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Thoughts on Going Vegan: Week 2


Week 1 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Meal Ideas & Afterthoughts

I've successfully completed the second week in my month long vegan challenge. The second week went much smoother than the first, but it did have its fair share of hills and valleys. Vegan eating is starting to feel a little more natural (and a lot less like work). Here are a few personal observations about my second week*:

  • On Monday, I awoke to a pounding headache for the third day in a row. I felt weak, tired, and sore, as if I had gotten the flu. I was retaining fluids. When I finally crawled home after a long day at work, I collapsed on the couch. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicions. I had 11 of the 13 symptoms for a protein deficiency. Twelve days into my vegan challenge seemed too soon to be having such real symptoms, but I didn't eat much protein before the challenge either (with all of it coming from milk, eggs, and turkey slices).

    It was the first time since taking on this challenge that I began to question whether it was the right move for me. In that moment, when I scarcely had the strength to walk around, I seriously debated quitting the challenge and cooking up a frozen chicken breast hidden in the depths of the freezer. My body was craving it, needing it. I didn't give in (the thought of standing that long seemed intimidating) and headed for bed instead, with the resolve to find a way to overdose on protein the next morning.

  • Protein has been, hands down, the biggest challenge for me. So many of you have pointed me in the direction of beans, nuts, and lentils to satisfy this need. However, I am deathly allergic to tree nuts (besides peanuts and almonds) so nuts aren't really the right direction for me. I also have a confession to make—I've never cooked with beans or lentils before. Growing up, they were never a part of my diet so I've never had a positive experience with them. This isn't an excuse, of course, but it doesn't make getting protein any easier when you don't have any tried and true recipes using them.

  • For the most part, I've stopped craving non-vegan foods. Unless you waft a greasy hamburger beneath my nose, I don't feel like I'm missing out. In fact, the thought of eating cheese right now is almost repulsive because it seems like it would be way too rich.

  • There was not a single search in my browsing history this week asking "Is _______ vegan?" I'm getting better at this game.

  • I still struggle with finding a quick lunch during the week that's vegan, but filling enough to hold me over until I get home from work 7 hours later. I've started making hummus sandwiches and, while they taste all right, I find my stomach growling 4 hours later.

  • For the first time since starting this challenge, I can start to imagine what it is like to be vegan while surrounded by non-vegans. It's similar to those (like me) with allergies, where you can't accept "foreign" foods and have to eat on your own before you visit with friends (or pack your own meal). It's certainly not convenient, but it's starting to seem closer to the realm of "doable."

After the second week, I feel a little more comfortable with being vegan and it doesn't seem to take as much willpower as it did the first week. I still struggle with my on again/off again protein deficiency (when I wake up with a headache and no other symptoms, it's my body's way of giving me a warning sign), but I'm trying to open myself up and consciously base every single meal around protein rich foods, like chickpeas and quinoa. Let's hope week three is much healthier (and headache free)!

*I mean no offense to those who have gone vegan for moral beliefs and obligations (in fact, you have my utmost respect). This is just a record of my personal experience with the lifestyle.

(The photo above features a vegan hot dish I threw together with a wine sauce, peppers, mushrooms, and onion with soy meat that looks/tastes quite similar to the real thing).

Reader Comments (25)

You're doing great! I love reading about your experience and can't wait to hear next week! Keep pounding that protein!
I like to use quinoa as a base when I stir fry veggies. Unlike beans and lentils, quinoa is a full protein. I never really ate beans and lentils (or quinoa) growing up, but I really like this lentil recipe from Love and Olive Oil: Good luck with your vegan month!
06.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin H
You're doing amazing! As soon as you mentioned the headache thing I felt so bad. :( When I get headaches I'm out for the rest of the day because I get them so bad. As for getting enough protein for the day day the only thing I can think of is trying to eat whole wheat pasta. One serving of that has at least 7 grams of protein, which isn't much, but at least it's something.

Good luck in week three! I hpe it goes a lot smoother for you :)
I'm enjoying your updates! I'm not even vegetarian, but I eat vegan a lot of the time. It was something I slowly transitioned into so I never noticed a huge difference all at once. If you're still feeling awful, maybe look into some vegan protein powder? I've never had much success finding any protein powder that I like, but if you're feeling that badly, it will help in the meantime until you discover some protein rich vegan dishes. I don't know if you like tofu, but if it's prepared right it can be really good and it's full of protein. I hope the rest of the month goes well!
I LOVE hummus and my favorite sandwich I make with it is hummus, avocado and any type of sprouts! (I usually use clover) Also, a great lunch is chickpeas with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little bit of minced garlic and parsley! (I'm not vegan but these are things I love eating. Also couscous with any vegetable is fantastic. Love your blog! Good luck on the veganism! xx
06.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette
I'm so happy you're doing this and sharing about it. Thnks! Are you sure you were protein deficient?
I know if as a vegan you eat mostly whole foods it's Impossible to
Not get enough protein. Have you thought of any other cause for your symptoms
06.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Wishing you luck. I'm not a vegan, but we do eat mainly a vegan diet with 'meat' for the men in my family once in awhile. If you are feeling hungry after four hours you will need to figure in a small snack, if that is possible. Try a date/fig bar to help you thru the day. Also, please try mideastern foods, as there are tons of tasty vegan dishes there. Hope you have also tried tofu or soya products, the will have with adding much needed proteins to your diet.
06.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaanL
Quinoa, if you can get yourself to eat it (my boyfriend wont so I can't cook it), is a complete protein, so it has all the things you need in it. I see a lot of recipes for quinoa burgers and black bean burgers, etc., so look into things like that. Good luck in your transition!
06.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
You could experiment with protein powder/shakes or simply drink lots of protein milk. That's expensive, but that seems like the path of least resistance. You probably figured that out though without my help though.

