I Anticipated that Eating a Produce-Focused Vegan Diet Would Change Me…
However, I Couldn’t Imagine How Dramatically My Body Would Transform
I was never 100% sure that I could commit to eating a vegan diet. And after all, eating plant-based foods is just one part of being vegan. There are other ethical cornerstones, such as being compassionate to living things, creating less waste and respecting the earth, that are also central to a vegan lifestyle. Even from a young age, themes of compassion and awareness were critical to me. But making the “vegan commitment” was something I hadn’t done yet. Some people dive in head first. Others dip a toe in and slowly work up to their knees. For me, the journey has been gradual and it has been a welcome change. Veganism was always on my radar, but it took a special someone to inspire me to pursue it fully, diet and all.
Veganism Entered my Life at an Unexpected Time
When his profile popped up on my screen, I didn’t swipe right immediately. Gazing cooly back at me was a handsome, square-jawed athlete-looking sort. There was only a few short words written in the profile section, which is kind’a a no-no in my books, but hey he looked good… And then my brain digested his profile sentence and I baulked. “I’m vegan.” That’s all that he had written. I squinted and flipped through his photos.
“Clearly, this is a joke,” I thought to myself. There was no way this muscle-y guy with the “I don’t give a crap about my photo being taken or properly filling out my dating profile”-attitude was a true vegan. He looked more like the type of guy who’d make fun of me for being vegetarian than the sort to wine and dine me at the local raw vegan restaurant. Having grown a very thick skin due to constant teasing for my vegetarian lifestyle choices, I figured I’d call him on his bluff. I swiped right, chuckling to myself “Heh, there’s no way he’s vegan.”
Fast forward two years later. It turns out that 1) I was wrong about the handsome guy on my dating app and 2) there is no stereotype for what a vegan looks like. 😐 I have since learned my lesson and it took me some time to extract my foot completely from my mouth.
Keep It Fresh
The main reason I experienced so many physical benefits is that the majority of my vegan diet is produce (fresh fruit or veg) and whole, unprocessed grains (rice, quinoa, corn etc.). On the flip-side, there are a lot of faux-meats or vegan meat substitutes on the market. (Which is honestly a fantastic option for those who miss the texture and taste of meat but want a more ethical choice!) But keep in mind that pre-packaged meat and cheese substitutes are usually high in oils and processed soy or vegetable powders. So if your aim is improving your health and losing weight, it may be best to keep these to a minimum. Or try making your own version at home! May I recommend my mouth-watering vegan eats Pinterest board for a few ideas?
Ok, enough rambling. I’m sure you just want to know the health benefits and get on with your day! Below are my main body changes that are a direct effect of choosing a plant-based vegan diet and paying better attention to my body’s signals. Evidently, my body has been sending me signals for 2 decades, but I was too clueless to listen. Well body, I’m all ears now!
1. Fat loss and a leaner figure
The following statement may sound controversial, but I’m sticking to it: Cutting cheese out of my diet was the best thing I ever did for my health. I’ve been vegetarian, by choice, since I was 4 or 5 years old. And yes, I complained in the beginning “But I’m vegetarian! Most vegetarian options use some sort of cheese! What the hell am I going to eat at lunch/dinner/brunch?” Most restaurants will have a token vegetarian dish, and 90% of the time it’s topped with cheese. Ironically, my “I’ll take the one vegetarian thing on the menu”-routine was the exact reason why I’ve had a few extra pounds of stubborn baby fat my entire life.
Within three weeks of not touching dairy cheese, the stubborn fat on my arms, belly and legs started melting away. I don’t know where it went! Hell, I was so used to being a little chubby that I was in denial that the fat was disappearing. But then more and more and more people kept commenting “woah, you look good, you’re looking fit!” or “you’ve really been hitting the gym haven’t you?”
The solution to my stubborn body fat was so simple: cut out the cheese, you dummy. And just to put it in perspective, I really didn’t eat that much of it to begin with: A bit on salads or a few slices inside gourmet cafe sandwiches. I ate pizza maybe once a month, if that. I rarely purchased cheese at the grocery store; it was more something I encountered when eating anywhere other than at home. But it was enough to disrupt my hormones and block existing stored fat from being released.
