would consider it a great success.
I have experienced:
- significant gains in energy
- greatly improved fitness levels
- increased social connections & activity
- improved confidence & self-confidence
and much more.
(I’ve logged my energy levels, food intake, physical activities and more. You can view all of this information here).
8 benefits of my vegan diet experiment
Higher energy levels
My energy levels were consistently high for my 16–18 hour days (averaging 7.5 out of 10 per day on a self-rating scale) & remained steady throughout each day. I observed a noticeable increase in energy as the weeks progressed. There were some periods where I noticed my energy flagging. However, I was able to easily find the cause & link it to either physical tiredness due to greatly increased physical demands or lower motivation.
Also of note is that fact that my levels of exercise greatly increased during the trial (I averaged 13,000+ steps per day and worked out at the gym on 22 separate occasions).
I am most pleased with the benefits that I achieved in terms of my fitness while following a vegan diet. As noted in an earlier update, I have previously found it really difficult to achieve sufficient momentum at the gym. In recent years, I’ve felt as if I’m always starting over and have downgraded my fitness targets accordingly.
Over the 30 days, I was able to (easily) get to the gym on 22 separate occasions & I averaged walking 13,000 steps daily. This has allowed me to develop some serious momentum and I’m now at the point where I (mostly) look forward to my gym workouts. The intensity of my workouts has increased and I have moved beyond a basic repertoire of cardiovascular training and lifting free weights to also focus on core and stability exercises. I can easily envision pilates & yoga becoming part of my regular exercise routine going forward.
Over the 30 days, I lost approximately 1.5 kg/3.5 lbs in weight ending at a weight of 74 kg/163 lbs (BMI — 21.5). This adds to the approximately 8 kg/ 18 lbs that I lost by following the 5:2 diet over the past 18 months. My hope is that my weight stabilizes at this point and the signs since the end of the trial are that this is the case.
Less mindless/escapist activities
My desire (willingness & ability) to sit down and watch TV greatly decreased. Prior to the trial, I would watch approximately 1 hour of TV per day (with exceptions for the viewing of some sports). During the trial even this level seemed to decrease. The trial happened to coincide with 2 major sporting events of typical interest to me — The World Cup & Wimbledon tennis. Rather than sitting down to view these events for extended periods (which would be typical), my style became to dip into them for short periods of time.
I think there were a number of reasons for this change in behaviour. The most obvious one was the increased energy that I experienced which required an outlet. Furthermore, it was as if I experienced a shift from being a passenger in life as it were to becoming more of a driver. Another way I view this is that the motivation for a number of my daily activities become less about anxiety reduction or anxiety management and become more directed towards goal achievement.
Also of relevance here was that I experienced.……
More social connections
I became much more proactive in reaching out to people to connect either face-to-face or virtually. During the 30 day trial, I experienced a greater desire to connect with others & as noted above a decreased interest in time spent alone ‘vegging out’.
I noticed an improved ability to quickly bounce back from any setbacks which occurred. Frustration over unmet expectations seemed to be channelled more productively and within short periods of time I was able to consistently get back on track.
Overall, my moods remained consistently stable throughout the 30 days. In general, my mood tends to be fairly upbeat and stable so I did not experience huge changes in this area. However, there were a few instances where I experienced what I would consider absolute peace both with myself and my environment. In these moments, I was able to exist in the moment and be absolutely at peace with that place.
Self-confidence (& confidence) boost
Overall, I would say that my levels of confidence & self-confidence have improved. It is difficult to unpack exactly why but a couple of things come to mind.
The most obvious one is the quality of the self-talk that is occurring. For many of us, the biggest barrier to success or happiness is the voice inside our head (the gremlin) telling us that we’re not good enough or getting us to constantly focus on areas of dissatisfaction. It seems that I reached a tipping point of sorts in the area of positive results (that are important to me) such that my gremlins were finding fewer and fewer things to criticise me for. Exercise — check. Eating well — check. Connection with others — check. Writing my blog — check.
A second thing that comes to mind is the synergistic effect of all these experienced gains coming together. I’ve had an experience of achieving a breakthrough in a number of areas, a feeling of having discovered at least part of my formula for success & more importantly having successfully followed this formula.
It’s clear to many if not most of us that (self)knowledge without a subsequent change in behaviour is meaningless. One of the great benefits of the internet is that knowledge is now freely available. So, it is not that we don’t know what to do, it is that we don’t turn this knowledge into consistent action. And it is only through the consistent application of this knowledge that we can achieve many of the gains we are seeking in our lives.
Many of us will have tried unsuccessfully to implement change(s) in the past and those memories of failure can often stop us from trying again. We may know what to do but will not even attempt to make the changes because that pattern of short-lived success before failure is all too familiar and in many cases too painful to experience again.
Success breeds success is a phrase that most of us have heard. However, experiencing that initial success for many never happens. My sense is that I was able to build upon a pretty good foundation over the past 30 days to move to a different level of operating and experience some success in areas important to me. This then can become a self-reinforcing cycle if one keeps taking the desired actions.
Overall, eating a vegan diet was a lot easier for me to implement that I had anticipated. It does require more advance planning than eating the standard European/North American meat & dairy-based diet. Eating away from home does add to that challenge (although more and more restaurants are providing vegan options on their menu). In my mind however, I’ve only completed phase 1 of a longer-term transition towards a more varied, nutrient-filled plant-based diet. It is too easy to search for meat replacements (usually provided by soy products, the health of which are still open to debate), and I’m aware that the next phase of this transition will require me to expand my food choices and my cooking skills.
At the time of writing, I have been on this vegan diet for 7 weeks with 1 or 2 minor exceptions. I really enjoy the increased & continuous high energy that I’m experiencing as well as consistently feeling good after eating. I’m excited to experiment further with this way of eating and use it as a platform for further gains across the board. And so for now, my plan is to continue to follow a plant-based diet at 100% or close to it.