I love cheese. I love cheese so much that I typed out an incoherent Facebook rant about marrying an android made out of cheese. It's what honestly killed my attempt at veganism.
06.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Don't worry too much about protein! WHO stated we need only minimum 6% of our calories from protein, and many well-known doctors like Dr.McDougall and Dr. Esselstyn recommends a lower-protein diet. As long as you eat whole, variety of foods, you'll get sufficient amino acids :)
Good luck!
06.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
You don't have a protein deficiency, you're just probably detoxing from animal products. That's all, it's totally normal and to be expected; it has nothing to do with protein. I've never cook with beans either, and I started when I went vegan. It opens a whole new world for me and it was and stil is (more than one year later) super exciting and always delicious. Open up to it and you will not regret it!!!
(sorry my english, it's not my mother tongue)
06.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie
I just stumbled on your blog (thank you Foodgawker) and am soooo impressed with your photography!

I'm (mostly) vegan and I've never had any problems with protein deficiencies (and I really don't even eat much soy). You just need to make sure you're eating a varied diet. Quinoa is great because it's a full protein on it's own, but any combination of whole grains and legumes makes a full protein as well. Also, vegetables have much more protein in them than we give them credit for (4 grams in 1 cup of broccoli - who knew?!). For starting out, I highly recommend checking out some of Isa Chandra's recipes and tips (especially for baking) at

Good luck with the rest of your vegan month!
My husband hates quinoa, but I mixed some into my cornbread recipe and he loves it. I also use pea protein powder sometimes in my morning oatmeal or hot chocolate (it's gritty in cold things). It doesn't have a strong flavor like hemp powder, so it goes into things rather easily. Like you, I didn't grow up eating a lot of beans, but now I love them :) A lot of people hate tofu, but I usually win them over with my tofu scrambles- a good egg replacement in my opinion. Good luck!
06.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Karma
this website has so many great vegan recipes and a lot of quick easy protein fixes too
06.19.2012 | Unregistered Commentermonicka
Can you have soy nuts/tofu?! That definitely makes it trickier.

Here is a great recipe that I slightly adapted from Bon Appetit for a curried lentil soup--

You can omit the butter and it should be good! Hope this helps! Hang in there.
In the last few years, my husband has gone mostly vegan thanks to a super severe dairy allergy, so I was super excited when a friend forwarded a link to your blog, because even though his diet is mostly vegan, he still has a wicked sweet tooth! I look forward to trying your recipes. I read your week 1 update and had to chuckle about your vegan pizza comment - I remember when my husband first tried the frozen vegan pizza! Now, I make pizza dough from scratch (using water, instead of milk) and use either Daiya faux cheese or the soy cheese, which he actually prefers the flavor of, and it seems to look more melty rather than congealed. Good luck!
06.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
My favourite EASY way to cook quinoa as a side instead of rice is to throw a tablespoon or two of curry paste in the water while it cooks. It comes out tasting delicious. YUM! Good luck -- I could never do it, but I admire you!
06.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
We eat almost all vegetarian, so instead of doing "meatless mondays" we often do vegan mondays. My favorite quick vegan meal is stir fried garbonzo beans with avocado and cilantro:
06.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley
Honestly, it sounds like you should spend some time learning to incorporate vegan protein sources into your diet BEFORE becoming vegan.
06.20.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica
you may want to check out some sites that make working with beans and nuts in a simple way. I use these often for vegan inspirations
give them a try hope this helps
06.21.2012 | Unregistered Commentersaniel
Youch, that doesn't sound fun. Seriously not cooked with beans?! Madness. You can make all sorts of awesome mexican-style things with beans. Chili sin carne! I'm eating a lentil stew as I read this and it's tasty & substantial (although most of its flavour comes from the generous helping of chroizo...). I buy canned or cartoned pulses because it's so much less hassle than rehydrating and cooking dried ones.
06.21.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
A little late to this post, but an easy (and delicious) high protein snack: heat your oven to 400 or so, rinse a can of garbanzo beans really well, let them drain, and toss them in a T or so of flour, salt, pepper, whatever spices are your favorite. Spread some olive oil on a cookie sheet, and toss the beans. Roast, shaking the pan every 10 min or so, until the beans are kinda crunchy on the outside, and still soft on the inside.
I eat them instead of potato chips!
06.21.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
That's a tough job trying to eat vegan when you're not familar with beans. I admire you for giving it a shot; could never do that myself because I can't eat legumes or grains--get serious gut pain if I do ... my body telling me something? :-) Avoiding processed or factory farmed- food is the best way to compromise on thoughtful food choices if you find eating vegan is not doable.
06.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie
I have to agree with Maggie, I really do doubt it's a protein deficiency. Try entering in everything you consume into and you'll see just how much protein you're getting. I have been a vegetarian for 22 years and people have constantly told me how important protein is, how I MUST eat plenty of protein in order to keep up my energy and overall health. I ate legumes, drank protein shakes, made sure I got plenty of protein every day. And when I stopped all of that, I felt horrid. Then I changed my focus and adopted a mostly raw, cleaner way of eating and those protein 'cravings' no longer exist.
06.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJodie
thanks for sharing your wonderfull exprince..
02.20.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilippines Food

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