I’ve just completed the first 7 days of my vegan diet experiment. I thought it would be useful to share some of my experiences with you. (Here’s why I’m undertaking this vegan diet experiment)
To begin, let’s benchmark where I think I was at the start of the experiment. In terms of energy, mood, eating well & consistently exercising then I would have scored myself a C or a C+. The ingredients were all there but because I was letting myself off the hook on a regular basis (i.e. I ate well yesterday so I can pig out a bit today or I’m going to the gym only 2–3 times per week instead of my desired 5+ times), I never seemed to develop sufficient momentum & thus felt that I was relying primarily on willpower to drive me forward. Lacking hard edges to my diet in terms of what I would eat or not eat also made it easy to break the rules.
In the space of 7 days, I would say that I’ve moved up a grade to a B or a B+. The commitment that I’ve made to this experiment (both public & private) has had, I believe, powerful knock-on effects across the board.
Overall, I would rate it as a pretty successful week. I’ve stuck to the eating plan. Eating in this way does require some planning and some experimentation but I have not found it particularly difficult. The biggest challenge has probably been the constant tracking of a variety of items (energy levels, mood, physical activities etc.) including all the foods I’ve eaten. If you’re curious about this data, you can view & download the data here.
I was curious to discover whether I would experience an obvious increase in energy. I have not noticed this. What I have noticed (apart from 1 or 2 blips) is a very consistent level of energy throughout the day (my typical day runs from 6am to 10pm). I was most aware of the increased energy that I had in the evenings.
An obvious impact of this sustained energy was that over the 7 days, I walked at least 10,000 steps each day (approx. 4.5 miles walking for me) mainly though taking a series of walks throughout the day.
I did not experience any sluggishness after eating & find that I am now stopping eating just before I become full.
On a 14 mile hike in warm weather on Saturday, I felt energetic throughout the hike while eating less food than is typical for me on a hike of this duration & I felt less tired at the end than usual w/no joint pain.
I watched TV less and played music more. I found it more desirable to start or stay moving than to sit down for extended periods. I’m excited about this and curious to see what happens over the coming weeks
I’m typically get 7–8 hours of sleep per night (probably outside the norm in this sleep-deprived society we inhabit). Over the past week, I’m averaging a little over 6 hours sleep per night. It is almost mid-June so this may be due to the early morning light and not the changes I’ve made. I suspect however, that it is due to a combination of factors.
I don’t feel more alert than typical when I wake up & I find that frustrating. So, I may experiment with increasing the intensity of my cardio workouts to see what if any impact that does have (now, I primarily walk as my preferred cardio).
My mood has been consistently good. On a self-rated scale of 1–10 (10 being optimal), I’ve averaged 7.5 throughout the week.
As noted above, I’ve taken at least 10,000 steps daily. I’ve been to the gym 5 times and taken a long hike on one of the other days. My workouts have been good and I’ve felt strong most of the time.
I’ve read that some folks have experienced increased mental focus or clarity as they shifted to a vegan diet. I’ve not (yet) experienced this, although I have experienced gains in productivity.
I’ve been a little surprised (& somewhat gratified) that I’ve gained weight (0.25kg/0.5lbs) over the past week. I’m not sure why this has occurred. Perhaps my bathroom scales are not 100% accurate or I replaced some fat with muscle? Or perhaps I’m now at or around my ideal weight or perhaps I’m underestimating my calorie intake?
I’m not looking to lose any more weight & with my BMI being right in the middle of the ‘normal’ range for my height and age then I’m content with staying in my current weight range. My fear at the beginning of this vegan diet experiment was that I would continue to lose weight & begin to look thin & unhealthy. I’m glad that at this point, this does not seem to be happening.
My surprise at the increase in weight comes from the fact that I had read that folks who switch to a vegan diet can typically lose quite a bit of weight over the first week. Perhaps, my diet was already in better shape than I gave it credit for.
This will be interesting to track over the coming weeks.
+ Cravings: I did not experience any cravings this past week. Apart from a fruit and nut (Nak’d) bar daily & some Stevia in my hot drinks, my main sources of sweetness has been fresh whole fruit & dried fruit in muesli. I did not have any desserts or cakes. I believe that both following the 5:2 diet and the subsequent reduction in my processed food intake over the past year has really helped me unhook from the ‘addiction’ of sugar.
