That One Time I Adopted A Vegan Diet

Last July I decided I was going to try being a vegan. Well to be more politically correct, whole food plant based.  But for the sake of not writing that out again, we are going to call it Vegan.  Don’t get me wrong, I like animals, but I think it’s important to say that my choice to stop eating them wasn’t a moral decision.

Something you should know about me is that over my entire life, I have chosen meals based on what type of meat I wanted to eat.  I had regularly, arrogantly, pronounced that there was no way I would ever give up meat.  Until one day, I did.

I had just gotten back from a two week road trip around the western United States with Justin.  It was on the last day or two of our trip that I noticed a spot on my arm that was suddenly missing pigment.  I immediately took to WebMD to discover that I could have vitiligo.  Now, something else you should know about me is I am the queen of avoiding the doctor.  I will self diagnose and self treat myself until it becomes absolutely necessary to go see someone that will prescribe things.  I just hate putting drugs into my body and take real issue with not addressing the root of the problem.  Seriously, I rarely even take ibuprofen for a headache.

So anyway,  I had found this spot that I was convinced was the beginning of vitiligo and I read that it could be from an autoimmune disease.  Scared that my entire body would soon be covered in pigmentless spots, I watched a few documentaries about food and autoimmune disease and promptly gave up eating anything that didn’t come from the ground.  I was committing to this experiment for 3 months to see how this eating shift effected my body.

I stayed a Vegan for 3 weeks, a vegetarian for 3 months, a pescatarian for another 6 months and have recently begun adding small amounts of other meats back into my diet.  Heres what happened during each period.

Really good Vegan tacos (though I cannot confirm the tortillas are vegan- definitely processed but… tortillas

Whole Food Plant Based- (Vegan diet)
The three weeks that I was Vegan were especially challenging because I was traveling for about a week and a half.  You guys, cheese is basically in everything.  I wasn’t eating any processed food, so there were no veggie burgers or soy cheese- just fruits, veggies, grains and legumes.  That said, after my body went through the initial withdrawals, I have never had so much energy.  I tracked everything I ate making sure to eat enough calories and a good balance of macros.  It was a lot of work.

Now this is where it gets a little gross.  About a week and a half into my clean, goddess of vegetables eating, a cyst that had quietly taken up residence in the skin over my chest pushed its way up to the surface and released all the shit it had been holding onto.  This happened two more times in other locations. While what was happening was really gross, it made me feel like I was giving my body everything it needed to heal itself. It was flushing out the toxins, the waste and the for lack of a less gross word, the puss.  I felt lighter.

Eventually, convenience won and I started eating dairy products again.  Also, I really like cheese.

Ridiculously good portobello burger

Vegetarian
For the rest of my three month commitment I stayed vegetarian and continued to have the best skin of my life.  I was getting into busy season so I didn’t have a ton of time to cook, so my meals were getting really boring.  I stopped looking forward to eating, which for someone that has always struggled with weight should have seemed like a good thing, but instead it just made me kind of sad.

Another thing you should know about me is that I love food.  It’s not really about eating the food for me, but making it and sitting down with pleasurable company enjoying it together.  There is something whimsically magical about the way food brings people together and creates community. I get a huge high from cooking for other people and revel in their enjoyment.  Now, we won’t get into my personal relationship with food because that is a whole other post in itself.  For now, lets just say that I love the connection that food provides.

So like I said, I was sad.  Being vegetarian made me a problem.  I had to research restaurants to see if there was anything I would eat there.  I had to eat before going places because I couldn’t be sure I would be accommodated for.  I felt bad about making people feel guilty that they had forgotten about my meatless ways and added bacon to green beans or cooked veggies in chicken broth.  It was frustrating and by the end of November I had taken a lax stance because I was just tired of being a bother.  I started eating some processed foods during this time and not just like cheese and bread, but like Kraft macaroni and cheese.

The best grilled shrimp, added to a taco with homemade white sauce and grilled asparagus

Pescatarian
I started eating fish and shellfish adding it into my diet once or twice a week.  This seemed to be going okay for a while.  It gave me more variety and I was still eating mostly vegetables and feeling good about avoiding most animal meat.  I had been running more frequently and was noticing a difference in my body.  A lot of the belly fat had been going away, my ankles seemed to be thinner- all good things.  However, after I had some photos taken in February, I noticed my hair seemed to be thinning pretty rapidly and I wondered if this had to do with not getting enough protein. And I started to notice my brain was really foggy.  Sure you could attribute both of these things to getting older, but I am only 32.  So after doing some more research and soul searching I decided to reintroduce meat into my diet.

Eggplant Parmesan

Today
Currently I am eating about 75% whole food plant based, 15% processed food and 10% meat.  I’m hoping to eliminate the processed food again but alas, convenience plays a major role when I don’t have a lot of time.  Besides, just like Oprah I love bread… and cheese- though I already mentioned that.  I no longer feel the need to base every meal around meat, so I think thats a win.  I definitely think eating foods that come from the ground is better than any other options.  Mostly, I just don’t trust the food manufacturing industry.  I am trying to figure out ways to still enjoy meals, have variety, not have to spend all my free time in the kitchen and feel really good about what I put into my body.  My pigment free spot hasn’t grown or invited any friends to my skin, so for now I’m just going to keep experimenting with what kind of diet works best for my body.  As my time frees up in the summer (hooray off season!) I am working on new recipes, amping up my fitness and really keeping track of how my body reacts to foods.

If you are contemplating eliminating something from your diet and want to talk about it, I am certainly no doctor, but I’d love to chat about it, hear you perspective and maybe try another diet adjustment experiment.

With Love,

Ashley

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