I’m really glad that’s over with.
My original goal was to try 3 months of nothing but vegan eating. But that seemed too short. Then I thought about 6 months, but I didn’t want to do this for half a year.
I landed on four months. It seemed as if a third of the year would give me a good grasp on this to see how I responded.
I understand that this may seem way too short to fully grasp the lifestyle and its health benefits, but seemed like a decent timeline.
I’ve worked in health and fitness for over 20 years. I’ve been a personal trainer and nutritionist, and have tried endless amounts of training programs, and eat as clean as I can. But I realized I had never experienced what a full-on, plant-based, vegan diet was like.
Here’s what I found, and obviously my experiences will not be the same as yours.
What Was My Regular Diet Like?
I should point out that I’m far from a carnivore. Most of my diet is already plant-based. When it comes to animal products, I only eat beef maybe a few times a month. Sometimes I’ll go months with no beef at all.
I try to get most of my beef from nearby farmers' markets. I know the benefits of farm-raised, organic, grass-fed beef compared to that factory-lot, grocery store garbage that’s out there.
Most of my animal protein intake comes from chicken, fish, and eggs. And even then, it’s not that often. I’ll go months at a time without touching an egg. Chicken, however, is definitely a few times a week.
I rarely consume any dairy. The only dairy I’ll have is some aged cheddar from time to time. I use a good grass-fed whey protein powder from New Zealand, and grow a lot of my own vegetables.
But I realize this is far from vegan. So I wanted to go all-in just to see what the experience would be like.
The Protein Issue
I know this is such a common — and tired — argument against going vegan or plant-based. How will you get enough protein? It’s really not that big an issue. I still exercise regularly — and pretty intensely — so protein intake is always important.
I swapped the whey protein out for a great plant-based protein powder. The textures of these things are a bit different, but not that bad. I’ve drunk way worse stuff.
For plant-based protein sources, I went with some standard choices, such as:
- Brown and wild rice
- a wide variety of beans
- every nut and seed you can think of
I also found some good high-protein pasta. I know there is the issue of incomplete protein with plants, but there are still some great complete protein sources.
Plus, I had that protein powder to at least keep me covered. Going into this, I wasn’t worried about the protein issue at all. So, with that out of the way, how did this all go?
I Had to Eat a Lot More
I found this was a big issue. I’m really active, and I felt like I needed to eat all the time. Since most of the things I was eating were carbs, I didn’t always feel full.
I also felt as If I needed the most calorie-dense choices, so I didn’t feel hungry all day.
Eventually, I could combat this by making really voluminous meals such as oatmeal with raw peanut butter, protein powder, nuts and seeds on top, and a drizzle of honey. That will keep you full for hours.
But to not feel as hungry, I had to eat meals like this quite often. I could have dialed the training back a bit, but that wasn’t going to happen, so I needed to keep fueled. I wanted to see how this would fit in with my normal lifestyle.
To get in enough calories, I found I was eating way more than I used to. This isn’t the worst thing, but it was pretty time-consuming. Eventually, I tried to make meals as calories dense as possible by adding in things like avocado and olive oil.
My Digestion Didn’t Feel Amazing
I won’t get into the details of all this, but my gut felt like it was in a mosh pit. I realize the higher amount of fiber could have been causing the issue, but it just wasn’t a comfortable experience.
I really focused on slowing down my eating time and taking longer to chew my food to at least help with the digestive process.
I hate the feeling of being bloated and being that uncomfortable. I tapered things like the beans and lentils in and out, but it was just a lot of carbs and fiber.
I honestly thought my gut health would be better going vegan, but it didn’t feel that way to me. I realize I was only doing this for a short time, and given a longer time period, things may have leveled out.
Planning Meals Was a Nightmare
I sympathize with all vegans out there as every meal became a burden. I couldn’t eat what I was craving and had to consciously think of what was “off limits.”
This was even worse when eating out with friends and family or having to grab something on the run. There are a ton of great vegan places and products out there, but even this became stressful — and bloody expensive.
I hated having to pour over every ingredient to make sure it was “vegan-friendly.”
This is when I realized how much doing this sucked. If I had enough items on hand to make meals, it was fine. But if I was running low on things, meals became an ordeal. I also found I wasted more fresh produce if I didn’t get to it in time. I also needed to make more grocery trips, which wasn’t very convenient.
Mainly, I hated having to worry about every nutrition decision and if everything I was consuming was vegan. I found myself getting stressed when I had to eat.
Again, when I had pre-prepared meals, or had enough items on hand, it was smooth sailing, but this isn’t always the case. The other issue was having to eat so much of the same thing.
I tried a ton of great vegan recipes, but we don’t always have the time to experiment and try out new dishes. Sometimes you just need to eat and be on your way.
Also, I’ll just say this: vegan pizza SUCKS.
Ending the Four-Month Experiment
I’ll be honest: I didn’t even make it the entire four months. I ended at about 3 months, three weeks, and a few days. But I had honestly had enough of it.
It’s not like I was dying to jump into an entire steak, but I definitely was craving a burger. But what I was most excited about was gaining back flexibility. I also was happy to be able to eat more intuitively.
I loved a lot of the meals I had, but this still felt restrictive. Again, given more time, I’m sure I could have settled into a better rhythm with go-to food and meal choices.
If I had my entire day free, I’m sure I could have devoted more time to shopping, preparing, and experimenting with food recipes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that kind of time.
Meal prepping helped with some of this, but this also led to too much food repetition. But that’s going to come when you batch cook the same foods.
I think four months gave me a good grasp on eating this way. However, I still felt restricted and really hated the feeling of anxiety surrounding meals. I had never experienced that before. Worrying about what I “could and couldn’t have” was a weird experience.
But even if it’s not in overwhelming amounts; a little anxiety is still anxiety. Maybe that anxiety is what led to some of my digestion problems?
The transition back was pretty easy as 80% of my diet is still plant-based — and I intend to always keep it that way. I found I kept some of the vegan go-to meals I had been using, but now I sometimes add a little grilled chicken or salmon to them.
Honestly, I hated this entire experience. It was nothing like I expected. I didn’t enjoy having to devote that much mental energy to every meal I ate, and I didn’t like the stress and anxiety over every food decision.
I hated having to be this conscious of food. I think it’s important to be conscious of food, but it can become overwhelming. It did for me, anyway.
I hated having to double-check nutrition guides and info to see how much protein I was actually getting, for example. Did I combine enough incomplete proteins together? Have I had too much fiber?
I think this can gradually settle into a more comfortable lifestyle, but I didn’t enjoy having to use my calculator app this much, and consult so many guides.
And here’s the takeaway that concerned me most: I didn’t feel different at all.
If anything, I felt a bit weaker, and there was the digestion issue. I was expecting to have endless amounts of energy. That didn’t happen. I realize that with more time, my body might have settled in more, and I would have discovered more of those benefits. But for this time period, I felt exactly the same.
I know the four months weren’t a waste of time, as reducing animal protein for environmental reasons is also what really appealed to me. If anything, this entire process has made me more conscious about getting the cleanest animal protein sources I can.
I’ve tracked down some more local farms where I can get pasture-raised and grass-fed choices. It may be a bit more expensive, but it’s not like I’m eating it every day. And when I started comparing these things to their vastly inferior grocery store counterpoints, the price difference wasn’t even that big.
This whole endeavor has made me more conscious about seeking the most organic produce I can find, whether that’s a carrot or an egg.
So even though I really didn't like this four-month experiment, I’m thankful that I went through it.