I think this point is highly significant for folks trying to make better food choices. Ignoring tempting food is so much easier when you’re not craving those very foods. Many of us do very well with this early in the day. However, as the day proceeds and we suffer an increase in stress, tiredness and essentially use up our willpower supplies, then we increasingly lose that battle. (Yes, some studies show that willpower is a finite resource and can and does run out throughout the day). So, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that eliminating the cravings for ‘unhealthy foods’ is essential for long-term success with weight management.
* One of my early observations while on the 5:2 diet relates to this. On my fast days, I would feel more hungry after eating certain foods than before consuming them. On one level this makes no sense. However, my experience demonstrated that the number of calories was only 1 factor to consider when choosing certain foods to eat. For the most part, I learned to steer clear of foods that were high in refined carbohydrates, high in starches or essentially high in sugar. Eating those foods on a fast day left me hungrier. My go-to foods on those days became a whole grain cracker with some no-sugar nut butter. These left me satisfied with no negative side-effects.
There were a couple of times during the week where due to the availability (& visibility) of crisps/potato chips, I went ahead and ate some & there was one time where I saw them and because I had just become frustrated with something else I went ahead & ate a handful. 🙁
+ I’ve taken on more tasks this week (including writing this update and tracking all my data). This has somewhat increased my stress levels, although I’ve experienced this mainly in a positive way.
+ I’m more inclined to reach out to more people.
+ I’ve been more motivated to tackle some items on my someday/maybe list or even those items that I should be doing on a regular basis but don’t because I now have more confidence that I’ve discovered a better recipe to maintain momentum once the initial burst of enthusiasm has worn off and willpower has been drained.
+ I’m glad that a lot of wines are Vegan 🙂
+ On day 2, I was surprised to make the following observation. In advance of this trial, I was very conscious of the limits this diet places on food choices. Surprisingly, going into my local supermarket I felt relief at being able to comfortably ignore 90% of the items on the shelves. This is interesting to me. As the chief cook in this household, it probably speaks to the constant allocation of brain power that I devote to making choices around food purchasing and that I suspect, comes at a price.
+ I have not been counting calories. If I’m hungry, I eat within my range of acceptable foods. Having said that, I’ve rarely found myself needing to snack much between meals & I’ve learned over the past year to be quite comfortable feeling a little hungry.
+ I was not sure whether I would continue to fast (1 day per week), during this experiment. My fasting day involves limiting my caloric intake to 600 over a period of approximately 36 hours. I did fast on day 5. This went fine (details on what I ate are here).
+ Planning ahead is essential. When I was tired or busy, I was more likely to grab something in easy reach. There were a couple of times where I had left it too late to cook my meal and felt unmotivated to do so after working all day. Luckily, I had some frozen meatless ‘burgers’ as backup.
+ As I ease into this new way of eating, I’ve kept some of my meals consistently the same (breakfast). Going forward, I’ll retain some of this to limit the choices that I need to make but will also attempt to expand the variety of foods that I eat.
A note of caution
While I have been very happy with the progress that I’ve made over the past week, I’m also aware of the fact that publicly sharing this information does potentially impact how I rate myself across a variety of areas & the choices that I make throughout the week. So, I may decide not have that 2nd glass of wine because I need to report it or I may score myself an 8 in energy when in fact under different circumstances that may be a 7 or a 7.5.
We see this phenomenon play out in the area of weight-loss programmes. The requirement of maintaining a food diary & recording everything that we eat does impact our choices. (Do I really want to eat that leftover cake if I have to record it? 😉 )
I don’t believe that this plays a big role, but I do think that it is good to keep in mind. Thus, following up in 3 or 6 months is always essential to verify that behaviour change is being sustained.
Going forward on my vegan diet experiment:
My goals for the next week are to:
1. Expand the variety of foods that I eat, be a bit more adventurous
2. Take a gym class to challenge myself physically (I have not taken a gym class in many years, typically preferring to exercise by myself)
3. Ensure that I’m taking any supplements that I need to take
As always, I’d love to hear any comments that you have.
Original Post: My 30 Day Vegan Diet Experiment