2. Facial acne decreased considerably.
I’m not the only person who gets acne because of dairy. Sadly, it took me 20 years to figure this out. I feel a little embarrassed that I didn’t realize it sooner. But in my defense, it really wasn’t discussed that much until recently. Had I known it was dairy-intolerance that was causing the angry red pimples on my cheeks and forehead, my high school years would have been far less painful.
Everyone knows that acne sucks. It’s a confidence destroyer and overall a bummer. However, even dermatologists I’ve visited over the years never suggested dairy may be a trigger for me. Not once. However, if you are even slightly familiar with online acne forms, you know the subject comes up frequently. That’s because the majority of adult, depending on ethnicity, have some level of dairy intolerance.
Your face is one of the first places that will display a digestive intolerance. Try to take note of what you eat and when breakouts start forming. It’s possible there’s a correlation to your diet. I can’t guarantee it’s the magic fix for everyone, but I can say it helped my skin out a ton!
3. TMI Warning: Body odors become far less noticeable. All of them.
I will refrain from going into graphic detail here but… I’ve had intense foot and underarm odor for as long as I can remember. Ok, maybe not intense, but enough that I was scared of people around me noticing. I’m relieved to say that both of those issues have become very faint! Sure, you still have to shower and keep up good hygiene (don’t be gross!) but most days I skip the deodorant. I know! It’s crazy! I was always envious of friends who would brag that they don’t have to wear deodorant, as I was the type of person who would start sweating and smelling halfway through the day. And now I am one of those “deodorant optional” people! *happy dance* My boyfriend had the exact same experience when he made the switch to veganism too.
Social pleasantries aside, most conventional deodorants can be dangerous to your body when applied daily for years and years. Yikes! If you don’t know about this, please take a look at my article on cancer-causing toxins that are present in deodorants and anti-perspirants. Natural deodorants have always been my go-to, but I notice now I rarely need to wear them.
And it doesn’t stop at my feet and my underarms. Even my breath has improved. Everything has improved. I could go into detail, but I will just end it there to spare you the horror.
4. More TMI: Digestion isn’t painful or loud.
Speaking of horror… let’s talk about another taboo subject. Yes, I’m talking about gas and everything else relating to your intestines. Now let’s get right to the point since this is an uncomfortable topic: Gas and diarrhea can be caused by a variety of things. Even items that fit into a vegan lifestyle.
Chickpeas and some legumes do cause me to have “bubbly” digestion. But they pale in comparison to chaos milk, eggs or cheese wreck in my gut. Eggs have always ripped my digestive track a new one, every damn time. I’m talking painful, burning, liquid magma that left me regretting my brunch decision within 20 minutes of eating it. Cheese was gentler going down, but it made itself known in other unpleasant ways. I already mentioned that acne was one-way food intolerance makes itself known. Painful or unpleasant digestion is another. If you experience bloating, gas or any other discomfort after eating, your body is telling you “dear lord, stop putting that in me!! I thought I made it clear to you the last time you ate ice cream!!”
Of course at the end of the day, it’s your body and your prerogative what you choose to fill it with. The purpose of this post is not to sway you one way or the other, but to outline for you my personal experience and body transformation. Fat lose, acne reduction and generally feeling ‘cleaner’ inside are major pluses for me.
I am thankful that I live in a city where eating vegan outside of your own home isn’t considered “niche” or “weird.” Toronto is a vegan-friendly city with many tasty and delightful vegan restaurants! And just because there’s no chicken, veal or beef on the menu, don’t think that automatically means meat-eaters won’t be satisfied. Friends and family who volunteer (I’m not the sort to push) to try out vegan dishes at Fresh, Rawlicious, Urban Herbivore or PLANTA are always pleasantly surprised. Their eyebrows pop up in delight after the first bite and the plates are scraped clean by the end.
I guess they assumed the menu would be all iceberg lettuce and carrot sticks? But joking aside, educating people on what vegan eating actually looks and tastes like is half the battle.
Thank you for reading! If you have a favourite vegan dish, please let me know below and I’ll be sure to try it out.