I Tried Switching to a Plant Based Diet:
Here are my Unexpected Results!
These days it seems like everyone is adopting a new diet! Plant based, paleo, gluten free, ketone...it’s hard to keep up! But I’ve personally been surrounded by more and more people eating plant based diets. Even Beyonce announced that she would be eating plant based to slim down for Coachella!
I have avoided meat in my diet for years. I followed a pescatarian diet, which means the only meat I ate was fish/seafood, for 4 years. Then switched to fully vegetarian for another 5 years. I did eat a lot of cheese. My family is Spanish and we appreciate good Manchego. And Gouda. And goat cheese. And... really just all cheese. I always told people I could never be vegan because I could never give up cheese.
But, after watching some documentaries that really made me think, I decided to try going fully plant based.
This meant no more eggs, no more dairy, no more cheese, a lot more questions when ordering at restaurants, a whole lot of label reading… and a whole lot of questions from my family.
Honestly, I didn’t think I would feel a difference. I’ve been avoiding meat for over 9 years. Yes, I saw huge changes when I first removed meat from my diet, but that was a long time ago. I just thought what I was doing would make a difference in the environment and help me avoid future health problems. I was in for a surprise.
Here’s what I found:
I have pretty much always worked out, not daily, but regularly enough. I teach yoga & Pilates so I am definitely active. But I’ve always had sort of a “softer” physique. Which is totally fine with me. After less than six months eating totally plant based I can now proudly say that I have abs! And I kind of want to shout it from the rooftops!
That little bit of belly fat that just wouldn’t go away ever? Gone. Bye Felicia. Even though I had come to terms with my soft belly, I could really get used to my flat, toned tummy! Makes me wonder, were they just hiding there all along under a little dairy bloat?
Lately every time I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile they ask me where the rest of me went. And it Feels. So. Good.
Gross. I know. But every morning I used to wake up and cough up some yuckiness when I would brush my teeth first thing in the morning. Sometimes I would get it during the day too. It was just something that I was used to having. For awhile I was really good about using a neti pot morning and night and that helped, but then I lost the routine. I honestly didn’t put it together that it could just be from eating dairy. It took me about a month to notice, but one day I just woke up and realized I hadn’t been coughing anything up. I felt more clear.
And that one time I ate pizza with cheese? That just reaffirmed it. I woke up the next day with a throat full of yuck - phlegm. Not to mention the digestive problems I dealt with for TWO days. Honestly, it made eating dairy totally not worth it. But luckily for me, I can still eat cheese!
I Can Still Eat Cheese!
Yes. I can still eat cheese. And not have any digestive issues or phlegm.
Because there are amazing cheese substitutes! In fact, I’ve now been to two restaurants near me that make their own cashew “ricotta” to put on pizza and it is just as good as the real thing! I’ve even ordered a full on plant based cheese board - and it was delicious!
I’m not a big fan of eating a lot of soy, so when I started finding nut based cheese substitutes I was ecstatic! I even found a vegan cream cheese that is actually better than the real thing. I did not think that could be possible. (Now if only my favorite bagel spots would start carrying it!)
It has been a lot of fun trying new, healthy alternatives. Don’t even get me started on all the different vegan mac n’ cheeses I’ve tried! I like to think of myself as a reformed cheese junkie. The one thing I thought I couldn’t live without, suddenly transformed into my new favorite food.
The Hard Part
While these past nine months have been much easier than anticipated, I have certainly run into a few challenges. Not all restaurants offer plant based options. And some aren’t even willing to try to make something more interesting than a salad with lettuce and tomatoes for you. Some menu items may not say that they contain dairy, but when the food comes it’s topped with cheese (and not the nut based kind).
Whenever someone who doesn’t eat like me wants to go out for lunch, I have to read the menu beforehand to make sure I can eat something. Sometimes I have to ask if we can choose another restaurant. But if I can’t ask to switch and I can’t get a full meal, I just have a protein shake before and order fries or steamed veggies if they have it.
Luckily, this hasn’t happened too many times. Most restaurants seem to be adding more and more plant based options. I’ve also been noticing a lot more totally plant based restaurants popping up. I always have somewhere new to try!
When I travel to a new city, it’s even more fun! I always look up plant based restaurants in advance and try to make it to as many as I can. When you can’t rely on meat or dairy to add flavor, you have to get a little creative to make the meals exciting. Some of the most interesting (and delicious!) meals I’ve had were totally plant based! The best part about eating a big vegan dinner? I don’t feel bloated or tired after a meal! Actually, I feel pretty good!
Eating plant based has been a pleasant surprise. Although I didn’t expect to see or feel any physical results, I feel awesome and I look good too - if I do say so myself! It has been much easier to follow than I had anticipated. And while I can’t say that I’ll never eat eggs or dairy again, I know that I will be more mindful of how I feel after eating every meal so I know how my food is affecting me. As long as I keep feeling this good while following this diet, I don’t see a reason to add meat, dairy, or eggs back in!